The five-day work week is a social construct. Sure, it’s one that’s deeply embedded into the every day life of most people around the world, but just like money and mother’s day – it’s something we’ve made up. Another thing that’s also been made up, and some point or another, is the roles, responsibilities and tasks that make up your job. Usually found in a position description, that might bear some semblance to what you do everyday, these things can too be reconsidered and changed.

Realising this can help you (and your employer) come up with a new construct that meets both your needs.

Too often part-time arrangements are put in place by employers simply agreeing to cut your hours (and consequently your take home pay) with no thought given to re-designing the role. A gesture your expected to be grovelingly grateful for and one which sets everyone up for failure. But like any social construct, it doesn’t have to be like that.

There are two simple and well-known processes that are easily applied to designing a part-time role:

  1. The project management triangle;
  2. Organisational design

The project management ‘triangle’ (or the triple constraint) states that there are three key elements to any project: scope, time and resources. If you think of your job as a project, you can convert it from full-time to part-time by changing one (or all three) of scope, time and resources. Take a responsibility out and move it to another role (scope). Agree that you’ll deliver that report every six weeks instead of every four weeks (time). Convert the x% of your salary that you won’t be paid anymore and get in a casual to support you with administrative work (resources).

Ok, that theoretically makes sense but how do I actually work that out? This is when the process I’ve used when lots of teams for designing their organisational structure comes in. It’s a simple process. You write down on a post-it note the different types of work that needs to be done, and then you chunk those pieces of work together to make up roles and then a team structure. You can do this with your job. Put everything you do and everything the business currently needs from you on separate post-it notes. Then think about what’s the best way to cut out the percentage you need to in order to reach your desired part-time arrangement (20% for every non-work day). This is also a great way to establish a job-share arrangement (more on that here).

People have been working part-time for decades, it’s time we set up part-time work to actually work.

About the Author: Ellen Hooper

Ellen Hooper is an executive coach and people & culture consultant and an advocate for diversity and inclusion in workplaces.

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