“I am so glad to have had the opportunity to continue working and progressing my career, while at the same time growing my family.”

Yvonne Driessens was on an expatriate assignment in the UK when she was pregnant with her first child. “I already knew I wanted to stay off longer than the Shell paid maternity leave and the British government allowed for up to six months of maternity leave,” Yvonne explained. She consulted her Line Manager to allow her to take time off which was approved and fully supported. At the end of her maternity leave, she went back to work at 80% of a full time equivalent which was supported under the expat agreements.

Soon after returning to work, Yvonne was pregnant again and like previously, she wanted to take six months of maternity leave. Her Line Manager, understanding her situation, pointed out that there might be a possibility that she would not want to go back to work after the leave was over. Initially, Yvonne could not imagine not returning to work, but this changed halfway through her maternity leave as she really had no interest in going back to work anytime soon.

“I could see that I would like to get back eventually, but not just then.” Yvonne said. So she contacted her Line Manager, to tell him he was right about his hunch and they discussed her options. Based on these discussions, her Line Manager organised for her to be on unpaid parental leave for two years, even though Yvonne was on an expat assignment during that time.

“As my husband was also an expat in the same location, I was fortunate I didn’t need to relocate with the arrangement,” Yvonne said gratefully, “At the end of the two years, and having a third child while on unpaid leave, connected with my Shell network and started to look for my next posting, which I found in Bangalore.”

Yvonne with kids

The new posting came with a new Line Manager who was skeptical on parttimers, but was willing to give it a go. Both parties agreed that if this arrangement didn’t work out, Yvonne would have to revert to the full-time status. But this never came about as Yvonne could manage her own deliverables and requirements; she was flexible even when business travel was required.

At the end of the posting, the family moved to Australia and Yvonne returned to full time status again at Shell. At this time, her husband got a position on a part-time basis in the Prelude project team, Shell’s floating liquified natural gas facilty. Initially at 60% when the youngest was at kindergarten and then an 80% status when all the kids went to school five days a week.

“Since April last year my husband has started working on Prelude, on a fly in fly out schedule and so I have adopted flexible work hours when he is away to allow me to be home when the kids come home after school,” Yvonne shared with us. During those three weeks while Yvonne’s husband is offshore, she works from home to balance her work needs and family. But when her husband is home, she works slightly longer hours knowing she does not have to worry about the kids.

Such true-life examples magnify Shell’s flexible work and family-friendly policies regardless of where an employee is based and has enabled people like Yvonne to have children and being a significant part of the children’s lives, whilst still being able to continue to work and progress her career at Shell.

Yvonne reiterated, “Without the flexibility, I doubt I would have continued to work after I had my second child. I was willing to give up my career in order to be with the kids but I was never forced to make that choice. In turn, my husband has enjoyed the opportunity to be actively involved in the kids’ activities when we arrived in Perth.”

She concluded, “I am so glad to have had the opportunity to continue working and progressing my career, while at the same time growing my family.”