Hazel, a Band 8A manager at a mental health trust in England, has been working flexibly for more than 20 years. After the birth of her first child, she considered putting her career on hold altogether, but “I didn’t think I’d have the confidence to go back after 20 years bringing up the kids,” she says.
I negotiated with my manager at the time that I would move to [a different unit]—which I didn’t particularly want to do—if I could work two days a week,” she recalls.
She considers herself “lucky” to have been able to advance her career while working part-time. “My manager said, ‘You don’t have to just plod along, Hazel, you can still have a great job and keep developing and growing.’ And as a mum, I didn’t think you could do that. So, she created this great job for me—but I think that’s quite rare.”
Hazel has changed her working pattern several times since and now works four days a week. But she doubts her current manager would be receptive if she wanted to reduce her hours again: “She works full time, she’s quite a go-getter and doesn’t really like people working part-time at all.”
Comments about people being ‘only’ part-time reinforce “the idea that you’re not in the running for the senior jobs” and “aren’t carrying the load as much”, she says. “Occasionally, I feel like saying to people, ‘You do know I’m not paid the same as you, don’t you?’”
Employers “get an awful lot for their money” from part-time staff, Hazel continues. “You have to be very focused and can’t waste time. You have to get things finished because it might be nearly a week till you’re in again. My team are all part-time, and I feel I’ve got more diversity and more people’s ideas than if everyone was full time.”
A seasoned homeworker, Hazel no longer feels “hugely guilty” about working from home and is keen to continue hybrid working after the pandemic. “I feel more relaxed and creative working at home and there are fewer interruptions,” she says, while savings on commuting time give her a better balance between home and work life. “But the longer it’s gone on, the more I miss the connection to other people in the office.”
Hazel believes opportunities to work flexibly are too dependent on the attitudes of individual managers. “I would like managers to understand the positives of flexible working. I think you hear the negatives a lot, and I would like to convince them that it’ll work, it’ll be all right.”
(Name and picture of interviewee have been changed)