As we mature, our priorities and perspectives on work often shift. Many of us may find ourselves looking for ways to balance our professional responsibilities with our personal lives or seeking new challenges and opportunities that align with our changing goals. This was the case for Thomas Ringsted, partner in Deloitte, when he neared the end of his fifties. Having been with Deloitte for more than 20 years whilst becoming a partner along the way, he longed for a bit more flexibility. Today, he works a four-day workweek and gives his take on how to organise and tailor your career to make it more sustainable in the long run.

Thomas’ career has been far from boring and traditional. It was not long after Thomas graduated from university as an actuary that he soon began to find his way into consulting. He spent the first couple years of his career working at a smaller consultancy firm that was part of an international network, which led him to working abroad in London for one year. The UK firm was later acquired by Deloitte.

Upon returning from his deployment in London, Thomas found that the life and opportunities in Denmark were not as fulfilling as life abroad. He started looking for alternatives and his first application was for a position at Zurich in Denmark. To his luck, Zurich offered him the chance to work in head office in Zurich, where he would reside the next eight years, taking on several leadership roles. However, the firm was acquired leaving Thomas to seek new opportunities. A few people from his network, working in the former consultancy firm now acquired by Deloitte, asked if he would be interested in joining. Thomas describes this as a natural transition considering all his connections to the company and employees throughout the years. Today, Thomas has been with Deloitte for more than twenty years, and he does not see himself anywhere else.

Thomas describes Deloitte as the second part of his career, where his immediate involvement in auditing with regards to the financial sector was a natural progression from his previous line of work. He also built up and led the actuarial department consisting of 25 talents across borders until recently.

Wanting to slow down
When the COVID-19 pandemic reached the Danish borders, Thomas and his team thought that their work workload would decrease. But the reality was quite different, and the team experienced an increase making them the busiest they had ever been. The pandemic was a catalyst to change, as the aftermath of an excessive workload had left him tired and overworked, jumpstarting his decision to reduce workload and transition to a four-day workweek. He knew that if he wanted more time to focus on the areas, he was passionate about, then he would also have to delegate the remainder of the tasks.

And so began the process of re-structuring his work-life and slowly letting go of his role as the primary contact person in his department. He recognised that having a constant eye on recruitment and the nitty-gritty parts of building a team was an area in which he no longer wanted to focus on.

Fast forward 1,5 years later, Thomas finds that this change has given him more time on his hands, which he now spends on client-hours. Thomas currently works a 40-hour workweek spread over four days and has passed on most of his leadership responsibilities. And while those working hours might not seem like a reduction, he firmly believes that it has made a significant change in his everyday life.

“It is not like I wanted to try out a painting-class or play more golf in my free-time, I just wanted to try to ‘get bored’, however, with my personality type that has not happened yet. I tend to keep myself busy.”

Finding the balance
Thomas emphasizes that he has been met with understanding and respect upon his choice to structure his work life differently. It has not changed anything regarding the work with his clients – which is exactly how he wants it. His colleagues have also been great at planning around his day off, however, it is not unusual for a few calls to be answered regardless:

"I have said yes to meeting on Fridays, but I do think of it as ‘would I take this meeting on other days outside of business hours?‘ and if that answer is yes, then my Friday is not more holy than any other day. It is definitely a balance that I, myself, have the responsibility to maintain."

While Thomas normally takes Fridays off, he sometimes decides to join his colleagues for social activities on Fridays just because he likes to socialize with his teams. He underlines that this is not an expectation that his colleagues have of him, but an active choice he has made himself as most social activities happen to be on Fridays.

The art of delegation
Thomas calls his current set-up the slow prelude to his retirement. He acknowledges that to actually feel comfortable delegating more responsibility moving forward, he needs to have a clear and distinct plan, which is still a work in progress.

He has also learned that you can pass on the responsibility to others whilst keeping an active academic interest and curiosity in the matter. One does not cancel out the other. He also reflects on the beginning of his career, where he worked many hours with the belief that he could ‘do it all’. Times are changing, and it is now more acceptable to put one’s foot down. He also feels that clients are understanding of this choice. He acknowledges that he is still not fully there when it comes to saying ‘no’, when facing an interesting case:

"I am from ‘the old school’, where you just get it done whatever it takes. But I am also a big supporter of the newer approaches to work, such as finding ways to work smarter, not harder."

He points out that his new set-up gives him the freedom to structure his own time. With his wife also working a four-day workweek, it has given them more room to travel and spend time in their summerhouse. Although it is not every Friday that Thomas has plans, he now has the opportunity to be more present and spend quality-time with the family. Thomas believes that Deloitte is headed in the right direction by offering more flexibility to their employees.

If Thomas could give one piece of advice to other people attempting to organise their succession and looking towards retirement, he would tell them: “Take initiative and responsibility of you own career path. In order to gain more time on your hands, you also must make some sacrifices. You have to find out which set-up works for you, so your involvement is key in finding a solution that works for both parties”.

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