Jo Hayes Ward Explains the Benefits of Flexible Working


Flexibility, Creativity & Productivity: The New Industry Model for Working

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In 1926, Henry Ford introduced the 8-hour working day, now not-so-lovingly colloquialised as ‘the 9-5’. Back then, this revolution changed the way people lived- from working 10-16 hours a day, 6 days a week, to what reformist Robert Owen formulated as “eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest”

The dramatic decrease in hours actually led to higher productivity, and consequently higher profit margins. This model has reigned supreme for almost a century, but now people are now beginning to question whether it’s time to rethink working patterns once again.

The Swedish famously trialled a 6-hour workday, in a bid to increase productivity- but saw mixed results. Though the experiment proved expensive, it also created extra jobs, reduced sick-pay costs and most importantly, began a world-wide conversation about work culture. 

Jo Hayes Ward is an industry pioneer of a less-rigid work pattern, otherwise known as flexible working. No stranger to wacky shifts- at the inception of her eponymous brand, Jo worked evening and weekends to get the business on its feet- the addition of three children meant even more logistical planning of how to fit working life around motherhood. It was not lost on Jo that her life experiences were not necessarily unique, and that many women were facing the same challenge. Jo now strives to make a positive impact on her workforce by offering true flexibility of working hours, and says her business is better for it. 


Jo Hayes Ward: Thoughts on Flexible Working

"Jo Hayes Ward jewellery is made to make women feel good. For us, that means the whole process of creating the jewellery should feel good too.  We believe in having a happy and fulfilled team.

A big part of this is working flexibly, whether it’s because of having to fit work in around the school run, training for a marathon (or even Iron man like our Judith, seriously, she is amazing!), walking the dog, caring for a relative or just because 9-5 doesn’t fit in with life.  Everyone has different needs, we get that. 

All four members of our JHW team-work part time and in whatever hours they like. Babies and toddlers sometimes join us at team meetings, we make work work around our lives and as a result we are all very dedicated to our jobs, we love what we do and we’re happy."

"We believe it’s not necessary to be cut-throat and ruthless to succeed. Which is a relief because we genuinely love chatting to our customers, helping them choose exactly the right piece, being part of their story."

"We believe removing the constraints of a 9-5 office setting allows more space for creativity. For me, ideas pop into my head when I’m happiest, often outside in nature, and feeling inspired. Having the freedom of working around our families motivates me and the team hugely, which makes us very productive, and work really efficiently."

Jo explains:

'At the beginning I ran the business in the evenings and weekends while working for other jewellers and metalworkers. I also taught CAD (Computer Aided Design) to MA students at the Royal College - (yes I’m a CAD geek and proud, I still use it to design every single one of my pieces). I grafted to get the business off the ground and get it to the stage where I could give up my other jobs, then later adding 3 kids into the mix took a WHOLE lot more juggling, head scratching and creative thinking to work out how to balance work and family life. I took on help with administrative side of the business because I realised that I couldn’t do it all. Today my husband (a furniture designer who’s also self employed) and I share childcare which means we both work a mixture of day times, evenings and weekends. I’m so grateful that we don’t have to compromise family over work. I also expanded my team so that I now have a team of experts working part time to manage the office, the marketing & PR side of things and help with production, which enables me to stick to designing and chatting to customers as much as possible. Thankfully this works brilliantly for us all, it works for the business and it makes it really fun!' 


BP: Any advice for someone taking steps to create/transition into a more flexible workplace? 

JHW: Take some time to consider your own needs versus the needs of your job; what days and hours would work for you, when are you most productive, do you need to be in the office or studio (if there is one) for certain tasks, what could be done at home. Then look at your workload, is it realistic to fit everything into your preferred hours and place of work? You'll need to work all this out because it's all about finding a balance that works for everyone, being productive in hours that suit you. 

BP:Do you find that nurturing people’s different creative ‘habits’ produces better results? 

JHW: Absolutely! Pressure and monotony is the death of creativity! I work best and are most creative when I feel happy, rested, get plenty of fresh air and importantly - inspired by things around me. For me this means I want to see my kids, I want to go to galleries, walk in the woods, swim in the sea, see what's happening in the world around me. 

BP:Do you think flexible working aids equality in the jewellery industry? How? 

JHW: It seems to me that the lack of equality really stings when women have children and are often forced out of the workplace because too many jobs require your presence 9-6. So flexible working gives working mothers a fighting chance to both be around for their kids AND have a fulfilling career. Being able to bring babies to the studio, work during nap times, in evenings or during (short!) school days is a way of maximising time with your children and making sure business is thriving.  

BP:Do you think flexible working is/should be the future for more companies? 

JHW: I really do. There are so many reasons why people might want flexible work, we're all human and have needs. The digital age has made this possible, so I'm sure those that are able to will embrace this shift. 

BP:What has flexible working made possible for you and your team that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise? 

JHW: The biggie is having a family AND running a business, which would not be possible for me or the other mums in my team without flexible working. But for me it's also making sure I fit in exercise into my week, see my friends from time to time, bake a cake on my boys' birthdays; life happens and there has to be some give and take. Judith who helps me with production also has her own business, and runs marathons, takes part in iron-man competitions, so she fits work in around all that training. 

BP:How do you reconcile flexible working with tight deadlines? 

JHW: I have become noticeably more productive since having kids. I have roughly 50% less time for work but because I have become so much more efficient, I get everything done in that time. 

Also, I do work in the evenings and weekends when things get really busy, and say no to things that I simply can't fit in. 


Photography by Jane Looker 


Find out more about Jo Hayes Ward:




Jessica Green


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