Can You Work Part-Time & be Successful?


Are you working or dreaming of working part-time and wondering if it will have to be a trade off with achieving a successful career? Many professionals find themselves considering the part-time work dilemma after starting a family. There are also a myriad of reasons why people might consider part-time work – pursuing further studies or personal creative dreams, caring for aging or injured family members and engaging more with the community.  While flexible work sounds like a lovely idea (to me…and many people I have spoken to), those who have been able to cut down their hours significantly quickly find out that there are major challenges faced in the workplace as a result of their part-time status, especially if they work in the private sector.

background pic: Andrés Nieto Porras
background pic: Andrés Nieto Porras

Some Challenges Faced by Part-Timers

  • Being perceived/labelled by co-workers as not fully committed to work;
  • Being passed over for bonuses & promotions;
  • A lack of respect from colleagues and/or the organisation
  • Pressure to maintain an unreasonably high workload to prove their value to the organisation – which inadvertently undermines the advantages sought from the part-time position

Proof That it CAN be Done…

While it is no easy feat, you CAN be successful and reach the top in your career while working part-time. It has been done by many people and here are 20 Powerful Executives who work part-time:

Find out a bit more about them from these sources: Telegraph Article 1; Telegraph Article 2; Women’s Agenda

From top left to right

  1. Anna Thal Larsen, Partner, Bain Management Consultancy, UK (works 3 or 4 days/wk)
  2. Avril Martindale, Partner, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer Law Firm, London (works 80%)
  3. Belinda Earl, Style Director, Marks & Spencers, UK (works up to 3 days/wk)
  4. Dr Cameron Hepburn, executive director and co-founder, Climate Bridge (works 2.5 days/wk)
  5. Karen Callaghan, people director, innocent drinks (works 3 days per week)
  6. Karine Massolo, head of European high-yield credit sales, JP Morgan (works 4 days/wk)
  7. Mike Dean, BPO service delivery lead, UK, Ireland & the Nordics, Accenture (works 3.5 days/wk)
  8. Sarah-Jane Roberts, Client leader & Sales consultant, Mercer Ltd (works 4 days/wk)
  9. Thomasina Miers, co-founder Wahaca Mexican Restaurant Chain (3-4 days/wk)
  10. Vicki O’Brien, head of Heathrow customer service, British Airways (4 days/wk)
  11. Jane Latimer, Professor and Principal Research Fellow, The George Institute for Global Health, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney (works 70%)
  12. Jane Danziger, Partner, The Boston Consulting Group (works 2 days spread over 4 or 5 days)

Strategies Commonly Used by Successful Part-Time Professionals

Part-timers need to be strategic in approaching the challenges posed by their reduced hours in order to succeed. A few strategies that go a long way include (source): 

  • Open and clear communication about progress with their work, when they will be able to respond and which days they are in the office;
  • Setting priorities  that will end up in results which meet their KPIs;
  • Seeking help early before things become urgent and overdue;
  • Refusing to be manipulated into taking on more work than required by their current work arrangements; and
  • Making smart use of technology to stay connected and update colleagues during handovers

A study by business and management experts from the Universities of Victoria and British Columbia in this Harvard Business Review article found that one commonality among part-time professionals who were successful in their careers was how they approached their work with the following five strategies –

  1. Transparency to their organisation about their schedules, work-life priorities and also plans for the future – this worked because open and honest communication about their priorities secured a greater chance for them to effectively develop a mutually satisfying part-time work arrangement with their managers.
  2. Broadcasting the business cases for their part-time arrangements and the positive, non-disruptive impacts on the company’s results – this was powerful because it addressed the fear from managers and colleagues that part-time work disrupts business. The successful part-timers subtly demonstrated that the company was better off with them on board rather than moving on to a competitor; they also maintained strong alliances with colleagues and were constantly publicizing that work was still getting done in a timely manner; finally they were strategic in matching their tasks that had to be delegated to other colleagues with the person’s development needs.
  3. Identifying and establishing routines and rituals that protect and separate their times at work  at home – this began by being transparent and regular with their work schedules, then it went on to include monitoring workflow when they were out of the office and developing plans to ensure that work does not pile up unnecessarily during those times. Finally they made the effort to get emotionally invested in extra curricular activities during their time off to further stamp those times as sacred in their own minds.
  4. Cultivating champions in senior management who advocate for them and protect them from skeptics – strategically getting highly networked and influential change agents on as sponsors to champion their cause and to help them remain visible to senior management was vital to getting promoted while working part-time. 
  5. Unrelenting in the gentle and firm reminders to colleagues that they were still major players in the game and could not be ignored despite their part-time statuses – they did this by staying connected social networks within the office which gave them access to vital informal information required to make their part-time positions succeed; and also reassuring colleagues that they were on a level playing field and weren’t getting a special deal as a result of their part-time status. 

It all boils down to strategic tricks that helps the part-timer maintain ‘full-time’ visibility in the organisation while working part-time and this is where creative and timely use of technology during the time away from the office plays a huge role.  Successful part-time professionals appreciate the breadth of the challenges they face in their career pursuits but they deal with these issues head on in order to make the organisation increasingly receptive to the positive impacts of flexible work. 

How about you? Have you or someone you know succeeded in securing a brilliant part-time work solution? I’m all ears – please drop me a line below or send me an email. 


Nancy Eluigwe View All →

Artist & Lover of God

Seeking to unveil the beautiful rhythms of love, hope and grace enshrouded in the mundane dailiness of the human condition and the spaces we inhabit

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