I believe this is the future of work. In today’s conversation with Johanna Fink we will talk about part time management.
In this episode you will learn:
- Why it’s no longer an option but rather a business nececity to have part time solutions available
- How part time management is related to DEI
- What are surprising benefits created by working part time
- What are some challenges faced by people working as part time managers
- Hints and tips about what you might do as an organisation to enable part time solutions that fit you the best
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I wish you fun and discovery!
If you need to educate leaders in how to create psychological safety in your remote teams, or if you would like to increase inclusive leadership practices, or resilience of your employees – please contact us at ETTA www.ettagoglobal.com.
- Johanna’s website
- Johanna’s LinkedIn profile
- Recent data and European comparison (content in German)
- Guide and best practices
- Podcast ASA 1: Human Centered Leadership – The Cure for Times of Change
- Podcast ASA 2: Ukrainians – how to find a great candidate and ensure good onboarding
- Podcast ASA 3: Psychological Safety in a Virtual Team – 4 Steps to Mastery
- Podcast ASA 4: What are Microaffirmations and why you want to have them in your team
The recent years have shown an increase of “flexible”: flexible working hours, flexible approach to the working time. And with this, there is also the “part time”, which very well fits this trend of flexibility. However, when we talk about flexible working time, we hardly ever talk about managers. We mostly concentrate on employees. And today I have the unique opportunity to talk to someone who is really into this topic of a part time managers with all the advantages and challenges brought by the flexible approach to working. Johanna Fink works as a part time manager and helps companies to implement and improve this model of work.
How did you start to work as a part time manager?
One day my former boss asked me: “Hey, do you want to be a manager in my team?” And I said: “yes, I would like to, but I’m going to have a child next year”. And he said: “Okay, when can you start?”. So it came that I had my first child and stayed at home for seven months. Then my partner took over and I went back to work into this new job. It was very challenging for me. I worked in the IT and tech sector. On that time I was the first woman there in the team, part time, young mother. So I really felt a little bit like an alien. I have to say that everything went well. My boss was happy, I was happy. My team was happy. And we worked together very successfully for many years. This was the moment where I started to think about why I am the only one.
Why are there no other people like me?
It can’t be because there are no skilled women outside, something went wrong. If you look at at the career path of women, you have a lot of skilled women at school, they go to university, and then at some point we lose women in the career path. That’s something that made me the question. I thought of it a lot.
Today I support companies in making part time leadership and part time management a successful model for employees. Because I’m very, very convinced that it’s a future working model that will be very important for our economy.
I also produce a podcast – as I’m German, it is a German podcast, so if there are German listeners here today, they might be interested in listening to it. You can find it on any podcast platform. And since I’m 20, I’m doing a lot of interviews with people who can tell us something about part time management. I’m talking to role models who are already on the job and can tell us what their experiences are. And I’m sharing my experience that I made in the last years.
Why to talk about being a part time manager?
First of all, I have a German perspective on the topic, and it would be interesting for me to also hear from you what is the Polish or the International perspective on thing. And I think that there are two main points why we should talk about this.
The first point is it’s an ethical question. So it’s a question of equal opportunities.
I want to live in a society where women and men have the same rights and the same opportunities. It doesn’t mean every young mother has to work. If you don’t want to, you don’t need to. But there should be the opportunity.
In Germany you can see women have significantly more sluggish career options. As I told you before, we lose women on the career path. In Germany we have a quota for management boards. And many companies have problems to fulfill this quota because there are no women in the career pipeline. Why aren’t they there yet?
Because companies lose them a lot of years earlier before they came to this career point. I think it should be a question of “in what society we want to live and how women and men live together?”. That’s the first point.
I’m convinced that the reason for this is that we have far too few career options for women and men in the family face. If you want to have kids, you have to change your way of working. You can do full time. Many people do. But in Germany, I think it is not the usual way. The usual way, still is that women stay at home for one year or even longer, and then it might be really, really difficult to catch up and to keep on working where you have been before. And if you don’t want to get back in full time, you have to start working part time. And part time still is not an usual working model. We see it in less important jobs, in less qualified jobs. But when we talk about career options, it’s no regular career option to work in part time. And that’s the first point.
Shortage of skilled workers
The second point is that in Germany, and in Europe in general, we have a huge problem with the shortage of skilled workers. We are an aging society. We have a real problem for companies to find skilled workers.
