Is a part-time role right for you?
By Suzanne Brown
Work-life balance Speaker, Strategist & Award-winning Author
Mom of two
Whether you’re returning from maternity leave or you’ve been a mom for a while, you might find yourself wondering about how you can have more flexibility at work. And, as more and more companies show that they’re open to offering part-time options to their employees, you might be looking at this option.
For starters, it’s helpful to know that you’re not alone if you want to transition to a part-time role. Almost half of moms shared that working part-time would be their ideal situation, according to Pew Research.
Understand your Motivation
Before you do anything else, understand your motivation. I heard this again and again in advice from more than 100 interviews with professional part-time working moms that I did as part of my research for my two books. You want to know why you want a change to help you figure out what aligns with your professional and personal needs. Think of this as the basis for your blueprint for change.
For example, if you want more time with your child, then you’re looking for a role that has a schedule similar to school hours. That could be a part-time role. It could also be a situation where you shift your hours, so you either start the day earlier and you pick up your child or you start the day later because you drop off and want more time in the morning. Start with asking why and keep digging. You want to ask “why” a few times to really get to the heart of your motivation. Look at what you really want to change as you’re doing some soul searching. And then see how you can make this change a reality and who can help you to change things up.
How will a Change in Career Model Impact You?
You’ve thought through your motivation and you’re ready for the next step in transitioning to a part-time role. Make sure you understand the implications of making this shift – both personally and professionally. It’s time to ask the tough questions about the short-term and long-term to better understand what adjustments you might need to make.
Before finishing my first book, Mompowerment: Insights from Successful Professional Part-time Working Moms Who Balance Career and Family, I was often asked by moms interested in transitioning to a part-time role about whether or not this would hurt them professionally. While I can’t answer that, I can share some questions to help you think through the transition so that you can answer that question. The implications of this transition are unique for everyone’s situation.
Are you a valuable employee to your manager and/or employer? Will the transition to a part-time role make you less valuable?
Is shifting to a part-time career approach a short-term or long-term option? Does one or the other work better for you or are they equal? Why?
If you miss an opportunity for career growth or promotion, how will that impact your own perspective on your career and family?
Consider how you feel toward your job, manager, and the company you work for. Is this a time to make a shift to something else such as a new company or even start your own thing? Do you need career change, not just a different approach to your current role?
It’s not just career implications. You might need or want to change things on the personal side. These questions can help you start thinking through this side of the equation.
What kinds of conversations have you had with your significant other? How has your idea been received? What concerns have come up?
How will your new schedule impact your family?
What changes will you need to make in your support structure (e.g., sitter or housekeeper)?
How do you and your family feel about these potential changes? How can you overcome any challenges that have come up?
These questions won’t give you all the answers you need. They will start you down the path to understanding if this transition is right for you at this time. The questions also help you get started on developing a plan for you and your family and for your team and manager.
The Financial Side
Let’s talk financials, because this is an important aspect of the transition to a part-time role. Can you afford to work part-time, if you get a pay cut? I say “if” and not “when” because some of the moms I interviewed didn’t get a major pay cut because they understood their value and contribution to the company and negotiated their salary when they transitioned to a part-time schedule. Or they started consulting and their hourly rate increased while their hours went down.
If you do get a pay cut, these questions might help. They aren’t all-encompassing and shouldn’t take the place of contacting a financial professional if you want to understand, without a doubt, your own unique situation.
I also include questions about retirement because there could be long-term implications to working part-time, even for a short time. And I also have questions about benefits for you to consider. Why include questions on benefits? According to the most recent US Bureau of Labor Statistics Employer Costs for Employee Compensation Summary, benefits make up thirty to almost thirty-seven percent of an employee’s compensation, depending on the type of employer.
What costs or family budget items do you need to be able to cover with your income?
What lifestyle changes will you and your family need to make if your income level falls?
How will your retirement plan be impacted by a drop in your income?
If you have insurance through work, will a transition to part-time affect that plan and overall coverage? Is there a minimum number of hours at which you maintain your benefits?
If you have vacation or sick days accrued, how will a transition to part-time status affect that time?
If you lose benefits, what does the benefits package look like through your significant other? Or what does coverage look like if you don’t have benefits through your significant other?
If you plan on getting pregnant again, how does a part-time status affect maternity leave? (There are hours and length of employment elements of the Family & Medical Leave Act. While companies can choose to still allow you to use FMLA, it isn’t mandatory if you don’t meet these requirements.)
Importance of Networking
You see all the implications and you’re ready to start working on that transition. The #1 tip to make a transition happen is to network, whether internally or externally of your employer or as an entrepreneur. About one-third of professional part-time working moms who I interviewed shared that this was how they found their new role at a company.
Start to create a networking plan. Figure out your goals and dedicate time to this. And then begin the process of talking to people about what you’re looking for.
And don’t forget that it’s great to have conversations about these types of topics with your mentors. You can meet great people to include on your own personal board of directors as you do your networking.
Develop a Proposal for Decision-Makers
I heard over and over during the interviews for the book that a proposal was a helpful part of the process. I include an entire chapter in the book on this, so I can say a lot about this. You can even download a proposal template (Word and/or PowerPoint) from the Mompowerment website. I’ll leave you with these thoughts:
Make sure to write from the perspective of the decision-maker (e.g., use their language and address their usual concerns)
Consider the timing of your request (e.g., what happens if you have a major conference coming up that you’re leading or bonus time is around the corner)
Understand your value and what unique strengths and skills you bring to the team/company
Be patient and persistent if you hear “no” the first time
Work-life balance Speaker, Strategist & Award-winning Author
Suzanne Brown is a strategic marketing and business consultant and work-life balance speaker, strategist, and award-winning and bestselling author. She empowers moms and companies to think differently about balance, using her own experience and research as well as tips, insights, and advice from interviews with more than 100 professional working moms. Suzanne and her family live in Austin, TX. Check out Suzanne’s Know Your Why Guide to help you uncover your motivation for wanting change so that you can start to create your own work-life balance.
Read more from Suzanne:
Mompowerment: Insights from Professional Part-Time Working Moms Who Balance Career and Family
The Mompowerment Guide to Work-Life Balance: Insights from Working Moms on Balancing Career and Family