How to actually work part-time

How to actually work part-time

… and not five days’ work with less pay

BY Stephanie Reuss, 9 min READ

What’s wrong with this picture…

I’m working five days in three.

I’m working five days but getting paid for four.

I haven’t had a pay increase for the five years I’ve been working part-time.

I’m not given interesting project opportunities.

My manager doesn’t think I’m committed to my career because I’m part-time.

I’m not getting promoted because I work part-time.

Sound familiar? Working part-time has the potential to bring us balance, the best of both worlds. But too often, it doesn’t. But what can we as individuals do to make part-time work? Here are a few tips to get you started.

Negotiating your full-time job to part-time

Essentially, work should always be judged on outcome, not on how much work a manager can “see” being done. But lots of people still see time spent in the office as a sign of quality performance. Crazy!

You can help by focusing your conversation around outcomes.

Tip: Start framing your one-on-one check-ins with your manager in terms of outcomes. Be clear with expectations, timeframes and deliverables. Some managers may need more “upward coaching” on this than others. Talk about how you would approach achieving these outcomes part-time. Why not start the ball rolling by mentioning that 25 hours per week is optimum productivity?

Making sure your job really is part-time (not just five days’ work with less pay)

Is your job really a part-time role? Silly question? Not really. Rigour is rarely brought to scoping part-time roles. Often if we’re returning from parental leave or extended sick leave and we want to return to our role, we’re generously told that yes, we can return three days a week. But nothing about the role changes. Not so generous.

Tip: Rescope the role yourself! We know managers are often well-intentioned but get stumped when it comes to rescoping roles. This way, you can present them with the facts — and the options. Break down the time you spend on groups of activities – then figure out what are the highest value activities to allocate to yourself. (For instance, if you’re looking to go to three days, you’ll need to allocate 60% of your current time spend to your new role, and 40% to someone else.) Or can the scope of the role be compartmentalised to reduce workload by 20%? Who does the other 20% might be something else you suggest if you see more capacity in the team or can find a complementary part-time buddy (we’ve got someone for you at Beam if you don’t and part-time role scoping tools too!)

Asking for part-time work when you’re being hired

We know this one is really tricky. Really, really tricky. We know that it is tempting to have this conversation later in the interview process. But this is far from ideal in terms of establishing trust at the beginning of your working relationship.

Maider Birett, Head of Talent Acquisition at The Reserve Bank of Australia advises that when applying to roles, “Be brave – have a conversation up front. The right organisation will look first and foremost at your skills and experience. If there is a good match, a good organisation will make flexibility work.”

Why not get off on the front foot by noting your part-time work needs, but offering mutual flexibility (if that’s possible for you)?

Just as lives are busier at some times than others and you’ll be asking your manager for more flexibility, companies are busier at some times than others too!

Think through, in advance, what you could do to flex your hours up in busy times — then you can have an open conversation at the beginning to offer flexibility at peak times, in return for flexibility.

The RBA works has implemented leading practices to reflect varying work patterns and lifestyle requirement of employees, providing a range of options including compressed work weeks, job share, part-time work and flexible start and end times. Sometimes simply a quid pro quo scenario works — flexibility in return for flexibility… as long as it’s a fair exchange 🙂

Tip: Business cycles are rarely consistent. Ramping Human Resources up and down can be hugely beneficial for companies. If this works for you too, chat with them about what the cycles are likely to be and you can both plan for it — win win!

Being offered a promotion, while working part-time!

For many of us, we simply aren’t available full-time, so it’s part-time or nada. For others, it’s burnout or part-time (which worries us equally). Either way, part-time is normally the way we can continue our careers.

That part-time is sometimes seen as “career limiting” is shortsighted. However the reality is that many of these old fashioned attitudes still exist. They create biases in not only the recruitment selection process but also in promotion processes. If you want to get promoted, you’ll need to be prepared.

Tip: Prepare your manager prior to review time. Remind them that your role is 60% (for example), so if your performance is being compared against full time peers, it should be your performance against 60% of the full-time role scope. We need to ensure the decision-makers in this process compare apples with apples!

As a talent resource you may well be more productive than your full-time counterparts, in fact research from Melbourne University tells us that’s going to be the case — boom!

Many of us would benefit from part-time. We want to have rich and rewarding careers which we can be successful in, and can sustain over the long term. So it’s pretty important that we are set up for success.

While we’re working with companies to help them “nail this part-time thing” at Beam, you should feel empowered to educate them as well. If you ever need back up, we have stats, examples and business cases in abundance, just shout. Good luck!

Beam Australia is an online marketplace matching highly experienced parents looking to step back into the workforce, with businesses who value and need their skills. If you’re after a flexible part-time role that you can do while your children are at school without having to down-skill, and most importantly, want to work for a company that is aligned with your values. 

connect Stephanie is a Business Chicks Premium member, connect with her here. Check out Beam Australia here.

Read next:

Should you walk away from your corporate job to start a business?

Why the 8-hour workday doesn’t work

How to return to work after maternity leave (and stay sane)


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