How dynamic working allowed Lesley Turner to be there for her parents when they needed her the most
With 35 years of working in customer service, first for the Ministry of Defence and subsequently for Leidos, Lesley Turner is used to managing other people's needs. But when her father was diagnosed with prostate cancer and vascular dementia at the same time that her mother's chronic lung condition began to take a turn for the worse, Turner began to feel that the people around her needed more than one person could manage alone.
“During COVID, my parents were having to shield and it felt like every other week my mum was having a major fall,“ Turner says. “I was getting these urgent phone calls all the time, but I'm an only child, and the pandemic meant there was a lack of carers available, so I felt like I just had to take it all on myself. I was constantly scared whether I'd be able to get to them in time.“
While the pandemic created many difficulties for Turner, the move to homeworking was an unexpected benefit, allowing her to stay closer to her parents and making it easier to be around when they needed her. So when employers started to call people back into the office, she began to panic that she might be unable to continue to manage her job alongside caring for both her parents.
Fortunately, before the pandemic began, Leidos UK had launched Dynamic Working, a policy informed by extensive employee feedback, which allows everyone at the company to have flexibility in when and where they work. While Turner still needed to come into the office a couple of days a week, she was able to reduce her hours and fit them around her parents' needs.
, Customer Service Desk
It's a huge thing for a company to trust their employees as much as Leidos does,“ she says. “There aren't many companies out there that would allow their staff to work at home for two or three days a week, and I'm in awe of the Leidos team for that. I know so many people who are also struggling with family problems of their own and have benefited from this.
Beyond company-wide policies, Turner points to colleagues like Assistant Joint Operations Management Officer Emma Roberts — who organised the new flexible working pattern for the customer service team — and her immediate manager, Grant Croxford, as being pivotal in helping her manage.
“Emma has been amazing at being supportive while still being fair to everyone else on the team,“ Turner says. “And Grant really has been my rock. I remember I was standing at my mum's gate when she'd fallen badly in the garden, and after calling the ambulance, I realised, oh, gosh, I haven't rung my boss to tell him that I've left my desk. But when I was on the phone with him, he just said to me, Lesley, don't panic, just take a breath and everything's going to be okay. He's always said that if my mum needs me, I should just go and it can be sorted out later. I can't thank him enough for that.“
Even with this support, the past few years have been incredibly difficult for Turner, particularly after her mother passed away recently.
“When I was at my lowest ebb, I thought, 'My god, I need to do something because I could end up going down a very dark path,' so I just stepped out the door and thought, right, I'm just going to go for a walk,“ she describes. “It was so hard to take those steps, but I'm so glad I did because it was amazing. Then I just carried on doing it every day, and as I did, I found I was getting happier.“
In addition to walking, Turner has also taken up swimming at half six in the morning and attending a slimming club, where she met a group of people whom she feels she can ring whenever she needs to talk to someone.
“When you're under stress, you don't like yourself,“ she says. “My body was alien to me, and I didn't like it. But at the pool, there were people bigger than myself who were much better swimmers, and I was in awe of them. I just thought this is amazing, you know, life is out here. And I just need to grab it and live it. And that's how I've continued.“
By talking about her own experience, she hopes she can help others not only to regain control of their lives but to realise that other people are facing similar struggles.
“You have all these emotions, you have the happiness and pride that you're able to care for the people you love, but there's also guilt and frustration,“ she says. “My advice is just don't think that you're on your own. Don't be scared to ask to go out for coffee and a chat with anyone you can because there are so many people who will want to help you.“