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Karen Mattison MBE
Co - founder of the Timewise Foundation
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Karen Mattison MBE

All power part time: How championing leading part time executives could change the future of work for a generation

Authors: Karen Mattison MBE Karen Mattison MBE, co-founder of the Timewise Foundation

07 August 2013

For years, the words ‘part time’ has been synonymous with junior responsibility and low pay. And yet, the pool of people who want such jobs, is far more diverse than that. Many have years of skill and experience behind them; analysis of the government’s labour market and salary data suggests that as many as 650,000 are working in skilled roles earning at least £40,000 FTE.

And yet three in four skilled part time workers, in a recent study we conducted of 1,000, said they feel ‘trapped – unable to progress ‘up or out’ of their current roles, without having to forfeit their much needed flexibility.  Some even reporting they felt that their time to ‘enjoy a true career’ was over.

The UK should be a leader for best practice, in terms of part time and flexible working. An incredible eight million people here work 30 hours a week or less. Part time workers account for a really significant number -– one in four people - in our working population. A recent study from the RSA and Vodafone UK, found that better flexible working practices could generate £8.1billion for the economy.

As a nation, we are shifting to adjust to the idea that it might just be possible to ‘have it all’. And perhaps we might work better, when we do. Indeed, senior level part time working, led by future-forward businesses, is starting to happen all across the UK.  Though, with individual working patterns still considered a closed topic, it’s still not visible to the vast majority (those ‘trapped’ part time workers who want to progress) which perpetuates the ‘cannot be done’ myth.

Last year, in a bid to identify and celebrate trailblazers, and change perceptions of what a part time job is or can be, Timewise produced the UK’s first ever Power Part Time list. We profiled 50 of the UK’s leading part time executives, including Belinda Earl, the Style Director of Marks & Spencer (works up to 3 days per week), Lea Paterson, the Head of the Inflation Report and Bulletin Division at the Bank of England (flexes between 3.5 and 4 days per week) and Mike Dean, who heads Accenture’s BPO business (works 3.5 days per week). Both men and women made the list, all working part time for different reasons. All challenging the concept that part time, equals lack of commitment or a limit to potential.

We are now looking to build a fresh list of a further 50 inspirational case studies, specifically for 2013. We want to hear from pioneering businesses, both large and small, to uncover the UK’s most interesting instances of senior part time working.  The nomination process runs from now until 23 September, and the next Top 50 will be unveiled at the end of the year. You can make a nomination for the Power Part Time list at: Making a nomination is free, and only requires a few hundred words.

Our list is being judged by Katie Bickerstaffe, the UK CEO of Dixons Retail Ltd – who works part time herself, Andy Saunders, the deputy editor of Management Today magazine and Steve Varley, the Chairman and UK & Ireland Managing Partner of EY, who has this to say: “Having a more flexible people resource creates a more agile workplace. It is time that businesses stopped noticing work hours, measuring productivity in presenteeism, and instead focused on outputs. In a fast paced global economy, when business large and small are working with clients and colleagues across borders in different time zones, flexible working can provide a real competitive advantage. But it also requires a high-trust workplace environment, leadership from the top and individual accountability. I’m really proud to be able to support Timewise to help champion this message, and am looking forward to meeting the fantastic role models who prove on a daily basis that reduced hours never mean reduced commitment.”

Achieving great success, in part time or flexible hours, is something to be celebrated, not hidden. So the next time you hear someone say ‘it’s just a little part time job’ – tell them to give me a call.

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