If you look at actual data, in Germany more than half of the companies, could not fill vacancies in 2022. So it’s really a growing number. And it’s a problem that affects our economy, because we lose a lot of money.
In addition, there’s a change in the attitude among future generation who focuses more on their leisure and work life balance. If you talk to young people, many of them come into the workforce and the first thing they ask is: ‘can I do four days a week?’
It’s a big change when you look at the baby boomer generation that were very hard working and it was normal that you just worked and you had a little bit of spare time, work was the main thing you did. I think in the future generation that’s different, maybe people are thinking: “I work to live and not live for work”. I think that’s a big change. And many companies have realized that part time work is important at all career levels, but at the same time, the model often still doesn’t work well.
How does being a part time manager really work?
The first thing, there is no uniform definition in Europe, but it’s part time. If you look at Germany, part time is when you work less than the weekly working time at your company. So in one case you might be working part time if you do 36 hours a week, because in your company, 38 or 40 hours is the regular working time. And in other companies you might be working full time when you do 36 hours, because the working time for everyone there is 36 hours.
The first thing is to understand is: there is no definition. You can distinguish two major models.
The first is the real part time. The classical part time is around 20 hours. The 50% model. That is known as part time and still is in the head of people when they are talking about part time. But when you look at part time management, it’s not that common model.
The common model when you look at part time management are working hours between 30 hours and full time. I think the most of the part time managers are working in this area.
Another distinction can be made according to the working models – how do you organize work in your part time management:
1. Organize yourself
First one of the models, and that’s very common in this 30 hours upwards section, is you do it alone. You organize yourself. Maybe you do things faster. You work on your efficiency and the efficiency of the team. Maybe you save some time due to outsourcing some little tasks, but normally you do the same work as other people in full time. That’s the first model.
This model has a lot of advantages. It’s quite easy to implement because you do not have to do changes in team structure, you have to do a little bit optimisation for yourself and for team, but normally it’s quite easy to implement.
The big disadvantage is that you have a compression of work. You compress the work that has to be done in less hours. That’s mental load thing. You generate more mental load for people who already have things to handle in their private life. Normally you work part time because you have things to do in private, because you have kids or you have to do care work for elderly or things like these. So you already have a quite stressful private life and then you go into compressing this work life and really giving more pressure on this point. I think that’s the big disadvantage that companies really have to keep in mind. Because you don’t want your managers to fall into burnout situations. I think you have to be very careful with using this model.
2. Share your responsibility
The other model is where people share responsibility. So it can be one person you share your responsibility as a manager with. Then it’s called job-sharing or top-sharing. It’s a model that is popular in Germany, many people speak about it, you read about it in media a lot, but in reality there’s a really small percentage of the part time managers who work in this model. But it’s a roling model and I think it’s an important one.
Because if you want to work less than 30 hours, you have to find another way to organize work. You need another person with whom you can share your work wit.
And the other possibility is to share responsibility with more than one person. In German, it’s called caterer or representative model. So you’re working together with people from the team. For example, if you have a very talented person in your team and the person did already work for you for the last years, you can try to share your responsibility with him or her. Then you are not at the same level of responsibility because you are still the manager and the other person is a part of your team. You can create a construct like this. Maybe if you are not available, this person is going to jump in and take responsibility for you.
Organize part time management
There are different possibilities to organize part time management. I think the important thing to know is there is no general model that you can just choose and say it will always work. It depends on:
- your personal situation. How flexible are you? How fixed are your working hours?
- type of job. What is the task? If you are working in a crisis management team, there might be another right model than if you do some office things and you can do your work the next day if anything happens. The kind of work you do is quite important.
- the culture of the company. In a company where it’s quite common to share responsibilities and it’s quite easy to work together as a team, you have a completely different situation than if you have a very hierarchical structure and it’s always important to know who’s in charge and to responsible. Then you have to create other structure.
I think these are the things you have to look at and three basic modes of working as a part time manager.
How does job sharing work in the position of the manager?
The answer is again: it depends. First, it depends on the job. I’ve worked in a media company for many years, so I know examples from there. If you produce media, there always have to be one person in the production. Someone who is responsible for the process and the content. There a shift model must be the answer, because you always need to have a responsible person there. It might be the same in medical jobs. If you think about doctors, you cannnot say “okay, today we don’t have any doctor here.” There needs to be continuously somebody available.
