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A day in the life: Town Planner at Gladman Developments
Helen Ball is a Planning Director. Since 2012, she’s worked at Gladman Developments, in large part due to their family-friendly ethos. So what do town planners do all day, and how can that fit around family life?
How long have you worked for Gladman?
I started Gladman in June 2012 when the company was somewhat smaller in size than it is today. Despite its continuous growth, one of the key aspects that make Gladman such an attractive place to work for many is that it has maintained its positive, family-friendly working ethos.
How did you come to work in your current role?
I hadn’t heard of a strategic land promoter before joining Gladman. I had always worked in a planning consultancy, primarily working on schemes on behalf of developers and housebuilders. I saw the job advertised in a professional magazine and thought I would apply for the role. For anyone thinking of returning to work after a career break or change of career, the thought of a formal interview process can be daunting; to my relief, I instead had an informative chat with some of the managing directors and a discussion about where I could fit into the business.
Since joining, I have gained experience working with a range of different teams including land acquisitions and disposals, as well as planning policy and land promotion.
Despite a year and a half out of work to have my children, I have been given the opportunity to progress within the company from planner to planning director and now focus on the promotion of large-scale strategic mixed-use sites.
Have you found Gladman Developments supportive of family life?
I have two young children aged two and four years old. I have had both of my children since joining Gladman and they have been extremely supportive of my maternity leave and return to work each time. Being so young, home life can be very demanding, so I feel extremely fortunate to be able to work for a company that is extremely supportive and understands the dynamics of balancing family and work life.
Describe an average day, including mornings and evenings?
Mornings, like most families with children, can be hectic. Thankfully I manage my own diary and working hours, so it doesn’t matter if I am 15 minutes later than usual one morning when I have no meetings planned. When I first returned to work after having my second child it took a week or so to get into a routine, but it has now become a slick operation, often including some small bribe to get the kids to cooperate or move a little faster! I can often be out of the office at meetings in various locations across the country, so I have to work with my husband to negotiate drop-offs and pick-ups from nursery. Together we make it work.
The first thing I do if I am in the office is to make a cup of tea and check my emails. For me, this is a key point in my day — having five minutes of peace following the hectic morning rush to plan what I need to tackle that day. I usually have various meetings with other team members or external consultants throughout the day. The days tend to fly by — I quite often move from focusing on one scheme to addressing an issue on another very quickly.
When I have meetings out of the office, I can usually be back in time to pick up the children from nursery, but on occasion I do stay overnight. I try to ensure that I collect the children from nursery around 5.30-6pm so that I have a few hours with them each day before bed. The fact that Gladman is so flexible about working hours often means that I can leave work much earlier, and in the spring and summer time we even get to go to the park for ice cream. On occasions, I do face the perils of a soft play centre.
Working a four-day week means I have a lot to pack in, but I think this has made me more efficient with my time. If I need to answer a few emails while making tea at night or on my day off, then I will, as it means I have more time to address other matters when I am in the office the next day.
How has Gladman helped you to balance work with family life?
The flexibility that Gladman allows its employees is a huge benefit, particularly for working mums like myself. I can plan my time around things such as the Christmas nativity play, parents’ evenings and sickness bugs when needed, so I don’t feel that I miss out on key events when the children need me there. Working a four-day week is also a huge benefit. I get a full day with my children to take them to clubs and appointments that we just can’t fit in at the weekends.
What’s your favourite thing about your job?
I love the fact that every day is always different and poses new challenges. I meet a huge array of people, from landowners to local authorities and land agents. Everyone that I work with works as a team and it is very much a place where you feel there is support if needed. The team also has people with a variety of experience, so I am constantly learning and expanding my skills set.
As a company, Gladman is very good at providing skills development and opportunities for ongoing training, which after returning to work from maternity leave was extremely useful, as things can move on very quickly in planning.
A huge bonus is that there is no micromanagement and I can manage my own workload, which is essential when negotiating working and family life. However, my absolute favourite thing about my job might be our onsite deli…
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