When Nicole Calderbank interviewed for the coffee company that would later merge with Italian espresso giants, Lavazza, she said the funniest part was that she didn’t even drink coffee. But rather than be shunned away, Nicole was welcomed in with a supportive culture, flexible arrangements, and all the hot chocolate she could drink.
We were gobsmacked that anyone could turn away a hot velvety cup of full-bodied, single origin espresso, so we had to find out more about Nicole, and what she enjoyed about working for Lavazza.
Nicole started working in retail as soon as she was old enough to get a job. She’s got two young daughters and has been married to her husband for 11 years, but they’ve been together since they were 14, and known each other since they were just five years old.
“In prep we were Santa and Mrs. Claus for a Christmas concert.”
Nicole and her husband love to travel, once spending a whole year abroad when they were 21. Since then, they have been back and forth overseas. They’re also big NBA fans, and one of these trips included taking their daughters to see a Lakers game.
“Travelling with children hasn’t stopped us. I think they have been overseas more than most adults I know.”
Family is very important to her, and finding the time to travel, or even just spend the weekend with her own parents has always been a high priority. This meant finding a career that afforded support and flexibility for a working mother was also crucial.
Getting the job with Lavazza
Before her current role, Nicole had worked six years for a Jeweler.
“I felt I’d reached as far as I could there, and it was time for a role change. This role was available at the right time and is only 15 minutes from home which was a big plus.”
She was originally employed by Blue Pod Coffee Co. before the company was acquired by Lavazza a few years ago. And it was more than the short commute and aforementioned hot chocolate that sold her on the position. Flexible working options were also a large drawcard to the role.
And when Lavazza absorbed Blue Pod Coffee Co. and Nicole along with it, they kept her arrangements.
“I was flexible then and [Lavazza] were more than happy to keep that on and not make changes. It was really good, and something that made me really respect them as a business.”
“The flexibility I’ve had is the most important thing to me”
Flexible working can involve any scenario that allows an employee to achieve their required output and objectives while also balancing their needs outside of work. It can involve altering the hours, location, or pattern of their work. For Nicole, flexible working balances the needs of her family.
“To me, flex working lets me work around my children’s schooling. I was able to change to school hours when both my kids reached school-age. One day I got a call from school about head lice, and there was no question from my line manager. I had to go look after my kids, and there was no problem with that.”
Nicole says the stress it takes off her shoulders in these types of circumstances is immense. And when the COVID-19 pandemic sent everyone home, Nicole sings the praises of Lavazza again.
“With the kids being home, everyone was very supportive. Everyone was aware how easy it would be to burn ourselves out balancing home-schooling. And it was clear, if you need to log-off to be with the kids, it’s not a problem, do it. They knew we’d make it up eventually.”
“I always feel comfortable reaching out to other staff or management when I have the need. When it comes to asking for flexibility it was very easy, and very comfortable. I don’t think I ever hesitated in asking. I knew that if I didn’t ask, I wouldn’t know. And if I didn’t ask, I would burn out.”
The trust and lack of micromanagement is just one part of the inclusive environment Nicole reports. She says she’s also been given the opportunities to try different areas of the business and build on her skills and knowledge. And she believes everyone feels they are well recognized by other staff.
3 tips for your own flexible journey
After working with the company for 10 years this August, Nicole has plenty of advice for others looking to find their own path to flexibility:
- Self-care. “I think it’s important to look after yourself and put yourself first sometimes.”
- Fortitude. “Decide what’s important to you, and just back yourself. Make the stand that if an opportunity doesn’t meet what you value – walk away. My husband had to make that choice when the flexibility wasn’t what we needed at his previous job. We were better off in the long run after he made the hard choice to leave.”
- Positive support. “The confidence, trust and respect of the leadership and team around me has helped me get through.”
Just as there are varied flavors and ways of taking your coffee, flexibility is personal, and what works for one person won’t necessarily work for someone else. Nicole’s experience with Lavazza is a great example of that. Flexible working means more than purely working from home, flexibility should be given to employees’ minds as much as to where they place their laptop. Even if that means drinking hot chocolate instead of coffee.