Erik, you and your wife both work in executive roles, you have two children together and you care for your wife’s mother. What does your average day look like?
ERIK Our son is twelve and our daughter is two years old. My mother-in-law, who lives with us, needs level 5 care and can no longer take care of herself. That has naturally demanded huge adaptations and an individual solution. Because we both work, we share family and household tasks as a matter of course. To make that possible, flexible working hours have been vital to us. My wife went back to work six months after the birth of our daughter. We initially split our working days, so that we both had free days when the other one was working. That gave us one day off together too. Since then, we have both gone back to working full-time, but not in the traditional nine-to-five model.
How have you managed to adapt your working life to your situation at home?
ERIK I had already taken advantage of the flexibility of trust-based working hours in my previous positions, because I managed international teams or was travelling a lot myself. As a result, those around me were already used to me rarely being physically on site. On top of that, I have always been fortunate to have supportive people around me, especially my superiors. They knew my attitude and my skills and trusted me to perform.
What was the basis for that?
ERIK The open dialogue I had with my managers was crucial. I think you need to open yourself up and share. You also need to have the confidence that your manager is a human being too and you can have personal conversations about your individual home situation. Then you can work together to find solutions within the possibilities available. On top of that, you need to learn to prioritise, so sometimes you have to let things go. And develop a certain serenity – for example, we don’t strive for perfection at home.
What does that have to do with you as a person? What are the approaches that help you?
ERIK A positive attitude always helps when it comes to juggling everything. Of course, some days are difficult and stressful, for example with my mother-in-law and her care needs. But I look at it as life presenting me with challenges to help me develop, rather than to test me. I also think that the situation can help to keep your feet on the ground and enable you to see the beautiful things in life every day.
What have you struggled with, and how did you deal with that?
ERIK Achieving the flexible working arrangement in the form I live with today has been a process. Many years ago, I was in the office every day, working long hours. I first had to come to terms myself with not being visible in the office any more. I was worried that I would now be in the “departure lounge” because my managers could no longer see me. What helped me was to discuss my doubts and concerns with my direct colleagues and line managers. My wife was very supportive too and repeatedly reminded me that it comes down to what you do, not how present you are.
To what extent does MAN have the right culture to create a custom solution for your personal situation?
ERIK I think MAN is on the right track. We have all learned a lot from the experiences of the last few years, and there have been many positive developments, for instance with the regulations on mobile working, working from overseas and trust-based working hours.
Where do you see potential for development of MAN’s culture in this respect?
ERIK Often with the people themselves, to dare and to make use of the opportunities. However, I also hope that a few of the managers trust their people and don’t lapse into controlling behaviour. The results of all the agreed tasks, to-dos and projects should always come first.
What advice would you like to give colleagues on how to reconcile their private situation with their career?
ERIK If it is possible with your job, have the courage to flexibly schedule your working hours within the framework of trust-based working hours in order to do other things in between and, for example, spend a few hours with your family. And stop thinking, “What will other people think!” You can always be contacted in an emergency. The internal obstacles are often the biggest ones. If you always maintain a dialogue, you’ll find solutions. And when you’ve found them, you can work to that model with a clear conscience.