Working part time is different for everyone with many variables – the work place, the individual, the manager, the team, the occupation and the industry. This post is based on my experience of working part time in a corporate marketing office enviroment.
I’ve been working part time since 2010 (less a year of mat leave) and one thing that’s become clear in that time is that working part time and being a parent is certainly not all about ladies who lunch and do coffee. It’s actually really challenging. Of course working full time and working full time and parenting also has its challenges, but today I thought I’d share my experiences by listing some pros and cons of working part time. Whatever your circumstances, it may help you or someone you know if you’re faced with the decision to go back to work part time or full time.
Let’s start with the cons first so we can end on a positive note shall we!
You are never ‘Off’
After a non work day, it’s likely you will be asked “how was your day off” pretty much every week by well meaning colleagues. Of course there’s no such thing as a day off when you’re a parent, and when you’re a part time working parent you are always on. For your kids, for your work. There’s no off switch. Ever! The constant stream of emails don’t stop on your days ‘off’, which are spent running errands, doing housework, grocery shopping, attending docs appointments, cooking, answering emails and taking calls when you can whilst attending to your child/children’s every need.
There are never enough hours in the day
A common one from all kinds of workers these days but perhaps more so for the part timers. There’s just never enough hours in the working days to get everything done and (depending on your role) it’s likely you will find yourself working nights and on weekends. Unfortunately it’s still fairly common to hear from friends and fellow part timers they are essentially expected to do 4 or 5 days work in 3. Sure you can do your old, 5 day a week job… in 3 days! Urghh… Higher workload = stress + exhaustion.
Depending on your role and pay and how many children you have in daycare, you may just break even at the end of the day.
Well paying, professional part time roles are hard to come by
If you want a career or job change, depending on your vocation, it’s likely there just aren’t that many other part time roles out there. It’s much easier to negotiate part time conditions with your current employer than find a part time role with a new employer. Sure you need to go out and actively look and do the hard yards, but that takes energy that you probably don’t have because you’re working 4 or 5 days in 3 and running a household.
You will always feel like you are chasing your tail and playing catch up
The day after one of your ‘off’ days, you will spend the first hour playing catch up from what you missed on your ‘off’ day. And if someone schedules a meeting first thing, you will feel out of sorts all day. So you will usually jump online the night before, just to keep up.
It can be challenging to take your annual leave
If you only work 3 days per week, taking just 1 day off means you still have to get everything done but in 2 days. So you end up working nights anyway. I racked up 7 days in lieu for all the additional full days of work I did at a very busy time (because you have to be flexible), then struggled to take the days off, because I still had the same volume of work to deliver. This is why overseas holidays are a must. You’ve got to get out of the Timezone to get an actual break.
One of the reasons I work part time is to take some pressure off during school holidays, and it certainly does take some pressure off. However, for me the busiest time at work clashes with school holidays so we end up paying for vacation care when I had intended to take some days off to spend with my children.
You will miss all the office gossip. And something huge (like a company re-structure) will always go down on your non work days. You will also miss social things like Melbourne cup luncheons, Christmas parties, and colleagues farewells if they fall on your days out of the office. Doesn’t bother me these days but early on it did.
You will often have to drop everything to go and pick up your kids. This will always be during an urgent meeting or when you’re right in the zone with your ideas flowing. Stop, pack up those crayons and hot step it outa there or you will struggle to pick up your kids by closing time.
No one will remember your actual work days
Even after working the same days for years, people still do not remember what my work and non work days and meetings are often scheduled on my non work days, usually at school pick up time. It’s an ongoing education process. I find putting your work days in your email signature and your message bank message helps.
You will be paid to to work a certain number of days even if you consistently do more
If you find you’re doing 5 days work in 3 days consistently, you’d be better off working full time for the full time pay, additional leave and extra super accrued.
You will feel that you are seen as being less committed than your fellow full timers
You just will!
Technology will be your best friend and your worst enemy
You love the flexibility technology offers you. I can watch my son at swimming lessons whilst answering urgent emails. But you will hate the flexibility technology offers you because you can never switch off. Ever.
You will feel guilty ALL THE TIME
Guilty leaving early. Guilty missing your kids Mother’s day morning tea/sports day/fundraiser at school/. Guilty that you don’t work as many days as your partner. Guilty when your kids are sick. Just Guilty! And guilty because you can feel like you are doing a lousy job both at work and at home.
Sheesh… that’s a lot of cons, and I’m sure there are probably more I could come up with, but of course, there are also some obvious pro’s to working part time…
I’m incredibly lucky that the company I work for supports Flexible working. Not just for parents, but flexibility is now the starting point of any role within the company. I love that I can attend school reading groups, do canteen duty, take my kids to swimming lessons, do the grocery shopping, do the laundry get the house in order and be with my children. And work from home when I need to. That is pretty freakin awesome!
You realise there’s a lot more to life than just work
Work is just something you do on certain days. It’s not who you are. There’s a whole world out there that happens while people are at work stuck in an air conditioned, fluro lit workplace… and it’s beautiful.
FOMO – but who cares!
Sure you miss out on all the office goss, but the upside to that is that you don’t have to partake in all that meaningless water cooler gossip. You simply won’t have the time.
You will get really good at saying No! – You simply have to in order to survive.
You will learn to prioritise like a pro – Even if you thought you were good at this before working part time!
Time to persue other activities and interests
I love that I can go to my favourite Ashtanga Yoga class on Friday mornings and spend some time blogging and jumping on the trampoline with my son on my non work days.
Reduced stress levels
If all goes to plan, and you actually work the hours/days you are paid to work, you may experience reduced stress levels as you have more time to focus on your health. I’m still working on this one!
Keep your skills up to date
The longer you spend out of the workforce, the harder it will be to get back in. Working part time allows you to keep growing your skill and knowledge base and keep up with your all important networks.
Saving money – You will save money on lunches, coffees and public transport.
Sure there are many frustrating challenges to working part time, but for me personally this is the number 1 reason I put up with all of them and continue to work part time. My family, My loves. Quite simply, I get to spend more time with them which to me at this point in our lives is so precious.
“Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.”― Brian Dyson
Do you work part time? Do you also find it challenging? What are your pros and cons?
Linking up to #IBOT with Essentially Jess