True flexibility can be hard to find in the professional services sector. Many companies make promises but these can be a far cry from the reality. Niche tax firm Frank Hirth explains how it strives to support its employees in work and life. Head of human resources Victoria Patricks has worked at Frank Hirth since September 2017. She has experienced the company’s flexible approach first hand, having applied for a position advertised as full-time. When she applied she asked to work a four-day week and to leave the office at 4.30pm. “They were completely open to the suggestion – and I had applied to other places that weren’t,” she says. “Some working patterns may not be suitable, but we will always have a conversation about it.” Flexi-time as standard Founded in 1975, Frank Hirth is a niche firm that specialises in UK and US tax advice and compliance including personal tax, corporation tax, owner-managed businesses, trust and estate taxation. Although it has grown to around 200 people, with offices in London, New York and Wellington, it retains a family firm culture. The firm offers flexi-time as standard – based around the core hours of 10am to 4.30pm. Employees are then free to decide how to make up their hours between 8am and 6.30pm. A two-hour lunch break is also possible. This allows individuals to manage their workload in a way that fits their other commitments. Retention is strong, with 44% of staff having been at the company for more than five years and another large proportion of workers who have joined from school or university in the last five years. At busy times the whole team work together to meet deadlines and good communication is encouraged to make flexibility work for all. “We don’t have a divide between fee earners and support staff,” says Victoria. "Everyone sits together and the only people in offices are directors, who have an open-door policy." As well as the flexi-time option, some team members work part-time or from home. The MD of Frank Hirth, Robyn Limmer, is a mother of three grown up children who has experienced life as a working mother and understands the challenges. A positive experience Victoria’s own experience has been extremely positive, and she is keen to ensure mothers have access to flexible roles in the business. Not all roles are suitable for people who would like to work from home, for example reception staff - but in these cases other flexible options are considered. “Having had a child and experienced redundancy at the same time I know you can lose confidence when you have a break from work. It’s silly really, but it’s a reality,” she says. “We know how productive someone can be when they have other things outside work. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter to us if you are a mum or want to do charitable work and pursue other goals, we know that people have a life and we want them to enjoy it.” Families are invited to the firm’s annual summer party, this year taking place in Brighton, and the office is closed between Christmas and New Year in addition to normal holiday allowances. There is an energetic board driving progress and an employee committee implementing initiatives focusing on employee engagement and making Frank Hirth a great place to work. Flexibility works for the clients too “The flexible approach is not an issue for clients,” says Victoria. “In fact, there is strong feedback from them on service and response time.” A genuinely flexible approach is rare in professional services – with employees often finding that the reality does not match the promises made. It doesn’t have to be this way. “Flexibility is harder to implement in professional services but only because of the attitude,” says Victoria. “It tends to be that a number of senior roles are held by men. Women still tend to have the main childcare responsibilities and this, coupled with inflexible working hours, means they may never progress as far as they should. This is gradually changing in the industry but Frank Hirth is ahead of the game.” The fact that Frank Hirth is not a partnership helps maintain a flexible balance. “We are a privately-owned company, with more than 50% owned by an Employee Benefit Trust. Not being a partnership helps as that can drive certain behaviours and our directors aren’t assessed on their own P&L.” Candidates should be upfront about their childcare needs Using 2to3days is part of the company’s open approach around flexibility. The firm feels candidates should not have to hide their childcare needs and family lives. Instead they should be upfront about their requirements and what they can offer. Associate Director Laura Knight says this has made all the difference to her career advancement and she has returned to the business after taking maternity leave twice. “I am fully supported as a respected employee and have continued on in my career, having been promoted since having two children and only working part-time,” she says. “There are no boundaries apart from those we set upon ourselves and being a parent has not stopped me from achieving my goals. The firm offers flexi-time which helps fit around childcare and the support given helps make the juggling act so much easier.”
Global design and consultancy firm Arcadis recognises and celebrates diversity, encouraging its people to be themselves at work. As the company releases a series of career opportunities with 2to3days, Head of Talent Acquisition Emma Heerah explains that diversity improves the quality of life for its people and drives design innovation. Juggling life and career development can be challenging. Whether that's working parents struggling to make it to school events; carers wrestling with conflicting responsibilities, or people feeling they need to hide aspects of their identity to fit in and get ahead. At Arcadis we don't think it should be this way. We believe diverse teams are better teams. We embrace an open and unique outlook on life from every one of our employees. We know that the best creative and innovative thinking for our clients comes from individual diversity and a supportive dynamic work environment. With the right conditions, it is possible to have a fulfilling career, successfully manage other commitments in life AND enjoy it. Removing the barriers to our people fulfilling their career potential is something we work hard to achieve. Our work spans many disciplines - from consultancy to engineering and architecture to cost management - but its united under a common vision to improve quality of life. We see people where others see projects, and we recognise that when we design environments we impact lives. That philosophy is embedded in the way we work. Part-time and flexible working empower our people to own their time and performance. We have created an environment where output and achievement are the measures used, not the amount of time you sit at your desk. Arcadis has successfully moved away from work as a physical place, instead embracing the notion of work as an activity. We work to improve cities, housing and infrastructure across the UK, using our skills to ensure places are well-designed and improve the lives of those who live and work in them. Working from home, the train, and occasionally on the move means our team members can come to work confident that they can manage their other commitments and collaborate in office-based and face-to-face meetings. Our multiple office locations mean team members can change their work locations when they need to, driving team engagement and stronger working relationships. Flexibility for all Ten years ago, flexible working was exclusive to a few forward-thinking industries (and roles) but that has changed. We see it as a basic requirement, not a benefit reserved for a few. All our people want to feel they can be themselves and that fulfilling work doesn't cost them in other areas of their lives from family and caring, to studying and sports. Elisabeth Selk, Strategic Research Consultant, has experienced this first-hand after taking a career break. I was keen to re-launch my career but equally keen to keep a degree of flexibility, she says. After taking part in a Women Returner initiative she realised that there was a market for experienced professionals seeking flexibility and applied for a position with Arcadis, advertised on 2to3days. "It turned out that this position was not quite the right level for me. However, I must have made the right impression with the team, and when a new position became available in the team a month or two later, I was offered a role in the Strategic Research team in Client Development." She adds: "I have now been working as a strategic research consultant developing and communicating thought leadership and strategic research for buildings and infrastructure. I really enjoy the challenge, working with the team, while enjoying a good work-life balance through my flexible working arrangement." We believe in working in a team where you are trusted and empowered to work to a schedule that fits you and your life. You should feel confident that you can fulfil your life ambitions and commitments as well as pursuing a fulfilling career one is never at the cost of the other. Arcadis is an aspirational place to work which recognises we are never the finished article and strives to stay ahead of the challenge inequality in the workplace presents. We are working with all parts of our business to create more part time and flexible working opportunities which we hope will attract greater diversity. This includes roles at all levels of Arcadis, including management and leadership level where we can create positive role models. Our latest part-time career opportunities demonstrate that Arcadis is a place where diversity is valued, enabling our people to thrive and raising the quality of the spaces and places we design. See all their current opportunities here.