A career with flexibility for children and a changing pace of work

Henrik Nordskilde
(privatfotos)
The new HR initiative, Work Agility & Happy Parents, aims to make it easy to turn the pace of working life up or down following changes in an employee’s life. Some Deloitters have already demonstrated how it can work in practice. Meet three of them here and get inspiration for how to adjust your work to your dreams beyond the office.

Becoming a mum – and becoming partner

When Heidi Jensen had her first child in 2012 she had been in track to become partner for a few years. After maternity leave she started an internal process to help her accelerate her way to partnership. However, Heidi realized that becoming a mum had changed her priorities.

“I was convinced that I could just move on in the same pace as before – but I soon learned otherwise. When you do not sleep at night, two plus two do not make four the day after.”

She had been manager for several years and had always loved to coach others. However, it became harder for Heidi to be there for her team when she could hardly be there for herself in her new role as a mum.

“The first year it was all about survival,” Heidi recalls.

Read more about Heidi’s story

It took Heidi and her family a year to find the right balance between work and family life. By that time, Heidi got pregnant with child number two. Her husband asked for a house meeting to identify the main priorities for their family now, as it grew bigger.

“It was extremely healthy to have that conversation,” Heidi says.

When Heidi returned to work after her second maternity leave, she had her priorities in place and shared these with her leader. She needed bigger flexibility and to cut down on working hours. She was honest about the fact that she would most likely have to say ‘no’ to some projects. She needed a break from her role as a leader. And she wanted to put her partner track on hold.

“I needed to only focus on myself and my clients for a while to create some stability for myself. So, my leader and I came up with a plan to make that possible,” Heidi says.

During the year she was expected to only work 37 hours per week in average – and she could work less, if needed.

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About Work Agility & Happy Parents

Essentially, the programme is aimed at making it easier to be a Deloitte employee after becoming a parent as well as creating a more agile work environment. Specifically, the possibilities this new programme provides are the following:

  • Allowing employees to adjust their work-life balance.
  • In addition to discussing your career during the annual review, you now also talk with your manager about flexibility in your working life.
  • The option to buy ten additional vacation days a year.
  • The option to go on leave for 12 weeks, which requires applying for it at least three months in advance.
  • Deloitte encourages its employees to speak frankly with their line manager about the possibility of going part-time, as it certainly is possible.
  • Company agreements for employees, including cleaning, laundry and take-away food schemes, all of which are intended to give employees more free time when they’re not at work.
  • There should be a balance between life as a parent and life as a Deloitte employee. The programme starts as soon as the employee informs their manager that they are expecting. The manager has a talk with the employee both before and after the birth, but also just prior to an employee returning from maternity/paternity leave to discuss what kind of a working arrangement they would like to come back to (re-boarding). Employees also have the opportunity to join a network of other Deloitters on maternity/paternity leave.
    Once back from maternity/paternity leave, the employee is given the opportunity each month for five months to attend a two-hour meeting in a network to discuss how to get back into gear at work. All of the above is offered to both men and women.
  • Managers are invited to attend a course to learn how he/she should handle the employee’s maternity/paternity leave and to ensure that the employee is offered all of the above.
  • Right to paid leave for a child’s first three sick days for parents with children below the age of 14.

Heidi decided to dedicate her time one hundred per cent to work during the busy months in March April and May. During these three months her husband stepped in at home. She then spent the rest of the year prioritizing family time.

“I took the day off every Friday, and some of the other days I picked up my children from daycare at two o’clock. My leader understood my priorities and supported this set-up. It was actually more difficult for me for instance to cut off my role as leader, which I used to really enjoy,” Heidi says and adds:

“But I think it is important to take decisions that support your main priorities. That is why I had to put my role as a leader on hold for a while.”

After one and a half year Heidi started missing her role as a leader and she was offered a new leader role in Silkeborg, which she was happy to take. In 2018 she decided to start the partner track up again.

“I could see that the organisation started to priorities differently. It was not so much about the working hours spent, but more about the value created. My children are five and seven years old, so it was important for me not to work 50-60 hours per week all year if I became partner. I made that very clear.”

The team responsible for the partner selection process had great respect for this – and Heidi was recently appointed partner in Deloitte.

