For a significant part of the day I am a Director in the Deloitte Consulting business. This involves advising C-suite in the Consumer Products industry on their most complex strategic issues and transformations. It often means working from the client site and more recently substantial travel across Asia. My second job (free of charge, around the edges of the day with spill over into the weekend) is raising a 1 and 3 year old together with my wife, who works almost full time in a senior corporate role at one of the leading media companies in Australia. All of this happens whilst both our entire families live in the Netherlands.
Sometime after the birth of our first child I made the brave decision to take four months paternity leave as the primary care giver. A fantastic opportunity provided by Deloitte, however, if only I knew what I had signed up to. I still remember a friend ignorantly asking me: “Do you have any hobbies? What are you going to do with all that ‘free’ time on your hands?”
It turned out to be a period that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss in a lifetime. Building a bond with my little girl was priceless and as a side, I now fully appreciate what it takes to look after a baby full time (respect for stay-at-home mums & dads). I quickly realised that my new environment wasn’t too dissimilar from work: the demanding client/boss turned into a baby commander; the meeting cadence changed into a rigorous nappy and feeding regime and finally, office admin transformed into household chores.
Taking time off work is a precious gift as it allows you to develop new skills, live a different experience or build something on the side. You’ll have a better understanding of who you are, but the flip side of leaving work is the inevitable returning to work (in most cases). I was surprised to see that so much change can happen in just four months: clients had moved on, people had resigned and momentum was gone. Welcome to ground zero again: same capacity, same targets, two jobs….good luck.
Two years on, having a successful career and raising kids in a 50/50 capacity with my wife has slowly emerged into a tightly-glued house of cards, held together by a flexible ecosystem of choices: who takes the kids to school, who picks-up, who cooks, who stays home when our planned support for that day is sick, who goes to ‘grandparent hour’ at day care (2pm on a Thursday), who takes them to swimming lessons. All of these choices are carefully orchestrated around client breakfasts, steering committees, work events, yoga classes, networking dinners and overseas travel, just to name a few.
The role and support of Deloitte has been instrumental in this journey – first and foremost in providing the opportunity to take time off work but secondly in the form of freedom and flexibility in how, where and when I work. In their view it is not face time or inefficient activity that counts, but rather impact that has become the measure of success. And, as a matter of fact, I am on the verge of starting a two month pat leave break again…now a bit better prepared though!
This blog piece makes up one in a series of three stories about flexible working at Deloitte in line with our Return to Work program.