Part-time bosses say they do a better job

The second annual Power Part Time List from the Timewise Foundation, is published exclusively by the Financial Times. It shows that while family is often a trigger for reducing their hours, many business leaders say flexibility makes them better at their job by giving them space to reflect.

“Clear thinking and the ability to see the bigger picture are crucial at strategic level,” says Andrea Wareham, director of people at Pret A Manger, the fast food chain, who works four days a week, primarily to spend time with her children.

“I find my working pattern gives me the space I need to achieve that. Part time can help you to develop better leadership skills, too – as you delegate more, your team will grow to meet their new responsibilities.”

The 50 people selected for today’s Power Part Time List are working at the top of their professions in a range of roles, organisations, and sectors. High achievers by nature, many use their non-work time for charity, sport and other activities, as well as family.

Having time away from formal work is “incredibly” useful and productive, says Patrick Foley, chief economist at Lloyds Banking Group and a triathlete, who works three days a week.

“It gives me new perspectives on things. If there’s a problem I’m struggling with in the office, I often find that when I’m out on a run, after five or six miles I’m thinking about nothing to do with work and all of a sudden the answer comes into my head.”

This year’s roll call of top part-timers includes several high-profile City figures. Among the eight men on the list are Chris Ward, entrepreneur and author of Out of Office, and Andrew Matthews, group operations director at Oxford Instruments, the maker of nanotechnology and industrial parts. Mr Matthews says he decided to work four days a week to support a healthy work-life balance, which gives him a useful perspective on difficult business issues.

The sectors with the highest representation in the list are legal firms, professional services, media and communications, and financial companies. Many of the Top 50 are in client-facing roles, often said to be more difficult to perform flexibly.

The publicity surrounding the list has changed conversations about part-time working, says Karen Mattison, co-founder and co-director of Timewise, a social business that champions the benefits of flexible working. “Conversations have been less about whether it’s possible and more about how people and businesses make it work, and whether you can progress your career.”

The criteria for inclusion in the list, featured on page 3, are: seniority, inspiring others, and evidence of advancement or significant achievement while working part-time. Sixteen of the 50 say they have been recruited on a part-time basis or had always been in their role part-time.

However, promotion on flexible terms often remains difficult. More than three-quarters of part-time workers say the lack of good quality, openly advertised part-time vacancies makes them feel “trapped” in their current jobs, according to research commissioned by the Timewise Foundation. Almost all of the 1,000 part-timers interviewed said they wished employers would be more open about flexibility when advertising jobs.

“This is something the world of recruitment has to take up now,” says Ms Mattison.

“People in candidate audiences often ask: ‘How do I talk about flexibility? Do I do it at the beginning or wait until they have fallen in love with me?’ Internal recruitment teams and the recruitment industry are often not equipped to have these conversations.”

Jan Hall, founding partner of search firm JCA Group, says: “In practice, many companies do try to find ways to enable some flexibility of working to individuals who might otherwise opt to leave, but it tends to be where someone has proved how invaluable they are to an organisation.”

Kate Grussing, managing director of Sapphire Partners, an executive search firm focused on promoting women, says that demand from senior executives for new ways of working has grown with the strengthening of the global economy.

“One important change is the broadening of appetite for flexibility from working mothers to men and executives without children,” she says. “Organisations’ willingness to support executives working from home continues to improve, enabled by strong technology.” As yet, however, only the most junior or administrative of roles are advertised as flexible.

Many on the Power Part Time List have negotiated innovative and groundbreaking working arrangements that have started to change the culture in their organisations.

Some were surprised, however, to find they were pushing at an open door. “Maybe because I’m fairly senior, I assumed it would be something one or two people would find difficult, but it was the opposite,” says Mr Foley of Lloyds Banking Group.

He and Andrew Whittaker, the bank’s general counsel, are jointly its most senior part-timers. “The bank was very keen to encourage more flexibility at senior level,” he says. “They see the two of us as the start of something that will become bigger.”

Companies are expected to come under pressure to attract and keep good people by offering flexibility, given the availability of alternative ways of working, says Ms Mattison: “Freelance and portfolio is the choice of more and more people, but the list shows you can carry on being an executive and work in a different way.”

By Alison Maitland

Via FT 

Leave a Reply