Finance jobs are notorious for grueling hours and demanding workloads, which make having children and raising a family a challenge. While finding a work-life balance can be tricky, more companies are accommodating flexible schedules and mobile jobs, allowing professionals to create individual work styles.
Flexibility comes in all shapes and sizes including working part-time, having a compressed work week, job sharing and working remotely, said Karyn Likerman, senior vice president of human resources at Citigroup, where all employees are given the opportunity to discuss flexible work arrangements with their managers. "It really comes down to a manager's understanding the specific work an individual [does] as well as the way that person works," she said.
While having your boss onboard is critical for flexibility in any job, there are certain fields in finance that allow for maximum work-life flexibility.
Carrie Quinn, 42, a Long Island, N.Y.-based partner in the audit practice at PwC, the big four accounting firm, has adjusted her work schedule as her kids have gotten older. Before her sons were school-aged, she spent one or two days a week at home. Now she works reduced-hour days instead, leaving the office by 2:30 p.m. once or twice a week to be home when they get out of school. "Those needs change over time as you go through different phases in your life," said Quinn. At PwC, like the other big four firms, employees have the option of working reduced work schedules to help accommodate those needs.
With a shortage of accountants in the profession, said Barbara Adachi, national managing principal for the Women's Initiative at Deloitte, big four firms have taken steps to make accounting as flexible a career choice as possible. At Deloitte, another of the big four firms, employees determine the how they will manage projects and travel each year. They can take up to five years off and still have their accounting licenses renewed by the company. At PwC, employees can change their work schedules every season and a mentor program helps new moms get back to work after having a baby. And at Ernst & Young, another member of the big four, any employee who works 20 hours per week is eligible for full-time benefits.
Unlike consulting where you're jet-setting all over the country, accounting doesn't require long-distance travel because you can choose to work with locally based clients, said Adachi. There is also a lot of flexibility to work outside the office. At Deloitte, for example, at least 60% of employees telecommute at some point in the week.
Beyond the big four firms, accounting positions are still very flexible. "For women, if they want to think about something they can come in and out of -- accounting lends itself to that," said Adachi.
Company Finance Departments
For Melissa Evers-Hood, a Portland, Ore.-based finance manager at Intel, it's not entirely unusual to take client calls in the lobby of her daughter's ballet studio, or to leave work at 2 p.m. to pick her kids up from school. Evers-Hood, 35, who has three children at home ranging from 11 months to seven years, still works 50 hours a week. She normally goes to the office from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., then comes home to make dinner and spend time with her kids. She'll log back in at 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. after they've gone to bed. "I work when I need to work," she said.
In the finance departments of large corporations, because the people you collaborate with are in your own company, there's more leeway to set your own schedule. "If there is something that's really urgent over the weekend, I will tell them, 'I need to go to a soccer game and host a dinner party. I can do it from 2 to 4. When can you?'" said Evers-Hood. "If I am beholden to a third party, there wouldn't be quite that give and take."
Financial Advisor Firms
In January 2010, when Darcy Beeman, 42, adopted her daughter, a newborn named Addison, her life changed overnight. A financial advisor and regional leader for Edward Jones in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Beeman was suddenly a single mom. "Instantly, I had to work the nanny's hours," she said. But as a financial advisor, she was able to set her own schedule and work a reduced schedule of 45 hours a week. "The flexibility is unbelievable," said Beeman, who manages 450 clients. "It's not that you don't have to work hard, but...you're not punching a timecard."
Clients of financial advisors will often prefer to schedule meetings on weekends or evenings, leaving week days more open. Steve Johnson, 58, a financial advisor for Raymond James in Draper, Utah, who has a severely disabled 34-year-old daughter, schedules his day so that he is able to help get his daughter up in the mornings, coming in after the markets open. When he was coaching his son's Little League team years ago, he took afternoons off to accommodate that interest. "The business allows us to build our own practice as we choose to build our own practice," he said.
Financial-advisory firms like Edward Jones or Raymond James have staff at the central office that handle administrative work and can patch calls to you at home. As a result, you don't have to be in your chair in the office when the markets open.
Temporary Staffing Firms
For the ultimate in flexibility, there's another approach: working as a freelance contract employee.
While the term "staffing firm" might call to mind temp agencies hiring people for administrative grunt work, in the case of finance-staffing firms that's not the case. Organizations that need professionals for a high-level interim project often turn to companies like Resources Global Professionals, an Irvine, Calif., company that assigns work on a project-to-project basis. "Because you are going in on a specific project, you are not going into a lot of the politics and posturing involved with being a full-time employee," said Nancy Collamer, a Connecticut-based career coach focused on lifestyle-friendly careers. Because you commit to work on a project-by-project basis, she said, you have the flexibility to say no when you want.
In addition to choosing your own projects, Resources Global, which calls its temps "consultants," gives full benefits and a salary, according to Nate Franke, the company's CFO.
Rebeka Mazzone, 41, who runs the Rhode Island branch of the staffing firm Accounting Management Solutions, has three children at home. In addition to that position, Mazzone herself takes on projects. She works as the chief financial officer for a physicians' practice and designs accounting software for a children's museum, working three days in the office, and a partial day from home. "There's a bigger market out there than what a lot of people realize," said Mazzone about work opportunities that staffing firms can offer. She has worked as a CFO on a range of projects from a housing development company to major universities, always with the option of turning down those projects that don't fit with her schedule.
While the field of finance often requires long hours, it's possible to find a career path that allows for flexibility. Whether it's a job in accounting, a position in the finance department of a large corporation or signing up with a temporary staffing firm, there are a range of possiblities to allow you to work -- and play -- on your own time.
Write to Jane Porter