Then you have to divide the job regarding to the time that has to be fulfilled. In different jobs, you can use completely different models. Normally when you talk about job sharing models, you always have elements of job sharing and job pairing. This means you always have tasks you do together – that’s the pairing part – you define tasks you always do together. For example, if you hire new people, if you talk to your employees, if you make strategic decisions, these might be things that fall into the pairing part. And on the other hand, you have job sharing part. The sharing part is the tasks you divide. Maybe you divide it by projects or by customers. You can’t give a general answer, but you have to look at the job and maybe one does A and the other one does B. But it always means the task in the basket of job sharing. You have a shared responsibility. If one of the partners is not available, the other one has to be able to jump in and to help out. That’s the mechanism how it works.
How do companies solve the issue of headcount in the job sharing and job pairing?
First of all, many companies started to look at in FTE – full time equivalent. So you can have a closer look at how many people are really in a company because headcounts are not saying anything if a person is working for you 20 or 30%. I know that social costs are high, especially in Germany, if you’re hiring two people on one position or one FTE.
Here we are coming to the cost factor. If you think of advantages you can gain from this model, you have to put those things next to each other and think about “what’s really my problem?” Is my problem that I have one headcount more in my statistics? Or maybe my problem is that I don’t find any skilled workers, I need to generate employee branding advantage on the market, I have to find a way to keep skilled workers in my company that work for me long years and maybe they’re having small children now. Maybe they have to care for elderly or they want to have more time for themselves. Is this the reason why I want to lose them? I think there is statistic thing and money thing. We have to learn to generate or to find a new perspective on this.
If you look at studies about work life balance cost for companies, the result is that companies who invest in these things can get 40% of profit out of them. So I think we have to see things in the relations and we have to take a look at the whole picture and not only at one small statistic thing somewhere down there, because this doesn’t solve our problems. And I think that’s not relevant if you really look at the whole problem.
The second thing is that there are a lot of good studies about job sharing and management positions. You can always read that two people on one position are making better decisions. Decisions that they made are more accepted by the team. Because they know that already two people thought about it and they might have more perspectives into their decisions and the decisions are better. If one people is leaving the company, you still have another one who stays there.
That’s why job sharing is also used for the generation change in companies. Maybe if an older person is going to leave soon and you have someone there who has a lot of knowledge, maybe you can do job sharing for a half a year, for example, with the younger person together. And if the old one leaves you just have a knowledge transferred.
So I think it’s quite easy to find a lot of good reasons why job sharing makes sense.
The most appreciated benefit is flexible approach to the working time
Today people want to have the power to decide how they live their lives, how they spend their time, when they do what. If you have a job where it’s not important if you’re doing something in the morning at ten or the afternoon at four on the next day, it should be in your decision when you do it. I think that’s what people want. They want to be able to maybe go jogging in the afternoon if the weather’s nice in winter and not going jogging in the evening when it’s already dark. I think it has to do with the pandemic, but it’s also a change of attitude and of values in our society.
What are the challenges that part time managers are facing?
They have less time. I think that’s the biggest challenge. So you have less time for the exchange with your employees and to person to contact. If I talk to part time manager, especially in a combination with the remote work, the biggest challenge for them is how to stay in contact personally with the team. That’s one of the big points.
The second one is company’s culture. If you work in the company with a very strong presence culture, where it’s important how present you are and you are rated by how present you are, not what comes out from your work, what the results of your work are, then it’s really difficult. You can’t win this battle, because you’re always the one who’s less present. That’s a point where companies really have to have a close look and have to think about how they can change this. Because this is one of the biggest problems.
The third thing I want to mention is that many managers have problems to set limits of their working hours. Most of them are very engaged and motivated. They want to show they can do it part time. And then there’s always the danger that they lose their hours and that they’re working more. If you should work 30 and you do 35 or 38 of 40, then it really starts to be a very bad deal, because you’re working the same as others for less money. And this is a real danger.
This is a very psychological thing. Mostly when I see it, it’s not that the managers of the part time managers say “you have to stay” or “you have to do this or that”. It’s just the other way round. It’s what people expect from themselves and it’s they want to do it well. They want to be there for their team, they want to show engagement. Many of them really have to find new ways on how to do this without staying longer.
