Need to cart the kids to school early in the morning or volunteer for a community program in the late afternoon? At Avanade it’s perfectly acceptable to tend to obligations during the traditional 9-to-5 work schedule, thanks to the Alternative Work Week program, launched in 2022 to promote job flexibility.
As the digital business and IT consultancy emerged from pandemic shutdowns, Avanade leadership recognised a need to change the employee experience with a greater focus on work/life balance and flexibility.
With teams scattered around the globe, Avanade’s 135-person IT team was already accustomed to collaborating during off-hours and had built a culture of trust and accountability that extended to people who weren’t actively visible during prime working hours. Now, with the formal Alternative Work Week program well under way, employees can request a schedule that works best for them.
“There is a real willingness to flex to the way employees want to work,” says Ron White, global CIO for Avanade. At the same time, he notes, “the flexible workweek does not change our obligation to meet our internal customer needs, including meeting deadlines, and that’s part and parcel of taking responsibility and continuing to function as an extremely efficient organisation.”
Maintaining a sense of community
The Alternative Work Week is just one building block in Avanade’s internal Wellbeing program, designed to help employees find a balance that supports their physical and mental health needs. Flush with tools and resources to promote practices such as better sleep habits, mindfulness, and stress management, Wellbeing aims to help employees avoid burnout.
White says Avanade has made progress in meeting that objective: In a recent survey, 89 per cent of its IT employees said they feel supported from a wellness perspective — “a substantial leap from previous surveys,” he notes.
Avanade has also initiated a variety of programs to forge connections and promote community among far-flung employees. The IT group has established an internal employee council that has planned activities such as online cooking classes, a virtual escape room, and a virtual 5K run, and it hosts numerous discussion groups tackling issues as diverse as dealing with menopause and what it feels like to be a minority in the workplace.
Offering up-skilling and training is another way Avanade invests in its IT employees while also addressing skills gaps that have been difficult to fill with outside talent. Instead of focusing on pure technical training, Avanade’s approach is to frame the technology in the context of how it’s applied in the business.
“We bring basic tactical training in and then combine it with how we work” in areas such as finance and sales, White explains. “Those things together allow you to function more effectively than just sending you to training would.”
Avanade also continues to promote diversity and inclusion across its workforce, through efforts such as targeted sourcing for under-represented groups and offering full STEM scholarships to students from underrepresented communities. Changing the narrative around women in technology, the company recently achieved a goal of 40 per cent female hiring globally.
A culture of staying connected
Although Avanade has made great strides toward establishing a positive work culture, White recognises the challenge in keeping team members connected, especially pandemic-era hires who haven’t met colleagues in person.
“You’ve got to take the time and be creative in how you re-create that experience. It’s a constant drumbeat of ‘Keep reaching out. Keep asking people if they’re OK,’” White says. “We’ve challenged every one of our managers to reach out to their teams with that context in mind.”