Jane Brewer talks about how flexible work practices enabled her to progress to leadership
15 May 2018
Tell us about your experience working flexibly at Suncorp?
I joined Suncorp as a business analyst 10 years ago, after I had my children. I was seeking an employer that would allow me to have a career, while giving me the flexibility to juggle childcare responsibilities with my partner.
I found it incredibly difficult to find an employer that would support the part time option I was looking for, and I’d almost given up when I found the role at Suncorp.
Within months of joining I was also doing project management, then leading other business analysts and then further through other stretch opportunities. I took up my current executive manager role two years ago.
Why did you want a flexible arrangement, and why did it suit you?
Flexible working arrangements enable me to be a Leader and a parent to my best ability.
I’ve had various arrangements since I’ve been at Suncorp, and every time I’ve needed to adapt or adjust, Suncorp has moved with me.
When I started, I worked part time four days a week. Later I moved to doing full time hours but over only four days so I could still have a day at home with my kids. Right now I live in Wellington but the majority of my team is based in Auckland, so I use a mix of working from home, working in Suncorp’s Wellington office and commuting to Auckland.
I also adjust hours of work around my physical location, time zone differences with Australia for late meetings and use flexible hours and working from home to balance parent commitments.
What are the challenges you face, and what strategies do you have to make it work for you?
One of the challenges is switching off – it can be very easy to keep working when you have working from home fully enabled.
For me, it’s important to have a separate area at home to work from so you can leave work while at home.
Another challenge is keeping relationships strong when you work remotely. Setting up cadences with my leader and direct reports, and using skype, text or phone calls to ensure ‘corridor’ conversations still happen, are both really important.
I think that leading remotely has actually improved my leadership skills, because you need to operate by trust and by empowering and delegating to direct reports. It enables you to focus on the outputs that matter.
We use Agile ways of working at Suncorp, which enables us to be highly transparent and outcome focussed. Work is broken into small deliverables, and firmly supported by ceremonies that encourage and demand both open and structured conversations.
Now that we’re moving to smart workspace designs, people are also getting better and more skilled at setting up location-diverse meetings and running them, and including people on the phone, which is great.
"One of the challenges is switching off"
What are the benefits, for you, your team and the business?
There are so many talented people around, but everyone has lives and commitments. The potential of flexible working is that it enables us to take away constraints so that talented people can flourish, regardless of what other commitments they have.
I’m an advocate for flexible working and I have helped my direct reports, who may have felt uncomfortable with enabling their direct reports to work flexibly, to give it a go. Once they try it, they have all embraced it.
"I think it's unusual to have a business
that is this genuinely flexible"
Anything else you want to say about working flexibly with Suncorp?
I don’t think I would be in a leadership position today if Suncorp hadn’t had such flexible environments.
Suncorp has always supported me to manage my workload and worktime the way I need to, and it has never once held me back from pursuing the career opportunities I’m interested in.