How to master a full-on job in part-time hours

Do you work part-time? If so, how can you master a full-on job in part-time hours?

I’ve been working four days a week for nearly a year. I spend “Mummy Fridays” with my four-year-old twin sons ahead of them starting school this September. I talked about my decision on The Internal Comms Podcast and clients know my diary works 4-6 months in advance. They also know my PA Louise is at the heart of helping my business to run smoothly. Thank you Louise, you know how much I appreciate all your hard work.

There are many reasons why people work part-time. I’m spotting more flexible hours and job shares being posted on my Jobs board, which I welcome.

I’ve had Comms pros attend my How to be a Comms Consultant Masterclasses who are working part-time while they build up their business offering ahead of launching, or who work with a couple of clients a few days a week.

Today I have a guest post for you by Ellie Buckingham @LilyRoseComms, who has looked at how to master a full-on job in part-time hours. I’ll hand you over…

How to master a full-on job in part-time hours

Communications roles can be high-pressured, demanding, and busy.

Having worked part-time in full-on internal communications roles for the past four years, I’ve picked up some ways of working that have helped me. I hope some of my tips and tricks might help fellow part-time and flexible workers master fulfilling a hectic job in less than full-time hours.

Overcoming email overload

When you work part-time, you return to the office to find your inbox stacked.

If you commute, download your emails before you travel, then you can work through them on the train. You can’t respond in real-time, but you can file into folders and save drafts to send when you get to the office. You could also create a ‘to do’ file or flag emails with actions for when you’re back online.

When you’re tackling your inbox, sort by subject rather than who it’s from or when it was received. You can then easily see and read through a conversation. They’re also much easier to file.

And finally, always use an out of office reply on your non-working days.

Prepare to plan

Use your communications plan to your advantage.

You have the power to plan activities around your working hours or days, as much as possible. For example, if you’re in control of the company newsletter, or the CEO’s monthly webchat, ensure they’re scheduled for days you work.

Keeping the plan up-to-date means you (and your team/manager) always know what needs to be done and when, even when you’ve just walked back in the office. I like to keep one printed with me at home too, in case a colleague calls in a panic on a non-working day, and I need to be on the ball.

If you use an email campaign tool (such as Concep or Poppulo) they usually allow you to schedule comms. That’s where your plan comes in handy, because if something has to go out when you’re not there, you can look ahead and schedule to send.

It’s great to have a team to delegate to, but if you’re a lone ranger, find someone you can train – and trust – to issue communications in your absence. The CEO’s PA, the receptionist, or an HR colleague, for example. Or build a team of Communications Champions, who essentially volunteer their time to lend a hand.

In my experience, there are normally a whole heap of willing people eager to gain some comms experience. They’re life savers when it comes to organising things like the Christmas party, cascading a message, desk dropping during a campaign, and putting up posters too.

Calendar control

When you work part-time, you need to find – and secure – time to actually work. In a three-day-a-week job, it’s easy for at least two to be spent in meetings. Block out time to work in your calendar, and be specific. If there’s a deadline for Wednesday morning, block Tuesday afternoon to do the work. It not only stops meetings dropping in, but it’s fantastic for your time management and forward planning too.

If you can, block out a short period of time on your first working day after a break to review emails, update your comms plan, and prioritise and allocate work.

And do the reverse on your last working day – block time to send handover emails, update the plan, schedule comms to send, and set an out of office. It’s not always that simple in reality, but if you can, it makes a huge difference.

Make sure your calendar reflects your working pattern, and is always up to date – use the ‘out of office’ category on the ‘show as’ function on your Outlook calendar, so there’s no uncertainty about your whereabouts. It might also help colleagues or stakeholders if you put your working days in their calendars, particularly if it varies week-on-week. Microsoft has some useful guidance on that here.

And last, but definitely not least, be confident to challenge – and decline – meetings if you don’t think they’re a good use of your time.

Do you really need to attend every week? Is someone else in the team attending? Are you adding real value?

Confidence and flexibility

Where possible, I’ve always rewarded a flexible employer with flexibility in return. They’re likely to remember that when you need to ask for a bit more flex than usual!

And to me, the most important tip – don’t apologise, and don’t feel inferior.

You aren’t “just” part-time, and you don’t “only” work a few days a week. You’re a flexible worker, and you give your job 100%.

There can be negative attitudes to contend with, but it’s up to us part-time and flexible workers to be positive role models, to champion the benefits, and most of all to remember, remind, and be proud of, the reasons we don’t work full time.

Post author: Ellie Buckingham.

Thank you Ellie. What do you think about what you’ve read? Does this resonate with you? You can find Ellie on Twitter @LilyRoseComms or you’re welcome to comment below.

Find a new Comms job

If you are on the hunt for a new Comms role, check out my Jobs page. If you are recruiting, you can place an advert for just £125 +VAT per week.

Thank you to everyone who has chosen to advertise with me.

Current vacancies include:

Learn about Internal Comms with Rachel

My upcoming Masterclass dates can be found on the Masterclasses pages of this website. Thank you to the professional communicators who came to my Strategic Internal Communication Masterclass yesterday (pictured below).

Not based in the UK? I can hold a mini session with you via Skype, check out my work with me options. Please note my diary is currently booked until late September 2019, so I’m taking bookings from the Autumn onwards. Do let me know how I can help you.

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First published on the All Things IC blog 12 June 2019.

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