In this two-part case study, HRD Connect explores Deloitte UK’s flexible working scheme – available to its 20,000 employees – which allows them to agree a scheme that best suits their personal circumstances while ensuring maximum productivity. Part one of this case study is available here.
Taking time out
While it is fair to say that Deloitte’s decision to adopt a flexible model of working on a permanent basis is the most significant aspect of its commitment to offering flexibility and agency to its staff, it is by far the only aspect and by no means the most recent.
Since 2014, the company has also offered staff the opportunity to take advantage of its Time Out scheme, which enables an employee to take an additional four weeks of unpaid leave on top of their paid holiday entitlement.
Essentially an optional sabbatical – which can be taken on an annual basis and for any reason – the scheme was implemented with the intention of enabling its hard-working staff to take a longer break than would otherwise be the case and to provide a healthy balance between work and life outside of it.
It is available to all staff with one year of service with the company and while the scheduling is arranged alongside the company, the preference of the individual is accommodated as much as possible, as Earley explains.
“It is done in conjunction with the business obviously but insofar as is possible it is done at a time that suits the employee and that’s to enable them to take a bit of time out and think about what they need and will suit them and their careers.”
And while it is offered and designed in the interests of staff, not least because there is evidence to suggest that breaks away from work provide significant benefits in the area of coping with stress and maintaining good mental health, it also benefits the business.
“Unplugging from work can help with focus and productivity and mental health,” says Earley. “The world of professional services can be very intellectually stimulating and intensive so having the ability to go off and do something different for a while enables staff to come back refreshed when they return.”
Time out for family
Laoise Flanagan took a Time Out in the summer of 2022 to spend time with her husband Oli and twin daughters, Saskia and Olivia along with her extended family in France. She first used the Time Out scheme the previous year in 2021 to relocate from their home in Manchester to Belfast to be closer to relatives and to spend time with her family in France after being apart due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My team were hugely supportive during the whole process when I first took a Time Out in 2021 – which is why I felt so comfortable requesting it again the following year. Given I had planned ahead, I felt reassured that momentum wouldn’t be lost by stepping back for four weeks. The firm was living and breathing what it had set out from a flexible working point of view. It gave me the confidence that it was the right thing to do.”
Banking holidays for when they are best spent
Beyond promoting flexible working and time off, the third way in which Deloitte offers its staff flexibility and freedom with how and when they spend their time both at and away from work is the provision of fully flexible bank holidays.
As the name suggests, this allows all staff members the choice of whether to use the formal UK bank holidays at the time they occur or to use them at a time that is preferred to the individual.
This is of particular value to the company due to the diversity of its 20,000 employees that cover a wide range of religious and cultural backgrounds, as it enables them to work days that might be just another day in order to use it at a time that holds meaning.
“There are some of our Muslim colleagues for instance, who observe Ramadan and then celebrate at Eid, so they can swap the Easter holidays to Eid,” explains Earley.
And while the scheme may not appear as significant as offering flexible working, or an annual month away from work, its launch and its popularity with employees since is something that Earley is particularly pleased to have been a part of.
“I was so thrilled when we as a firm introduced the flexible public holidays policy as it really does make a huge amount of sense when realizing how many people who work for us where the way our own public holidays doesn’t necessarily suit.”
And it is fair to say that there is a lot in that sentiment, that what works one won’t necessarily work another, that applies throughout the new age of more flexibility and greater agency at work that is at play at both Deloitte and well beyond.
Making the most of Ramadan
Zeeshan Ali, a consultant in risk advisory based in London, was one of the first people in Deloitte to use the new flexible public holiday policy. Since the policy was introduced in January 2022, Zeeshan has chosen to take UK public holidays over Eid, the Muslim celebration marking the end of Ramadan.
“This will be the third Ramadan that Muslims in the firm can choose where we work since the introduction of hybrid working. It has made a significant difference to my enjoyment of the holy month as I can reserve my energy working from home. I find the morning commute drains some of my energy before I’ve even got to my desk!”
Zeeshan says that his team have been incredibly supportive in understanding the importance of Ramadan, that he might need to flex his work hours depending on how he’s feeling and giving him ownership of his time.