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Flexible working at Ernst and Young

Category: Industry News, Flexible Working, Professional Services, career, Finance, consultancy

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Major new research has uncovered a flexible working 'bottleneck' in the UK. Here, Lynn Rattigan explains how she's blended her career with being mum to twin girls. 

The most common questions I’m asked as a part time worker: ‘What days do you work?’ ‘How many hours do you do?’ ‘Where do you work from?’

I’m finding all of them increasingly difficult to answer, which I’m pretty pleased about.

You see, that means that I’m truly working flexibly. I judge how, when and where I work based upon my personal and professional commitments.

It’s something I wish more UK employees could experience.

So I was saddened to see new research from Timewise that shows just 6.2 per cent of jobs in Britain are advertised with flexible working options, affecting 14.1 million people who – like me – want to change their working patterns.

For me I feel like it’s less of a ‘balancing act’ than a ‘blending’ one - where the two parts of my life are separated and compartmentalised. I’m Chief Operating Officer at EY four days a week, and a mum of twins on Wednesdays.

The reality is that I am all of those things all of the time and it’s harder for me to treat them as ‘separate hats’.

Instead I wear one big ‘hat’ with all the trimmings – laptop, school bags and running kits attached.

So I do answer some calls or do the odd e-mail on a Wednesday if needed; I fit it around my girls. But equally I slot in after-school activities and trips to the dentist on the other days, too.

14 million Brits want flexible working. Bad luck

On Wednesday, I drop the children at school and pick them up, clear urgent work, catch up on ‘home admin’ and fit in a run.

It gives me precious time to reflect and the next day I return to work feeling energised and focused.

I always say that Wednesday’s are my mid-week weekend. It’s positive for my employer, my clients and my family.

If you asked my Chairman ‘What days does Lynn work?’ I hope he would struggle to answer.

Not because he is ignorant of my working arrangement, but because it is almost irrelevant to him. Outputs are the measure of success, not the time I spend at my desk. What my clients say about me, the quality of my work are all better evaluators than counting days or hours in the office.

And yes I feel lucky.

Lucky that I am employed by a firm that is leading the way in flexible working, and lucky that I am able to spend more time with my family while I progress my career in a job I love.

I have never felt disadvantaged in my professional development by working flexibly – I have been able to grow, taking on bigger and better roles. My career has progressed rather than stalled.

Why employers need to get on board with the 'F word' fast

Of course, it wasn’t always this way.

I was something of a pioneer - the first EY employee to request flexible working, five years ago - well before the new legislation that allows all employees to request it.

Since then, the profession has undergone a significant culture change, challenging the traditional 9-5 working week in an industry that is traditionally office-based.

In the early days I had to almost convince others that part-time working didn’t equal part-time commitment. I remember saying ‘you wouldn’t ask a builder redesigning your house how many hours they will spend on site, you would simply ask when will the job be done?’ It is an output measure.

It is also a leap of faith for most organisations and the critical success factor is giving it a go. I found once people realised that it didn’t affect the quality or delivery of my work then they became much more comfortable with it.

The starting point is a business conversation to balance the needs of the organisation, clients and teams. It has to be right for both employer and employee.

My desire to work flexibly was initially prompted by my return from maternity leave, when my children were small. Now Lauren and Hannah are five and are at school, I’m often asked ‘will you be returning full time?’

The answer is ‘no’. As far as I’m concerned I do work ‘full-time’, handling the same output and responsibility, but managing it in a more flexible way.

So my advice to employers is not to ask ‘why’, but to ask ‘why wouldn’t we?’

Tap into a ripe talent pool of people, right from the point of hire, who want to work flexibly. Experience the benefits that come with being able to attract top talent, while retaining a happier and more productive workforce. It could transform your business.

Are you interested in a career with EY? Please click here!

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