Diversity My Thoughts

Is it the right time to go part time?

Meaningful part time work is the holy grail of flexibility for many parents out there.  But let’s face it – meaningful part time work is about as elusive as a rainbow unicorn.  When you go part time you have to acknowledge the following:

  • You’re opting out of promotability (or you’re being opted out)
  • You can be perceived as less valuable to the company (by your peers and some management)
  • You may be viewed as less committed to your job (by everyone)

But if you can get over those things (and by the way – you can get around them too), and you want to go part time, what’s next?  There are good and bad times to go part times.  Can you check off all 5 of these?

Your company, group, and projects are doing well.  Don’t even try asking to go part time when your company is struggling and re-orgs are coming.  Same with if you’re struggling to keep up with your workload, or your manager’s group seems to be under constant scruitiny.    If things are going well, the request to work a reduced schedule will go over much better than if things are not.

You know your manager won’t discount you because of your request.  Some managers just get it.  I’ve worked with some managers that have said “I’d take so-and-so at 32 hours a week over many other people at 40 hours a week.”  Some managers get that your effectivity isn’t always related to how many hours you work and that workers on reduced schedules are valuable contributors (and can still be lead contributors!).

You know other people at your company that do it.  If you’re the trailblazer, it can be tough – and I don’t want to discourage you from asking becuase you are making a reduced schedule more feasible for many others in your office who haven’t asked.  But it will be harder if no one else is doing it because there is no corporate standard for what’s the norm, or even how to evaluate part time workers.

You can really do your job on a reduced schedule.  Do you do a lot of global work?  Is your workload so heavy that you’ll end up working a full week anyway?  Be realisitic before you ask – if your job can’t be done in less time, you need to have a plan on how it can.  The worst thing that could happen is that you take less pay to work the same amount of time.  Once you’re on a part time schedule, you’ll need to set firmer boundaries than ever before to make it worth your while.

You’re not concerned about promotability in your current job or company.  If you’re already where you want to be, and have a good reputation, it may be a good time to go part time.  You don’t have to take on additional work for visibility or to prove promotablility, and you already know how to do your job and do it well.  This can be the best situation since your resume won’t even show a job transition when you go from full to part time.  And when you decide to move on, you can take a full time job elsewhere without having influenced your promotablitiy or job prospects at a new company.

You know how you can go back to full time if / when you want to.  This is the tricky one.  One way is to work with your manager to let them know that a reduced schedule is truly temporary – you plan to be back to full time within six months to a year.  But for many, that’s not always the case.  Another option is to flex and take on more work when the opportunity arises.  Once on a part time schedule, have a chat with your boss to let them know that you’d be willing to do temporary stints of full time work if the opportunity warrants it, and to stay visible.  Naturally, your pay would need to be updated depending on your schedule. An unexpected side effect of this approach is that your company may find you more valuable.  Rather than having to pay you full time to do a reduced schedule job, they can pay you on demand for opportunities you’re interested in, so your time and their money is better utilized.

The flexibility stigma associated with going part time can be career suicide – and we have a long way to go until it gets better (if ever).  But if it’s really what you want to do, I hope this checklist helps you navigate your way through.

Have Kids, Will Work

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