A common concern we often hear from our employer partners and candidates is that flexibility is just not possible for those in leadership positions. It’s put in the too hard bucket with many just not sure how to achieve the balance they desire. We can confirm this is a myth!
Leaders can have flexibility too! Yes, it may need more planning but everyone can achieve different degrees of flexibility. Hear how Clare Sporle, Financial Services Partner at EY successfully navigated flexibility to achieve her balance.
When she decided to work four days a week, she didn’t have to look far to find the sceptics, warning she would end up working five days anyway, but for 80 per cent of her former wage.
Determined to make the arrangement a success and prove the sceptics wrong, she was on a mission to be an example for others who were unsure about how to manage flexibility at work.
“I knew that access to flexibility benefits employees and businesses. At EY people who regularly exercise their choice in how, when and where they work show a 12-point increase in employee engagement – which affects job satisfaction, discretionary effort and wellbeing.”
At EY, around 30 per cent of people work flexibly on an informal basis – with men and women taking it up in equal proportions.
At EY they embrace flexibility by running their Flextober campaign to challenge staff to improve their use of flexibility at work, to have more conversations about what works – and what doesn’t – and to try new things. It’s this focus on normalising flexibility, creating conversations and a safe space to trial new approaches that makes us so proud to be collaborate with flex leaders like EY.
There are a variety of flexible working options and not all types involve working fewer hours or days. However, if you do decide to work part-time, or compress your week into fewer days, there are a few key factors to keep in mind:
- Working part-time cannot be successful unless job scope is redesigned and there is a reassessment of the person’s expected output. Otherwise, they are being set up to fail.
- Boundaries must be set and sensibly maintained. For example, on Clare’s midweek day at home with her children, she lets phone calls go through to voicemail before checking to see if it is necessary to respond on the day, letting people know it’s her day off if the matter is not urgent.
- Consider where the friction points may be and make conscious plans to address them. Most people take the first step of identifying the barriers, but then stop there! It’s very easy to think why something won’t work but remember to think through how you can come up with solutions to mitigate these potential issues.
Clare’s top tips to avoid hurdles that may arise:
- Actively consider your teams – was there someone I was confident could cover matters in my absence? If there are others working part time, do we still have sufficient common days for us to team effectively?
- Clearly communicate your working boundaries so that there was no “letting the team down” if I wasn’t available, coupled with being very organised in terms of making time in my diary when it was needed around key dates;
- Having a voice for meetings that clashed with out of office days – I am often suggesting recurring meetings happen on different days of the week to accommodate those working flexibly;
- Make excellent use of your precious time.Examples include scheduling meetings for 45 minutes rather than the traditional 60, considering whether I’m needed or if I can I empower someone else to take my place, and having “walking meetings” to squeeze in some exercise and fresh air;
- Be clear about your goals and responsibilities. I’ve learnt that it pays to know how and when to say “no” – being prepared to explain what you need to focus on, and why it’s a better use of your time, helps;
- Understand the reality of your work patterns – I decided that Wednesdays would be the best day to have at home because in my work many projects are set up on a Monday and tended to be delivered on a Friday. It also meant I never had more than two days in a row at work and was more energised on those days (and I miss fewer public holidays!).
- Discuss working flexibly with other team members – This is especially important if they are also working flexibly or would like to – there is no need for us to feel guilty about our flexibility preferences, if we are empowering others to live theirs.
Flexibility is important to Clare on many levels –
“as a mechanism to increase gender equity, as a tool to get the best out of the people I work with and as a way for me to get the most out of my life”.
While positive experiences like Clare’s may encourage people to work flexibly, discussions about failures offer valuable insights that can help make flexibility a viable option for everyone. Clare stresses the need to let go of any misplaced feelings of guilt. If the job is designed to be done flexibly, and you are being paid accordingly, the arrangement is fair to everyone. You should not have to justify your reason for working flexibly. It doesn’t matter if you are leaving early for cricket practice or picking up the children from school – realise it should be a win-win for you and your employer if you have balance and are more engaged.
So what will you do differently this Flextober? Join the conversation and share your thoughts with #EYflextober #EYflex #FlexCareers