Think a career with one of the Big Four isn't compatible with flexible working? Think again. Amy shares her story of integrating work and life as a busy working mother, and how PwC have embraced flexibility in every sense.
When I was a student, an advertisement caught my eye when walking through a train station; it was a photo of a woman sitting on a sofa reading to two children while wearing a suit. It was an advert for flexible working at PwC. At the time I was an eager graduate keen to forge a career for myself, although the idea of balancing one with a family hadn’t crossed my mind. Because of this endorsement of work life balance, PwC was at the top of my list for applications. I completed my ACA with the firm and I’ve been here for 14 years now; 10 of which I’ve done flexibly as a working mum.
I’ve always worked on challenging projects at PwC, having recently completed a transformation strategy project for Audit of Tax, I also helped establish a Centre of Excellence (CoE). I now work on the tax aspects of audits, as well as managing the operational side and evolution of the CoE. We’re actively recruiting in this area, offering a range of flexible working options from four month recurring annual contracts to term-time contracts.
I personally work on a 0.7 FTE contract and I decide my own way of working using PwC’s ‘everyday flexibility’ initiative. My typical hours are 9am to 2:30pm for two days, 9am to 5pm for two days and Friday is my non-working day. On my shorter working days, I’m able to do the morning and afternoon school run, as well as sports activities, helping with homework and enjoying home-cooked food with my family. On my full days, I’ll take the kids to breakfast club at 8am before heading into work, then leave the office at the end of the day to collect them from after-school club. On my non-working Friday, after the morning school run, I enjoy going to a Pilates class with my friends followed by coffee. I then tackle a list of ‘mum-admin’ before the weekend as it’s typically packed with football and rugby matches. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to ‘everyday flexibility’, but everyone is able to take advantage to accommodate their personal lives.
In return, PwC’s people flex their own schedules when they need to deliver exceptional client service. My busy period spans from January to March, during which I can I expect to work 40+ hours a week, including Fridays, which can be challenging. Due to the late calls and long days running up to deadlines, I must make arrangements for additional childcare. That being said, my non-negotiable is making sure I attend my Friday Pilates class. Also, my portfolio is designed to be quiet once the busy period is over, so I’m able to take some school holidays as non-working time.
Flexibility in where you work and how
PwC has introduced new technologies which support remote working for their people. I’m based in Reading, but I can also work from either a client’s location, from home or occasionally from our London office. In Tax, we work as a regional network and my team can be based across a number of offices. Being part of a virtual team, we make accommodations for each other, such as having an up-to-date calendar showing where we’re based that day, being regularly available for short update calls and being responsive to requests to make sure the team are informed of all client developments.
We also have a ‘dress for your day’ policy which means you can wear what works for you, and this policy fully embraced and practised by all grades. If I have no client meetings during the day, I’ll wear jeans and flats to the office so I’m ready for a hectic after-school schedule. When working at client offices I tend to follow their dress code, which is often casual with the exception of more formal meetings.
We’re keen to retain the best talent which is why we provide support for women returning from maternity leave, whether they’re going full-time or part-time. PwC uses an external agency called Talking Talent to coach women who are returning, sharing practical guidance on adapting to the change and how to manage stakeholders. This course is attended by all grades returning to work and provides a great network to share experiences and practical scenarios. PwC also provides free emergency childcare for a set number of days a year for urgent scenarios, arranging for a nanny to take care of your children. I’ve once called the helpline at 6pm when a school holiday club cancelled on short notice - a nanny was scheduled to attend at 9.30am the next day, fully funded by the firm.
Time for you
My advice for anyone thinking about a career with PwC would be to protect some time for yourself during the week. Whether it’s exercising or another hobby, it’s essential to prioritise while you juggle your personal life and work commitments as it can be challenging. Also, embrace the flexibility: children grow and childcare that worked one year may not work the next. Your working pattern isn’t set in stone and you have the opportunity to request changes as you move through the different life stages. Take time to re-evaluate the best pattern for you and your family periodically to make sure that the balance between work and home is right. Finally, prepare yourself to be resilient as hours can be long, although you’ll be rewarded with challenging work and time to spend on things that matter to you.