Will MacAulay

 General Manager - Unlisted Assets, HESTA


How was your paternity leave and return to work experience?

It was difficult at first. I was one of the first people in my firm to take paternity leave, but HESTA was very supportive. However, I have worked continuously my whole adult life and I found it hard to let go of existing processes and relationships that I’d been cultivating, as well as absorbing the idea of not working in a commercial role. I took the maximum leave that was permissible under our policy at the time, which was 3 months, and if I had the chance again I would figure out how to take more time and more consciously switch off more completely, but I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity.

I was lucky enough to be able to experiment with various flexible working arrangements when I returned, and as my role often requires odd hours anyway this worked fairly well. My team was also really supportive of me being available at slightly different times, which meant I was able to contribute just as much working flexibly as I did working traditional hours. As more members of the team have had children and gone through their own journey of parental leave and flexible working (and with a big kick from COVID pushing us to work remotely) I’ve happily noticed that everyone, whether they have children or not, is more comfortable flexing their schedules.

What were the key challenges and opportunities of working flexibly?

Communication and planning. Working at slightly different times to everyone else in the team requires more careful thought to ensure that the work you’re doing translates well – it’s much harder to lean across the desk and ask casual questions, which is something I’d taken for granted previously. The key challenge for me was juggling delivery of tasks in “normal” time while operating off-cycle. In reality that meant front-loading work to a greater degree, and really upping my game in regards to clarity of communication. Generally though, it was surprisingly seamless which I think is largely a reflection of the amazing team I’m privileged to work with.

What do you believe members of the private capital industry need to do to continue to advance the opportunity for a more diverse and inclusive industry?

Investment management is a “greedy profession” in that it can and often does absorb the majority of your time and brain space, and it’s inherently competitive so attracts and rewards people with drive. Because of that I think it’s an industry that may perpetually struggle with the tension between a performance culture and work-life balance. The benefits of a balanced life both personally and in society are fairly well articulated elsewhere, so hopefully I don’t need to convince people it’s worth pursuing, but making it happen is easier said than done. Because of the nature of the industry I think it’s also difficult for many people, particularly those more junior, to ask to de-prioritise their work out of fear of the potential repercussions, real or imagined. So it’s up to all of us to make these things acceptable and normal, most importantly by using your leave policies! I’m yet to meet anyone that isn’t happier for prioritising something non-work related in their schedule, and it shouldn’t be an option that’s only available when you have a baby. So take time to ride your bike or volunteer at your preferred charity, and make it visible, make it normal. Let your team see you doing it.

"Your kids are only young once, and taking that time early is an opportunity you won’t get again, so I would 100% recommend prioritising it.”

What advice would you offer a man thinking of taking paternity leave and/or working flexibly now?

Your kids are only young once, and taking that time early is an opportunity you won’t get again, so I would 100% recommend prioritising it. I would also plan for it a little more carefully, so think about when you and your family will get the most value out of it (hint: it may not be when they’re first born). Last, it’s amazing how quickly 3 months goes by so I would encourage you to consider maximising your leave entitlements however you can.

Working flexibly can be difficult in investment management, and after experimenting with various formats (e.g. 5-in-4) I’ve ultimately returned to a “normal” working arrangement, but I’m glad that I had the opportunity to try different arrangements, and I’d encourage everyone to experiment and find what works for them.

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