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The coach: ‘How do I persuade my practice to let me work part time?’

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An architect wants to go part time so they can spend more time with their partner, but fears this flies in the face of the practice’s culture. AJ careers expert Matthew Turner advises how best to persuade their employer

My partner has moved away for work, and I would really like to work part time so we can spend more time together. However, my practice has an ‘all or nothing’ culture. How do I negotiate?

Negotiating part-time work can be tricky. The rules were recently changed so that we now all have the right to ask for part-time work whatever the reason. But this is only a right to request, not to receive. So unless you threaten to leave, you are reliant on your employers’ goodwill.

That said, it is much easier to gain a part-time role from an existing full-time position than to apply for a part-time role from the outset – very few roles are advertised as part time. 

Being a project architect and part time can be quite a hard call

Many employers believe running a small business with many part-timers can be problematic for business continuity and general office cohesion. So it is true that bosses don’t like offering part-time positions, and are fearful of setting a precedent. Being a project architect and part time can be quite a hard call, particularly during the most intense moments of a project.

On the other hand, bosses like to retain reliable, competent and happy staff. You say your office is ‘all or nothing’, but equally if you feel confident of your value to the firm, you should consider challenging this. Of course this is a risk, but your practice needs to understand that it is more of a risk to lose you – the possibility of which you should not explicitly refer to.

So the key to getting anything agreed is making it work for your practice. You know what you want, but how can you help them?

Think about how you can mitigate the problems. Make sure you are in on office meeting days for example; be as much flexible as you can over what days of the week you will work, suggesting a trial period; and think about any positive examples your boss knows that you can cite of where a part-time role has worked well.

Whatever you offer, make it clear that you remain completely committed to the practice. Make the request as reasonable as possible, and you may be surprised at your success.

AJ coach Matthew Turner is an architect and careers consultant who runs the Building on Architecture consultancy. To contact him with your questions, tweet @TheAJcoach or email him in confidence at hello@buildingonarchitecture.com

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