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Let’s Talk About the Accounting Firms Talking About Flextime

You will recall an article Colin linked to in ANR yesterday that boasts of KPMG's generous flextime policy. I will quote the original article linked on that link for your review:

"We have a firm-wide flextime policy as part of our approach to flexibility," says Barbara Wankoff, KPMG's national director of workplace solutions.

Wankoff estimates that 70 percent of KPMG employees work flexible hours. Other components of KPMG's "culture of flexibility" include compressed work weeks and "jump-start" Fridays during the summer (when employees are encouraged to leave at 3 p.m.).

"Feedback has been very positive," Wankoff says. A recent employee survey revealed that employees "strongly agree they have the flexibility they need," and that even with the scheduling freedom, "people continue to uphold their professional responsibilities."

Yes, the person who talks to the media about this unicorn called flextime is named Wankoff, glad you noticed that too.

In that same article, PwC claims to have a similar program in place, though doesn't dare pretend like nearly three quarters of its staff are actually taking advantage of it:

Jennifer Duris, a manager in PwC's office of diversity, where she is responsible for Worklife and Flexible Work Arrangements, says that flexible work arrangements are "available to all staff."

While just over 6 percent of PwC employees have a formal flextime arrangement, Duris estimates that more than 40 percent work flexible hours on an informal basis. The options available include: flextime hours, compressed work weeks and telecommuting (every employee is given a laptop).

The firms love to talk a good game about flextime. You'll recall Moss Adams once bragging about their flexibility by posting a picture of a young man "getting some necessary work done on the weekend" poolside with not one but two monitors beside him. That photo was later removed from Facebook.

Or how about this 2011 piece in the New York Times about how Ernst & Young puts personal commitments ahead of busy season commitments?

As the peak season for the nation’s accounting firms begins, David Leeds’s team at Ernst & Young is once again bracing for two months of 60-hour weeks auditing the books of a major bank in Atlanta.

In years past, those grueling weeks often fueled nasty marital spats about missed dinners and children’s tantrums over forgotten basketball games.

Not any more. At Ernst & Young, as at the nation’s other major accounting firms, workplace flexibility has been built into the culture — even during crunch time.

Every Monday morning, the 15 people on Mr. Leeds’s team meet and lay out the personal commitments that might interfere with work — basketball games, teacher conferences, Pilates classes, weddings. They arrange to cover for each other, helping make the busy season tolerable for everyone. Despite the auditing team’s six-day weeks, one Auburn University graduate, for example, is taking next Monday and Tuesday off to see the school’s football team play in the national championship bowl in Arizona. And Mr. Leeds plans to escape to New Orleans for three days to see his daughter run a marathon.

From that same piece, you get to this. Accounting leads the nation in flexibility?

At times, the big four accounting firms — Ernst & Young, Deloitte, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers — sound like preening basketball stars as they all boast that they are No. 1 in providing flexibility. One reason the industry leads the nation on flexibility is that the big firms are constantly trying to keep up with each other, if not outdo each other.

This article, which jumps off the NYT piece, seems to have a theory:

Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, notes that “The nation’s accounting firms excel at this for a boring, accounting reason – they’ve looked at the numbers, and they see it helps.”

The idea being: offering flextime leads to happier staff, who are compelled to stick it out with the firm. I know, I know, real rocket science stuff here.

We're curious to hear how you are using your firm's advertised flexibility to your advantage. Taken any good pilates classes in the middle of the day lately? Let us know in the comments.