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14 December 2016

You part timer…

I work part time, four days a week. I’ve been doing it for 18 months, and the first partner in my firm to do it. I decided to go part-time after my return from maternity leave, wanting to balance my work and life. Those in professional services may laugh at this chasing the dream of achieving some zen like balance between servicing clients and having a fulfilling social / family life. My experience up until the birth of my daughter had very much been work and life being interchangeable. But after my baby appeared I had a much bigger trade off to throwing my life into work, I was needed at home more (and messing around letting my daughter paint my feet or teaching me to dance is way more fun).

Why is it hard, working less should be easier, right?

I have to admit making the transition to part time has been hard, I’ve had a lot of adjusting to do. When I started out doing part-time, I still thought I could do the demanding job of solving client problems, delivering tough projects and supporting the development of our people at the same level of intensity and volume as I did with five days a week. Shifting my expectations to 80% of what a full time equivalent can achieve was challenging. I’ve had to learn to say no (which is still a work in progress) and getting over the FOMO (fear of missing out for us oldies). I’ve also had to stop using hours at my way of solving things, trying to be smarter with my time and treating it with more respect in how I allocate it rather than as some elastic commodity which can be used indefinitely (at the cost of my sleep).

There is also need for that those around to adjust their expectations of you. This doesn’t happen naturally for all, so you have to remind people. And this feels a bit uncomfortable in part as it feels like you’re making excuses for not doing a “full” or “proper” job like everyone else. This was as much my own ‘baggage’, but also an education for those around me (both clients and colleagues) that you’re present for X out of five days, you get paid as such so they shouldn’t feel short changed, and you shouldn't feel like you make up the difference at your own cost.

There is also some social acceptance of working less than five days. I think as a working society we’re conditioned that you should be working five days. Being a ‘part-timer’ is often used as a derogatory term for not pulling your weight, and that you cheekily have a day off for fun at the cost of those left in the office dutifully doing their five days. But I think as more people shift to part time, and those requests for flexible working start coming from both men and women, those with families or caring responsibilities, or for those who’s who prefer less work to more personal time, changing the social norms will make working part time a little easier for all.

I’d love to hear from others how they make part time work for them and their business…please let me know I’m still learning.