How to make part-time work, work for you

Whether you’re looking for a more family-friendly way to get back into the workforce, more time for study, or you’re simply craving more flexible working hours, part-time work can be a great solution. A recent study by SEEK found that the main reason people go part-time is for work-life balance (30%) followed by study (16%) and raising or looking after children (13%). Regardless of your reason, transitioning to a four-day work week or less can be rewarding - but it needs to be done with care. Here are some tips on how to work part time in a way that works for you and your workplace.

Negotiate with your employer

The key is anticipating the needs of your boss and the business, says Emma Whalan, HR Manager for SEEK Learning.

“Think about the challenges that moving to part-time might create for your manager and colleagues. For example, who would look after your customers, or how will you stay across actions from meetings held during your proposed time away? Pre-empt the challenges and have a solution prepared. Make it easy for your manager to say yes!”

Whalan recommends writing a detailed proposal and leaving it with your manager after you speak to them about it. Consider it from their perspective, and plan for a logical and business-focused conversation. This means having “a realistic time frame between your request and a start date – to plan, communicate and set yourself up for success”, Whalan explains.

Additionally, “be open to having a trial period and be prepared for it not to work, and plan what you might do if it doesn’t work,” says Whalan.

lady working on laptop from home or office

Set yourself up for success

Once your boss has given the green light, ensure your workmates understand your new work arrangements, as well as what processes have been put in place to ensure the impact is as minimal as possible. As Whalan says, “make sure your team have the skills and knowledge they need to operate independently and confidently.”

It’s also worth setting boundaries early to avoid uncomfortable situations later. “Consider appointing a backup who has your contact details and agree with them what an emergency is,” says Whalan. “Sometimes it’s easier to take a quick call on your day off and fix something rather than wait until you get back to the office.”

Finally, be patient while everyone adjusts, says Whalan. “It may not be smooth sailing from day one. Make sure you are giving (and taking) feedback from those around you, and acknowledge when your team supports you.”

Stay tuned in to those around you

SEEK’s survey also revealed some common misconceptions around part-time work. Ever heard that working part-time can be career-limiting, that part-time workers are disconnected culturally, or that they’re a burden to their co-workers? Well, it’s important to remember that these things are only true if you make them so. Most part-time workers - just like their full-time colleagues - make huge contributions to their teams and their part-time absence quickly becomes normal.

Whalan recommends being mindful of potential misconceptions, particularly in the early stages of transition. “Seek feedback from those around you, and check in to make sure any small issues are picked up early.” Also, maintain and build relationships with your co-workers by participating in team events, and keep engaged by sharing ideas and improvement suggestions.

And if you feel there may be an issue? “Speak up, even if it’s not your natural style. Make sure you’re heard and seen – in meetings, on projects,” says Whalan. But above all else, do great work, and no one can fault you regardless of whether you're full-time, part-time, or somewhere in between.

Source: Independent research conducted by Survey Sampling International (SSI) on behalf of SEEK, March 2016. Interviewing 4800 Australians annually with data being weighted to be nationally representative of age, gender, location, employment status and income (based on ABS).