You see… when I first started working part-time, I felt really guilty when I was leaving the office before everyone else or when I couldn’t join a meeting because it was outside my agreed hours. I had heard so many stories of other part time workers ending up working on their days off and late at night to catch up on commitments, that I was determined to set good habits right from the start. But I found myself constantly trying to explain myself and then feeling guilty (I swear I saw my full time colleagues rolling their eyes at me and I wanted to prove I wasn’t a slacker)
“I’m really so sorry I can’t get that work done, I have to go pick the kids up from childcare, and then tonight my husband is away and I won’t be able able to get this done until Monday”
“You’ve suggested a meeting on Wed, but I’m afraid I work part time and I don’t work on Wed, I could do it if we really have to but in the morning I take my toddler to swimming, so I really can’t do that time”.
I felt constantly guilty.
Then, someone gave me some great advice which I implemented immediately and it made the world of difference…stop giving unnecessary explanations. Even when you work full time, you can’t complete every job or attend every meeting, you have to make choices. The discussion should not be about whether you work part time or full time, or what your commitments are outside of work, it is about prioritising what needs to be done in the time that you have available.
And so I did. Simply as that. And it changed everything.
I’m not hiding or pretending to be someone I’m not. And sometimes, I do have to pull out my family card and lay it on the table. But mostly, if I stop and think before I speak…I realise that what I’m doing outside of work is really not relevant or the point. When work needs to be done by a deadline, which I can’t achieve, I work with stakeholders to re-arrange priorities or push out deadlines…not “because I work part time” but simply because the goal cannot be achieved in the timeframe provided.
Of course, I am fortunate enough to work in a flexible work environment where part time work is not uncommon. But I think this one simple change helped not only to shape my perception, but also change the working culture around me. Because when I’m not blaming part time work for not getting things done, no-one else is either.
This one little tip I think has really helped me to drop some of the guilt around working part time, which, quite frankly, I carry enough of already…so this morning when I went to say “unfortunately I can’t do the meeting on Wed because it is my day off”…I stopped myself midsentence and said instead ” unfortunately I can’t do the meeting on Wed….how does Thurs sound? or I’m free on Friday morning, what works for you?”. Simple.