HRDs – is it possible to go part-time?

by Nicola Middlemiss20 Jan 2015
Flexible working hours are essential for many employees who balance a busy workload with family duties – but is it really possible to perform a senior role part-time?

Karen Mattison co-founded Timewise, a recruitment firm that specialises in placements with flexible job designs, and says the site has advertised more than 100 part-time HR director jobs in the past two years alone.

But how does it work in practice? 

Andrea Wareham is group people director for a chain of popular coffee shops – she’s been working a four-day week for the past nine years.

“I call it flexitime rather than part-time,” Wareham told HC. “I’ve been doing it since my daughter was born nine years ago. Now both my children are at school, you might think I should go back to full-time, but that fifth day is something I hold dear.”

“People say the more senior you become, the harder it is to work part-time. I think it’s the opposite,” said Wareham. “We have a team of people who can answer daily queries. I’m thinking about the bigger picture; the strategy, the decisions you don’t want to be making overnight. You need time and space to think things through. In my opinion it’s easier to work part-time the more senior you are because you are less reactive.”

But Wareham does have some words of warning for anyone thinking about dropping down their hours. “Safeguard your time off,” she said, “otherwise it gets eaten into.”

“You have to decide what you’re going to do and what you’re not going to do,” Wareham added. “You can’t do everything. Choose what you want to focus on and do that really well. Don’t feel apologetic for what you can’t do.”

Wareham also says that working flexible hours can help you better understand your team.

“As HRDs, it’s our responsibility to lead by example,” she said. “Before I went part-time, I worked long hours and my team would as well because they saw me doing it. I think they like it that I go home at a decent time now, and everyone who works for me can do four days a week if they want to as well. I know they don’t do any less of a job; they find the time to do the same job.”


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