The HR Juggler

Posts Tagged ‘Part-time

When my daughters were born, it transformed my view of working parents into a new-found, complete awe and admiration. How did they manage to turn up at work on time looking presentable and professional, do their roles capably and well, whilst still looking after their little ones outside of work hours? What was their secret and more importantly, where could I learn?! On returning to work after my maternity leave, I also remember berating my husband on several occasions that he did not and could not “understand the luxury of a full-time role”….by which I meant a job where he could leave at a time of his own choosing, not dictated by the demands of dropping off, picking up and putting to bed. Even if it was getting home at 8pm and later, which it often was, and dictated by client demands and overwhelming workload.  Poor Mr C… 🙂

I’ve worked part-time for three years now and learnt a lot along the way, some through my own experience and some things through friends and colleagues who have been happy to share. For anyone in the early days of trying to figure out how to make it work for them, or perhaps just trying to get an insight into how all those superwomen (and supermen) do it, then I hope this helps shed some light.

There are a few caveats to this post; firstly that I am lucky enough to be able to work part-time in a challenging role and that my Company is very supportive of flexible workers. Secondly, I choose to work part-time. And thirdly, I am female (obviously!) and have young children, which I am sure puts a spin of sorts onto it. 

My tips for making flexible working work for you are as follows –

1 – Set boundaries

You’ll need to make your own rules for how you deal with work on the days and times that you are not there, and being consistent about it will help you and others understand how the arrangement will work more quickly. You may choose to set an out-of-office on your email and phone and not look at work related stuff at all. I have to admit that I don’t do this – I tend to read emails even when I am not meant to be working, but I don’t respond unless they are truly urgent. At the end of the day, make the ‘rules’ that suit you, your family and your work and stick to them. You will almost certainly want to review and reassess these along the way….and that’s a good thing.

2 – Accept that there may be limitations

I have found a huge number of advantages in working flexibly, but inevitably there are also likely to be limitations. For example, part-time and flexible working is not usually conducive to managing large numbers of people. I managed a team of 7 whilst working a 3 day week for a short period of time…suffice to say it didn’t make any of us very happy and things had to change!  

You may find you are not in the same pole position you once were for promotions or for doing international travel…not because these options are unavailable to you, but because they would tip the juggling act of work and home out of kilter. And moving to a different external role whilst retaining the flexible arrangements you have in place would be difficult. So sometimes you may feel you are in conflict with your own personal ambition, and to be honest, there is every chance that this may be so temporarily. A friend of mine who felt this very deeply, was reassured by the advice of an older colleague who likened it to a dimmer switch – the ambition is still there and can be allowed to shine more at a later date of your choosing.

3 – Be here, now

Time is almost always of the essence when you work part-time and personally I never experienced the need for self-discipline and intense productivity so keenly when I worked full-time. It’s really important though to be in the moment; don’t spend your time at work thinking and worrying about the issues going on at home and vice versa. Be where you are and focus on that.

 As far as possible, live your working and home life without the burden of self-inflicted guilt. Chances are the childcare arrangements you have put in place will be the best you can possibly arrange and afford, so it is more likely to be you suffering and adjusting than them.  Kids are hugely adaptable, thank goodness!

4 – If you don’t ask, you won’t get

Many companies are prepared to be very flexible with employees and if you don’t ask for the arrangement that will really suit you, you’ll never know whether or not it is possible. I have just changed from a 3-day week to a 4-day week, but working the fourth day as two half days on a Monday and Friday, term-time only. Its early days but it really seems to work for me as I can take my children to and from school and they don’t really notice my increased hours. The trade-off of course, is that I am also flexible and will go in on those days if ever required to.

5 – Don’t apologise!

People rarely remember individual part-time or flexible arrangements; it goes with the territory.  I don’t take it personally when people forget and arrange meetings when I am not working, but I do try to avoid apologising for it or offering to compensate for my absence by dialling in from home.  The more you are able to embrace and accept your own part-time and flexible arrangements, the easier it will be for others to do so too. It took me rather a long time to realise that the person who had most issue with my part-time hours was myself!!

Do you work flexibly or know someone who does? Have you got tips you would like to share or any comments on the above? I’d love to hear from you!

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