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Ever heard of a flexible retirement?

by Dave Ferrett | Senior Project Manager, Transportation

Dave Ferret tells us how flexible working has allowed him to spend more time on the people and things that mean the most to him. It has supported him while caring for his elderly parents. And now it’s empowering him to wind down to a rewarding retirement.

I joined the Atkins business as a Senior Project Manager in the Transportation Systems team. You might have seen the electronic, variable message signage and CCTV cameras that make the motorways safer. These are the types of systems that we design and deliver. Working between the technical design teams and our clients, I’m responsible for keeping on top of the requirements, costs and making the work a reality. It’s a challenging and rewarding role that I enjoy.

To be good at what I do, I need to be organised and in touch with what the teams are doing. It’s a job I could not do flexibly without the support and culture at the Atkins business: work is seen as something we do, rather than a place we go to. And to bring full value to what we do at the office, we’re encouraged to be happy and fulfilled outside of work.

How I changed to flexible

At an annual review a couple of years ago, the conversation came round to how things were going at home. At the time my mum and dad had suddenly become very elderly. Dad had begun to suffer from Alzheimers. And although mum was doing her best to care for him, with help from my sister, friends and a local care service, the situation was taking its toll. I started to make overnight visits more frequently to give my sister a break. At the same time I was thinking about retiring.

After talking everything through with my colleagues, we decided to try a 3-day working arrangement. This would free up time for family and be a phased lead in to retirement. We planned my flexible move internally and with a key external Client to make sure that we could still meet work demands. My colleagues have now become used to my flexible working pattern. By choosing not to take every Friday and Monday off as permanent long weekends, I’m only absent for one day at a time which minimises any potential inconveniences.

The difference those days made

After dad passed away I carried on visiting mum who was getting used to living on her own, and eventually needed to move into a care home. Flexible working certainly made a huge difference to me and my family, as I was able to be with mum midweek. We’d spend long, lovely days together, enjoying the gardens at the home, going on mornings outings and getting lunch. My mum sadly has also passed away, but I’ll always treasure the great times we enjoyed. As the popular saying goes, “At the end of our lives, no one wishes they’d spent more time at work!”

My shift to retirement

I feel very fortunate to have been able to benefit from this flexible opportunity. Moving from a full time, busy role to full retirement can be a shock to the system. It’s also quite difficult to decide when to fully retire as it can seem scarily permanent. Flexible working has made this much easier by providing a transition period and will be much less of a step change when the time comes.

“I’ve heard many retired people quip that they wonder how they ever found the time to go to work!”
On my midweek day off I go on a group ride with my ‘silver’ cycling group. We meet up for a morning coffee in South West London before heading off on an adventure, which includes a country pub lunch. The ride finishes at a different Surrey café for afternoon tea and then we head home. Ride leaders research and plan the rides and we cover lots of different routes. It’s typically a 60 mile door to door outing mainly around the scenic (frequently hilly) Surrey countryside which takes up the full day. It’s a great way to meet new people, explore and get some good exercise. Certainly an exciting, cost effective alternative to golf!

At SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins business my career has been enjoyable and rewarding. So I thoroughly recommend flexible working as part of a phased retirement plan to get the most out of work and increased leisure time.

To see how you could benefit from working flexibly at the Atkins business, read more here.