We’ve learned a lot from the COVID-19 pandemic about how we can work more efficiently and effectively. For parents and carers, one of the benefits is being able to work more flexibly to spend more time with children and family members and being there for important moments.
For many years, at Macquarie, we've supported our people to achieve a balance between personal and work priorities through a flexible working approach, and the last few years have seen us take that commitment even further – adopting a ‘hybrid working’ approach as staff return to our offices.
Peter Durante, co-chair of Macquarie’s Parents and Carers EMEA Employee Network Group (ENG) and a Division Director in Macquarie Asset Management, explains that a culture of flexible working was already well established at Macquarie before the pandemic made it – and hybrid working – much more commonplace.
“When I first joined Macquarie four years ago, the senior leaders were very clear: ‘... go to your kids’ sports days... go to the school concert; get the work done, but don't miss out on these moments.’”
Macquarie’s shift to hybrid working is an extension of our long-standing commitment to flexible working. For individuals, hybrid working combines time spent working in the office with time spent working at home in a way that balances the needs of our clients, colleagues, and teams.
Sarah Fennell, Macquarie’s head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in EMEA, highlights how Macquarie’s flexible and hybrid working approaches make it easier to manage work and life priorities, and that working from the office remains important.
“Through our recent employee voice survey, our people told us that they want to continue working in a hybrid way,” Sarah says. “Everyone has seen benefits from being able to do it more over the past few years; we’ve seen people flexing to exercise in the day, pick up children from school or just spend more time with pets.”
She also says people have made it very clear that connecting with colleagues in the office remains vitally important for them – to build and strengthen their social and work connections, for learning and development, and for creative collaboration.
“Macquarie is a people business,” Sarah emphasises. “We build relationships and learn from each other. Our approach to hybrid working empowers us to work together flexibly, taking advantage of coming together in person.”
Because flexibility means different things to different people, hybrid and flexible working at Macquarie exist in many forms. “Each team has different needs, so expectations are set at an individual and team level, in a way that takes into account the needs of our clients and each other,” Sarah explains.
“People used to think about flexibility as being able to work from home, but it is so much broader than that. Flexible working might mean doing the same number of hours but you might start work earlier in the day and finish earlier, it might involve working remotely, or even working part time or as a job share. Many of our roles are open to flexible working conversations,” Sarah adds.
“Working as a team to deliver the best outcomes for our clients and our business in a hybrid working environment requires planning, transparency and ongoing discussion. Something that has been re-proven during the pandemic,” says Peter.
“But we’ve proven that working from home can work, even under incredibly challenging circumstances,” adds Peter. “So, we’re re-affirming to everybody that, although it requires some additional consideration, the value it brings to employees’ productivity, as well as to their work-life balance, means that it’s worth it.”
Beginning as a series of ad-hoc events themed around parent and carer issues, Macquarie’s Parents & Carers EMEA ENG was then formalised to offer support to working parents and those with caring responsibilities. Already an established resource and support group at Macquarie, the network came into its own during the pandemic, working closely with individuals and tailoring support to take account of different circumstances and needs.
Florian Winkle, Executive Sponsor of the ENG and an Executive Director in Macquarie Asset Management, says the network offers an added layer of support to employees.
“The pandemic has made it more important than ever that we spread the word about the Parents and Carers ENG, to help people find solutions and support for issues they might not be aware that the company can help them with,” he explains.
“Sometimes these aren't things you want to talk about with your manager or colleagues. It's also about creating allies for parents and those with carer obligations and building an understanding of the additional support they might need.”
Florian also shares his own experience of being at home during the pandemic. “I spent more time with my kids than ever before, even though the work didn’t stop. I was home every morning when they got up, and I could put them to bed every evening. We often had breakfast and dinner together. It has given me a different view - that we very often take for granted the things we value the most.”
Peter tells us about his role in the ENG: “I became the co-chair about a year ago. What we all went through in 2020-2021 brought home to me how crucial it is to support our parents and carers. Having to home-school children or take care of parents during that period reinforced the value of a flexible and supportive workplace culture.”
“The ENG is here to make sure that parents and carers know what resources the company has – and there are many – from our parental leave policies offering up to six months of full pay to people of any gender, to practical help such as emergency child and adult/elder care. And, now that we've shifted to hybrid working, we are canvassing our membership on what is most valuable in this evolving context.”
“We have recently updated our parental leave policy,” Sarah adds. “While we have had coaching for people going on parental leave for a long time, some managers seldom have to deal with people going on parental leave. Now we are providing coaching support for all managers here, so that they can create an inclusive and supportive experience for the person going on leave, and upon their return, as well as to the rest of the team.”
In early 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, Abby Nottingham, a Division Director in Macquarie’s Financial Management Group, and her wife were preparing to bring their two newly adopted children into the family. By the time Abby’s parental leave as a secondary carer was completed, not only was she learning the ropes of taking care of a new, young family, the first lockdown had begun, and she was facing the challenges of working from home, full time. As Abby explains, “I went straight from parental leave to working from home. It has been intense because it was all ‘new’, but the amount of time I have been able to spend with the children – instead of travelling into the office every day – has been a lot more than it otherwise would have been.”
The key to her working day is the need for Abby to talk to colleagues and stakeholders across the globe. “Macquarie’s flexible working culture allows me to manage my own life within my work requirements,” she explains. “My key work time is early morning – before the day in Sydney ends - so I start early. I have a full working day, but with time here and there to spend with the children. Sometimes I can do the school run, and when they were not at school during lockdown, I could have lunch with them. I can also be around in the early evening for bath-time and bedtime. And, if I need to, I can work again in the evening when Sydney comes back online.”
“The main thing is, if you count the number of hours that I have spent with the children compared to what it would have been had I been travelling to and from the office every day, the difference is stark. It has been massively positive for our long-term family dynamic and relationship – and that’s due to Macquarie’s approach on hybrid and flexible working.”
Macquarie is committed to creating an inclusive environment where all of our people, including our parents and caregivers, feel comfortable being their whole selves and feel empowered to thrive. We’ve built on that commitment through the pandemic by updating parental policies, providing a dedicated employee network support group, and offering flexible and hybrid working arrangements to all our employees as they return to the office – just one part of our plan to make sure that Macquarie continues to be an exceptional place to work.