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Five lessons from part-time turn

12:51pm April 24 2019

Part-time workers making up about 33 per cent of the Australian workforce. (Getty)

Monday to Friday, 8 to 5 – not for you? Not a worry.

Flexible work arrangements have increased in popularity with part-time workers making up about 33 per cent of the Australian workforce, compared to around 25 per cent in 1998 and less than 10 per cent in the 1960s. 

While there are several drivers, part-time roles are clearly in high demand. 

“Many people choose to work part time,” states a 2017 Reserve Bank paper, noting research showing that the three most common reasons were to accommodate study, preference for fewer hours and caring for children. “Collectively, these account for around two-thirds of part-time employees and this has been broadly the case since the survey began in 2001.” 

Yet working part-time often carries a stigma. 

Historically, they were typically non-client facing, lower down the corporate ladder and more stagnant. However, advances in technology and demand for flexible arrangements have opened up a range of roles to part-time, delivering benefits such as staff retention, improved productivity and job satisfaction. 

But it is more than just cutting down hours and, consequently, income. It requires discussions, planning and, sometimes, trial and error to develop a bespoke arrangement that will work for the individual circumstance.

Here’s five lessons from my experience:
 


Time Management

While everyone has limited hours, when working part-time there’s even fewer to play with in the week, month and year. Leaving something to the next working day may mean leaving it for three business days, which for a client often isn’t acceptable in today’s fast-changing world. 

One colleague uses their Outlook calendar to allocate blocks of time for tasks with buffers if time-frames get extended. Set reminders, check ahead for upcoming meetings and allocate an hour on the last afternoon in the office to plan for the week ahead, book meetings and allocate tasks. 

Approach your manager with a solution, not a problem

Many people are worried about asking managers about moving from full-time to part time. While some jobs are not conducive, for roles that are write a list of regular tasks, noting any time-critical or regularly urgent ones. Look to the wider team and business if there are opportunities for work to be shared or delegated elsewhere. 

It’s also critical to show how the wider business benefits. So, be specific on deliverables, budget impacts or goals to reflect the new arrangements.

Create boundaries for yourself and others


Working part-time is exactly that – it is part of your time, so you cannot be on-call the other hours. Some workplaces may require this, however, it is important to have transparent and frank discussions around expectations. While some colleagues go through emails the day prior to returning to work, find a system that works for you and be consistent. 
 


Document, document, document

In the medical industry, doctors and nurses share patient files and take over from one another every shift. If they can do it in life and death scenarios, then you can too! The key is hand over notes. Document everything. Make it extremely clear where things are left. If notes don’t suffice, have a conversation with colleagues. 

Similarly, if there are important meetings on your scheduled days off, ask for the minutes or notes. 

It’s a two-way street

Recently, Ernst & Young introduced “Term Time”, allowing employees to work full-time during the school term at the equivalent income of a four-day week and then not work during the school holidays. Other organisations allow employees to work four days a week spread across five at reduced work hours.

So, if you are asking for flexibility from your employer, you need to be flexible in return. There is going to be the odd planning day, strategy day, all-staff meeting, client function or training day (the list goes on) that will not be able to be rescheduled to fit into your working days that you’ll have to accommodate. It could be as easy as dialling into a phone link-up or swapping a day. 

This shouldn’t be the norm, but there has to be some flexibility from both sides. As I’ve found, making it work for the business and yourself in the long-run leads to a better result.
 

Sarah Kirk joined Westpac’s Commercial Industry team in 2017, bringing more than 17 years’ experience in both investment banking and business banking in Australia. She sits on two Boards and various committees of national, non-government organisations, and is a big supporter of helping individuals and businesses flourish. She has a passion for writing, volunteering and spending time with her family.

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