In today’s business environment, flexibility is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have. The way we work is constantly evolving. Technology has swept us into a world of virtual team—working seamlessly across the globe with 24/7 work cycles and hyper-connectivity. As we navigate this reality, we need flexibility to flourish both personally and professionally… bringing our whole selves to work and making time for what matters.

At PwC, everyday flexibility is essential to creating an environment that supports our talented individuals as their personal lives grow and their careers develop. Everyday flexibility has given me the opportunity to have a thriving career while being an active part of my twin daughters’ lives. I’ve been able to coach their sports teams, join them at school events and now, adjust my schedule for college visits on the opposite coast!

We all define flexibility differently depending on our personal and professional goals, but one thing on which we may all agree is that flexibility is not a “one size fits all” concept. For me, it’s being available when my daughters need me. For some, it’s about taking a spinning class during the week, leaving early to catch up with out-of-town guests, working occasionally from home, or having a predictable work schedule. For others, it may be more formal such as a telecommuting arrangement or a part-time schedule. The bottom line is it’s up to organizations to empower their people to define it for themselves.

As a professional services firm, PwC is a high-performance environment. Through our annual engagement survey and other feedback channels, our people have told us that flexibility is important to them. They want to work in a place that allows them flexibility in where they work, how much they work and when they work. In fact, our groundbreaking study, PwC’s NextGen: a global generational study, shows this is a high priority for millennials, who now make up 80% of our firm.

Naturally, culture change doesn’t happen overnight. Our journey to build more flexibility into the way we work started in 2011 when we launched Flexibility2TM to support our changing demographics and business models. The “2” reminds us that it’s about creating a work environment that is sustainable for our people and our business. We challenged our people to talk about flexibility, to develop a plan—individually and within teams—and make it real.

Since then, PwC has made significant progress. Many of our teams have taken on the challenge to embrace everyday flexibility—creating flexibility plans and supporting each other in working differently to allow greater balance between their work and professional lives. It’s a journey and we still have work to do.

Here are a few ways on how we continue to evolve:

Flexibility2 TM best-practice sharing
On our internal website, we regularly update team best practices for everyone to see.  This allows a client team to get ideas and to continually refresh their thinking around what is possible.

Flex Days
For 10 years, we offered the option to take summer Flex Days, which started as Flex Fridays then expanded to summer Flex Days where a day could be taken off any day of the work week between Memorial Day and Labor day as long as four business days were worked and a minimum of 40 hours. In 2014, Flex Days became available year round and teams work together to figure out what works for them, taking into consideration client and business needs.

Flexibility2 TM Talent Network (FTN)
Along this journey, we learned that many individuals want to pursue other significant interests like exploring their musical talents, volunteering or traveling the world. Our options were to re-think our approach or lose top talent who didn’t see their personal and professional desires operating harmoniously under the traditional workplace model.

We opted to evolve and created the Flexibility²TM Talent Network (FTN), a group of experienced individuals who work for us during peak periods to support our client engagement teams and pursue outside interests during off cycles. This workforce allows us to better meet the needs of our changing business while continuing to provide high quality service to our clients. FTN staff keep their skills current, remain connected to their profession and enjoy other interests the rest of the year.

These are just some examples of how we’re evolving for the workforce of the future. In today’s environment, organizations must think about workforce planning strategies in new ways to attract, engage and retain talent that demands work flexibility. Organizations should explore ways to build more flexibility into the way their people work, into their career paths and into career opportunities they offer. The alternative is being left behind.

Learn more from PwC about creating a culture of flexibility.

photo credit: istockphoto.com