Q&A: Stu Craft Finds Balance in Consulting, Life and Parenting
Stu Craft joined the team in EMEA earlier this year as a Managing Director, bringing more than a decade of software development and e-discovery experience. We sat down with him previously to discuss the ways he’s helping clients solve data issues. Outside of work, Stu is a father of two, and a dedicated advocate for the importance of finding balance between life and work. In this Q&A, he reflects on his first six months at FTI Technology, specifically how they have affected his life as a working parent, and offers his perspective on the resources FTI Technology offers to help employees maintain balance.
Stu, you’ve previously shared that one of the things that drew you to FTI Technology was the fact that the company was able to offer you a four-day work week. How is that working out?
I’m a new parent with a new job. Coming in, I considered myself lucky to have the privilege to design a work schedule that works for my team, my family and me. The concept of a four-day work week has been widely discussed, and working arrangements are more flexible than ever given the changes brought on by the pandemic. So, arranging for four days was relatively easy for me, yet I still couldn't help but wonder how my colleagues would react upon learning their new teammate was going to be off every Friday. I worried they might not want to include me on certain work or would baulk at the idea of covering for me with clients on Fridays. Now that I’m six months into it, I’ve seen that I have a supportive team all around me who wants the four-day week to be successful.
Practically speaking, how do you make it work?
The most important thing is communication. I make sure people know that I don’t work a traditional schedule and I set my calendar up accordingly. This way, everyone can see when I’m out, so they don’t try to arrange meetings at those times. This saves much time for everyone and avoids the headache of constantly rearranging meetings and deadlines.
I think anyone who is looking to establish this kind of work arrangement needs to remember they shouldn’t feel afraid to tell people they can't take a meeting on a non-working day. It’s also helpful to leverage email signatures and auto-replies, so people are aware and reminded as to when they can expect a reply. Provide avenues for emergencies and keep accurate and complete project notes, so backups have all the information they need. These practical steps and clear communication make it easier for everyone.
What else have you learned about managing a true work-life balance?
Achieving balance takes a bit more planning. It also requires extra time to investigate and leverage any company resources and benefits that help with project management, scheduling, etc. There may be internal systems and tools already available.
Also, for employees who are required to keep timecards or report their utilization and productivity, it’s important to ensure that the standard calculations used for full time employees are adjusted for the schedule. For example, I work 20% less a week, so if the system wasn’t set to acknowledge this, issues could arise regarding how my productivity or billable hours are calculated.
It's also so important to make the most of your extra “life” time! I wanted this schedule for a very good reason, so I’m as on top of my life hours as I am my work hours.
What has been your biggest challenge?
It’s been an adjustment overall. I need to be more aware of my time and consider my workload and what others require from me. It’s important (albeit difficult) to set and stick to boundaries. Early on, I realised that I was offering to join calls on Fridays, and while there’s nothing wrong with that for emergencies, it can quickly become a habit that starts to diminish the balance. Also, by sticking to the schedule, I began to feel I was empowering the team to know they could handle things in my absence and grow in their experience. I’ve gotten better at sharing information and delegating, and team members have more opportunities to lead and shine.
Another issue that I’ve noticed at this phase in my life is that while I’ve received much positive feedback from friends and colleagues about taking the leap to work a four-day week, I’ve realised that mothers don’t often receive that same kind of recognition. It’s treated as more of an expectation (rather than something to applaud) when mothers scale back on their work. I’d like to see more businesses take the tone and provide the kind of parental benefits that FTI Consulting does — which allow both parents to support their family in many different ways. This is much more equitable for women and allows families to structure how they earn an income, cover childcare needs at home, schedule their work hours, etc., in a way that fits their unique needs.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about the life part of your work-life balance?
I’m a massive technology geek, keen runner and cyclist. A silver lining from the pandemic was having more time at home with my then six-month-old daughter and realizing what I would have missed in my pre-COVID, office-based position. Now that we have a second child, the opportunity to switch to a four-day work week and my role at FTI Technology means the world to my growing family.
The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.