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What does Flex mean to you?

In a flexible world, everyone works differently and for different reasons, and so for this year’s National Work Life Week, we’re asking people to share – what does flexible working mean to you? 

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Published: 1 Mar 2018

Older workers individual case study: the part time worker

Norman Binions, 62: Messenger for a law firm in The City of London

‘I started here in 1999 aged 50 as a fully-fledged messenger. That could mean anything from decorating to heavy lifting, sorting and delivering the post. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t work – I’d just sit at home and get bored. And I love it here: I know everyone – you do when you’re a messenger – and I love the banter!

These days I work part-time from 8-12pm. I open up in the morning, switch the alarms off, make sure all the fridges are stocked with milk, collect the DX for document exchange, sort the post and deliver it, as well as clearing in-trays.

I was diagnosed with Multi Myeloma in 2008. I had a stem-cell transplant in 2009 before I went on to more traditional cancer treatment (chemo and drugs) and continued working when I could. The company looked after me so well – I can’t praise them enough. The job has held me together. Nowadays I control the cancer and I don’t lift anything heavier than a lever-arch file!

I come from a hard-working background. I was the youngest of 10 children living on a farm with no running water or electricity in Wexford, Ireland. In those days, you either worked every day of your life or you were dead! My dad died when I was 10 and at 14 I was sent away on an apprenticeship to a tailor in Kilkenny – I got my food, but little or nothing after that. So when my brother moved to London to marry his wife (it was a Catholic/Protestant marriage which couldn’t take place in Wexford), I joined him in London aged 17. From there I had various jobs including working in a men’s clothiers store, and a forklift driver before I went to work at Standard Chartered Bank – partly to get a cheap mortgage – as a messenger. In those days it was a very busy job. There was a huge amount of post and faxes and because it was before the days of CHAPS, each day at 3pm we had to do all the payments. I’d run around the City doing payments for my bosses.

I think you have to keep positive – and for me working is a big part of that. It also means I can afford to go on nice holidays three or four times a year. I go to Ireland to see family and play golf with my nephews and my wife and I are off to Madeira for Christmas.

I’m lucky I can work part-time. It means I can have a rest in the afternoon before I go and do something else like play golf.  I’ve recently joined a bowls club so a game of bowls in the afternoon is good. I took up drawing and painting at a local college this autumn. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I’ve made a good friend there. We’re both staying on next term and are planning a jaunt into the country to do some landscape sketching and painting.

I’d say to others that if you enjoy your job and you get on well with your colleagues, stay longer. And work is definitely a good way to maintain your lifestyle. I’ve never encountered any issues with my age at work – although I usually joke about being the OAP around here!’