In this two-part series, we sat down with four L.E.K. Australia consultants to hear about their experiences with flexible working. We spoke about the flexible working options open to all employees, the benefits and challenges, and advice for others looking to bring more flexibility to their consulting careers.
For part two of this series, we sat down with Manoj Sridhar, a Principal in Melbourne, and Natasha Santha, a Partner in Melbourne.
How did you get started at L.E.K., and what is your role at the firm now?
Natasha: I met L.E.K. part way through my MBA and clicked with the Partners. They were smart and down-to-earth, and the work sounded really interesting. Once I’d given L.E.K. a go as an intern, I was hooked and here I am!
Manoj: I also met L.E.K. while I was studying for my MBA and joined the firm as a consultant. To me, the culture of the firm stood out amongst the others. Everyone was genuine, down-to-earth, and relatable. I also have a background in Life Sciences so the strength of that practice globally at L.E.K. was another important factor for me.
What is your flex role at L.E.K. and why did you choose this arrangement?
Manoj: I have used both flexible leave and part-time arrangements over the last 2-3 years to cope with circumstances at home and at work. To explain, I take unpaid leave (via our Australian purchased annual leave system) so that I can take breaks aligned with school holidays throughout the year. This means that I can share childcare responsibilities with my wife, who also works full time. I have also flexed to 4-days a week for 4- to 6-weeks a couple of times over the past 2 years in order to maintain a sustainable balance between work and home.
Natasha: I began working flexibly when I was a manager. I took a year off for maternity leave and once I was ready to come back, I worked 3 days a week. I did that for three years and have gradually increased my hours over time. Life is a balancing act for me. Being a mother is really important and I want to be a hands-on, present mum. At the same time, my career is also important, and I get a lot of self-satisfaction from making impactful change in the transport industry.
How has flexible working changed during your time at L.E.K.?
Natasha: I was the first consultant at L.E.K. Australia to trial part-time work. No one else was doing it at the time or had sustained it for a long time. I always felt supported by the Partners and the firm, but it felt a bit like a social experiment at first. Now, flex is much more commonplace, there are also lots more options available about what flex can look like, and greater openness around who can do it. More broadly, perceptions about those working flexibly have changed too; for example, flex is now seen as a sign of commitment to a long-term career.
What have been the key benefits of working flexibly at L.E.K.?
Manoj: Working flexibly keeps me energized and helps my career stay sustainable – it’s useful to have that reset a few times a year when I take time out with the kids. The 3-day weekends when I work part-time are also a joy; I get a totally chilled day for “me time” after busy weekends. Working flexibly has also helped me to sharpen my priorities and work smarter, not harder.
Natasha: I enjoy that I can have the best of both worlds; I have an amazing career, work on interesting projects with the best people in the business, and I also have time to spend with my daughter.
Have you encountered any challenges along the way?
Natasha: A lot can happen in a day at L.E.K. Our projects move quickly and decisions are often made when I’m not there. As a result, I try to stay two steps ahead of the client to pre-empt possible directional changes or roadblocks where I can. I also trust my teams to make the right decisions while I’m gone.
Manoj: I agree with Natasha’s point and would add that client or internal timelines do not always align well with a flex arrangement. It comes down to being quite disciplined with planning and communications with your teams to ensure that work continues to progress in and around your flex times.
What advice do you have for others looking to work flexibly?
Manoj: Really think about what you need from flex and how to make your career more sustainable, then give it a go. Try not to overthink it, or to look for a perfect solution or time, because you likely will not find it. Experiment and iterate from there. I also encourage people to consider using flex more spontaneously – you cannot plan for how you might be feeling in six months’ time, so flex as and when you need it.
Natasha: All great tips Manoj. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to flexible working. It needs to be tailored to your personal circumstances; figure out what you want and then start the conversation, because L.E.K. is very open to exploring flex options. Our senior leadership and our case teams are very supportive of flexible working and want to help make it work.