The issue around part-time work conflicts
Dear whomever it may concern,
The good news is that I have a job I really enjoy. Last year, the company agreed to me working part-time for personal reasons. The bad news is: it’s not going so well. Nothing has been said, but I feel like my colleagues think I’m not pulling my weight, despite the fact that in the three days a week I’m there I work efficiently, and rarely take breaks. But every Wednesday, when I walk out the door at 5pm for the end of my week, I can feel the bad vibes. What should I do?
For many employees, part-time work is the dream: a few days at work, with the balance at home being a carer, focusing on a hobby or just getting the chores done before the weekend. But while part-time work is fabulous for many, it doesn’t necessarily translate to a utopian situation.
Part-timers often feel they are cramming a full-time load into a part-time pay packet, and, as Jenna knows, a bunch of emotional baggage often comes with the deal.
Advice from Rhonda Brighton-Hall on Part-time Work Conflicts
We asked Rhonda Brighton-Hall for advice for Jenna. Brighton-Hall is the founder and CEO of mwah.live (Making Work Absolutely Human), board director of the Australian Human Resources Institute and chairwoman of FlexCareers. She says that while working flexibly is the new normal, Jenna isn’t wrong: there’s still some stigma.
“This is especially the case when workplaces are not traditionally flexible and presenteeism is still the way. It can feel like a manager talks the talk of flexibility but in reality still personally works very traditionally, and has most of the team doing the same thing. The ‘flexible’ or ‘part-time’ person can feel like the odd one out,” she says.
There’s another twist: if your colleagues are pulling long hours, your 9-5 work day (or short week) can have a cultural downside.
What’s the solution for the conflict?
From the business side, Brighton-Hall says companies offering flexible and part-time work need to make sure there is a dialogue happening.
“Allow people to ask questions, raise any concerns, and address them as you go. Treat it like an open conversation with the expectations that everyone wants it to work well,” she says.
As for Jenna? Brighton-Hall says the answer is partly about getting comfortable emotionally, even though that may not always feel easy. “Assume it will work well. You need to be confident and relaxed about pulling your weight and still being really committed, albeit within a new flexible arrangement. You’re working hard, and doing a ‘fair’ amount of time … You don’t have to disconnect and look ‘super busy’ every minute,” Brighton Hall advises.
If part-time work is new for Jenna’s company and they want to avoid part-time work conflicts, Brighton-Hall says some practical support could help her work through some of the issues.
“Perhaps get yourself a good mentor who’s worked part-time for ages, and ask them how to avoid the ‘guilt’. [They may be able to help you] reset your self-talk around ‘working hard, contributing well, within a fair and flexible arrangement’ as opposed to ‘being there for the long hours’,” she says.