“I still use the old model about really working long days in January, February and March and then work less the rest of the year. This flexibility is extremely important. Of course, Deloitte would not work if every employee cut off working hours at the same time, but it is very important to have the possibility to do so in certain times of your live,” Heidi says.

 


 

Meet two other Deloitters here and get inspiration for how to adjust your work to your dreams outside the office.

The picture is from an extended holiday during his leave.

Anders Harritz Lund, Manager, Business Model Transformation

Was on paternity leave and holiday for four and a half months with his daughter in 2017.

“I’d come to the decision that I wanted four and a half months off work, and if that wasn’t possible, then this wasn’t the job for me. Of course, I knew that it would affect my working life, but that’s just how it would have to be. I realised that if I wanted to form a close bond with my daughter, coming home at 7 p.m. most evenings probably wasn’t the way to make that happen. A lot of people who become fathers talk about how they can feel redundant while the child’s still a baby, but my thinking was that maybe you just needed some more time to form that bond.”

For me, it was about learning to say no and learning to separate my own expectations from the company’s expectations. I had some helpful discussions with my talent manager, who pointed out that many people in the company don’t consider that if they’ve invested so much time into their job, they’re also allowed to make a withdrawal at some point. I wasn’t good at that in the past. I just gave it my all. I had high expectations of myself, but if my other mission was to succeed, I’d have to lower those expectations for a while.

“I significantly cut back on my working hours once I became a father. I told the relevant people that my new norm would be closer to a standard working week for a period, and that my working arrangements would have to become more flexible. I would drive out to the clients relatively early and come home somewhere around 4-5 p.m., and then do a bit more work in the evening if I needed to. It’s the same working arrangement I have today. There are also some weeks where I might decide to start early and keep working well into the evening.”

“Being away from work helped change my perspective somewhat. It’s taught me to shrug off some of the things I wasn’t able to ignore in the past. I’d rather say yes to fewer things, which I can then devote myself fully to. Obviously, it shouldn’t affect the quality of service vis-a-vis the clients, but I’ve learned to think ‘OK, I’ve only got time for this and that’ rather than thinking ‘I could also have done so much more.’”

“I think it’s wonderful that Deloitte is rolling out some specific initiatives, but the most important bit is arguably that it’s a signal that it’s something they prioritise. It could make employees less reluctant to talk to their manager about what their individual needs are in relation to their work-life arrangement. After all, each employee will have different needs.”

Maiken Bay Nielsen, HR-consultant

Took four months leave and travelled through South America with her boyfriend.

“I was hired by Deloitte as a student assistant when I completed my studies in May 2017. My boyfriend was able to move around some courses in his study programme, allowing him to take the autumn off. It allowed us to go on a long trip, which we’d talked about for a good while. I was resolved to take advantage of this opportunity we had and go, so I told my boss that after completing my studies I would really like to work full-time at Deloitte – provided that I’d be allowed to take a four-month leave.”

“It was a gamble on my part to ask to go on leave, but I’d decided that if I couldn’t get that opportunity, I’d look elsewhere for my first full-time job. After all, I might never get a second chance to go on a long trip like that. Luckily, it ended with me being hired as a full-time employee in June, and I took my leave on 1 October.”

“We travelled around Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. First and foremost, the trip gave me a wonderful experience with my boyfriend, and I also got to see a different kind of nature and encounter other cultures. It also became clearer to me what mattered to me in life. I became very conscious of why I liked going to work, and I appreciate Deloitte as an employer even more after they gave me that opportunity to go travelling.”

“I worked long hours before taking off, and I found that it wasn’t making me the best version of myself. During my leave, I realised that I wanted to keep my working hours at a different level. Many employees probably avoid setting those limits, even though doing so is actually regarded as a good thing. You have to let people know what works best for you, otherwise your manager can’t create an environment that works for all parties.”

“The best advice I can give for anyone who wants to do something that will require being away from work is this: Do it, damn it. Don’t just think about it. A lot of people probably overthink the consequences it might have. For example, it’s had an impact on which projects I’ve been assigned to after coming back from my leave. I haven’t had the same influence on what I would get to work on, as it’s obviously not possible to accommodate every single one of my wishes when I’ve been away for four months. And I only think it’s fair that I can’t get everything all at once.”

Maiken and her boyfriend on a trip around South America.