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How do I find time for voluntary work?

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Q: I work for a big financial services firm. Three months ago, I joined a voluntary scheme that the company backs to help local underprivileged schoolchildren. I love it and am committed to a weekly one-hour session, which I have to take in my lunch break. The problem is that I've just started a very intensive long-term project that means I'm skipping lunch and working long hours. I'm struggling to meet my school commitment and have unsuccessfully asked for some flexibility with this from my project manager. I'm not going to let the child down, yet I'm struggling to get everything done. So much for my firm's social responsibility. How can I resolve this?

A: Not for the first time, I'm conscious of the ease with which someone like me can recommend principle and courage while never having to share in the potential consequences. But of course you must follow your instinct here.

Having started to help this child, you can't turn away now; it would be quite unforgivable.

This voluntary scheme is backed by your firm - so under the leadership, presumably, of a company director. Your project leader, understandably, is primarily concerned with the project so has resisted requests for greater flexibility.

I suggest you draft a careful note describing your predicament and then proposing a detailed rescheduling of your work patterns to allow you to meet all your commitments - albeit at the expense of quite a lot of your own time. Send this note to both the director in charge of the voluntary scheme and your project manager. I'm pretty sure they'll agree to your giving it a go.

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