What would you advise from the perspective of an organization to make the part time management easier?
The first thing I want to say about is a good framework conditions for part time management. This is flexible working opportunity in time and place and the technical equipment. I often see there can be things optimized. For example, in job as we look at working time restrictions, we have several rules and I think companies have to have a close look at their rules, check if they fit with the needs of the people. For example, if you work from nine o’clock every day as a part time manager, you might go back to your desk in the evening after you and your kids are in bed. Maybe you just go back to your desk and do some emails. It must be ensured that this time is not your private time. You just bend for your job because you want to. It has to be working time. This is important because that can make people unsatisfied and this is really not necessary. So you just have to really have a close look at the conditions.
The second thing is evaluate and promotion mechanisms. This is a very, very important point. If you have promotion mechanisms in the company that relate, for example, two years experience in a certain position, then you have to be careful because when you start to count part time as only a percentage of a year, you generate a disadvantage for the part time people and this is a disadvantage that can never be catched up again. So you really have to generate the situation where it isn’t important if you work part time or not. All managers need to have the same opportunities to do the next step and to follow their career path. I think this is an important point.
The last thing is the asynchronous working model. If you have more flexible workers at a company you lead, sooner or later you will end up at this point. For many companies this is a really big cultural change also because it’s a completely new way of working together. It’s a way where you have to rely on the others. You have to rely that they do their job. Also, if you don’t see it and you don’t feel it that much because you’re less together in meetings. While having this asynchronous communication you have to really think about what you are communicating. What do you need from others. It’s less “blah blah” and more really structured communication.
These are things that people, first of all need to be aware of. They need to start thinking about when they really want to have part time managers in the company. This will do something with the way of working. And the question is, do we want this or how do we deal with this? These are important questions that companies should ask and should talk about with their employees. Because quite often there are a lot of fears or maybe prejudices about part time management. So the first thing is to talk about it. Then, listening. Listen to what people are saying, which fears there might be, what you can do that people feel better.
You have to make it very clear from the top management that part time management isn’t only nice to have. It’s a must do, because it’s one strategic element of employer branding. And it’s really important for companies to ensure skilled workers and to ensure that success and their future.
What might be a first easy step in the direction of the part time management?
I think talking about it, as I said before. Just opening the room for conversation about this and listening to your employees. Are there people who would like to do it? What prejudices are there? What is in the head of the people? That’s the first step. I think that is just important.
And then, as I said, anchor a topic in the top management and make clear that it’s an economic question.
I always rely to both, to the ethical and economic perspectives, because it’s important to see them. But I completely understand if companies for communication issues use the economic perspective, that’s totally okay. But you really have to make this clear and this has to be made clear by the top management. Because otherwise you will really have always strong powers that will try to push this development back because it is a change and it’s a kind of a change for the company. And it has disadvantages, for example for people who lived or have worked quite successfully in this present culture. They lose something when others are successful because they really create good outcome. It can be different. You really have to make it crystal clear: “That’s important and we are going to do this.”
The next point is to create positive examples. You have to find people who want to do it. You have to find managers of part time managers who are willing to start this journey. It is a journey and not everything will be perfect from the first moment. You have to learn. You have to find your model.
As I said before, it’s not easy. You cannot say,”okay, we are doing like this and then it will work”. You have to find out what is your way. The first goal should really be to create positive examples and really do this very carefully. And think about those whom you can choose. With whom can we start this journey? And what do people need to be successful in this role?
Addition from Monika:
It seems that the first reasonable step towards implementing part time management solutions in your company is to simply talk about that. I imagine gathering a group of people from various roles and positions and to have a conversation structure. I would even propose this tool which I use in some of the coaching sessions or in facilitation with groups. It’s called a Socrates Matrix.
Sometimes we say that Socrates was an originator of the Western philosophy, or some of us say he was really the first one to use a coaching approach. Anyway, this matrix consists of four areas and it goes like:
- What do we win if we implement the part time management approach?
- On the contrary, what do we lose when we implement a part time approach?
- Now, what do we win if we don’t implement the part time approach?
- And what do we lose if we don’t implement the path time?
I would propose you this little structure to have a conversation. That is really touching each of every aspect of part time management in your particular situation, in your particular company.