Maddy's flexible work & career
Maddy shares her story of how working flexibly, particularly part-time, has benefited her, her career and her workplace. She offers some great insights and tips on making part-time possible and thriving in flexible work.
“Design a proposal (to work part-time/job share) that is a win for you, the role, the team and the organisation. ...thinking about what will remove the barriers to create an easy ‘yes’ is important."
Can you please tell us about yourself?
I’m in my early 30s and have worked in people & organisational culture, finance, strategy and wellness. Enjoying my work is important to me, as is having a very full and fun life outside of the office. I work full time flexibly and in my current role both my leader and direct report are based in a different state to me.
What flexible work arrangements have you experienced and how have these worked for you?
In 2014, after lots of great roles in the finance space I wasn’t feeling as excited about work anymore and was confused about where to take my career. I decided to drop my hours to 4 days a week and study health coaching on my day off (Wednesday). It was the best decision I’ve ever made! In 2015 I moved into a people analytics role at the same employer and kept my reduced hours because I loved the work/life balance it created.
However by the end of that year I had lots of really interesting projects at work and decided full time but flexible would suit me better. I tend to work from home 1-2 days most weeks and often I start early then take an extended lunch break or leave early to exercise.
What advice would you give a person negotiating part-time hours and/or a job share arrangement?
Design a proposal that is a win is for you, the role, the team and the organisation. When I went part-time I was in a strategic and unique role that prepared lots of papers for the Executive team and Board. I knew there were 2 peak periods throughout the year and was willing to work full-time hours for these few weeks and reclaim the days back around them. I didn’t have child care needs or anything tying me to my Wednesday off every week so was able to do this - thinking about what will remove the barriers to create an easy ‘yes’ is important.
What advice would you give to a person starting out working flexible arrangements?
Set boundaries, communicate them and stick to them (from the beginning). Today’s work environments allow, and often even expect, us to always be 'on’. I've found that knowing why I was choosing part-time or flexible work, what my work and life priorities are and creating boundaries associated to these has been really helpful. By communicating them to my team - and having others share their boundaries - it’s created accountability to stick to them. For instance, I love a work from home day, it saves me 1 hour of commuting and provides headspace to work on more strategic elements of my job without office distractions so I’m not willing to give this up (most weeks) but I’m flexible as to which days and tend to switch it up depending on meetings with other people.
What belief or behavior has been most helpful to you in successfully working part-time and/or job share?
Productivity isn’t correlated to hours worked in an office. My first job out of uni was consulting and I worked really long hours which created some bad habits. When I went part-time I was in a small team with both of my peers working 3 days a week and just 1 day cross over in the office. It was one of the most efficient teams I’ve worked in - we made quicker decisions, split work effectively and had less meetings. It’s really changed the way I operate and how I lead others.
I also believe working and leading others who are part-time or flexible is about mindset and open communication around what is working well or not.
What have you become better at saying no to (invitations/meetings/time wasters)? What new work habits helped? Any other tips?
I now say no to things without a clear purpose and alignment to the organisation’s strategy. I seek to understand the purpose of a meeting or piece of work upfront and if it’s not clear or not aligned to strategy then I either say no or help create the clarity and alignment. So much time can be saved by not re-working things or meeting again and again if everyone is clear on purpose and expectations from the outset.
I’ve also started making meetings with myself. Each Friday morning over coffee, I plan the next week and make meetings for the key strategic activities, then other meetings can fall in to place around it. When I do this I’m far more efficient with my time and end the week feeling proud of what I achieved because it’s so clear against my plan. Of course, there are weeks when something unexpected comes up and the plan doesn’t quite work out but mostly it’s very effective.
I’m far from perfect with emails but have a rule that if I can reply in less than 2 minutes I have to do it straight away so I don’t double handle them.
I also try to not be in the same meeting as my leader or direct report. For the most part (other than WIPs or 1:1’s) only 1 of us should need to be at a meeting and can then share anything necessary with the others. It’s freed up lots of collective time.