Balance & Beyond Podcast

Episode Summary

#7: The Part-Time Paradox: 5 Traps You Must Avoid if Considering Part-Time Work

Have you ever wondered if going part-time could be the key to achieving work-life balance and avoiding burnout?

We're here to tell you that it might not be the answer you're looking for, and without particular skills and strategies, it’s rarely the holy grail. 

In this episode, we discuss the five traps women fall into, including being unable to set or maintain boundaries, disconnecting from work, and the emotional pollution that follows us in all areas of life.  

Successful part-time work requires a different type of confidence that goes beyond ‘fake it till you make it.’ It’s the level of confidence where you have nothing to prove, easily speak up and don’t need to justify your schedule. In this episode, we share insights on how these traps might show up subtly and, importantly, strategies to avoid them. 

Whether you're considering part-time work or are already in a part-time role, this episode will provide invaluable advice to ensure you avoid the pitfalls many women fall victim to. 

In this episode, you’ll discover:

  • Why most women don’t go part-time, they simply reduce their salary by 20%
  • The single most important thing you must do to ensure you avoid emotional pollution
  • Why your perfectionist may more easily get out of control if you’re working flexibly
  • The real reason you struggle to set boundaries and why you still worry about what everyone thinks of you
  • How to build the type of confidence essential for part-time work to be successful for you and your organisation

As always, you’ll enjoy plenty of real-life examples and practical strategies you can implement today.

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Episode Transcript

INTRO: Welcome to Balance and Beyond, the podcast for ambitious women who refuse to accept burnout as the price of success. Here, we’re committed to empowering you with the tools and strategies you need to achieve true balance, where your career, relationships and health all thrive, and where you have the power to define success on your own terms. I honour the space you’ve created for yourself today, so take a breath, and let's dive right in…

Don't go part time. I know you think it might be the answer to getting better balance, stopping burnout, and looking after your health. But I promise you, unless you put some specific strategies in place, it is only going to make things worse. Before you try to burn me at the stake, I'm a big supporter of flexibility, and making sure that work and life are all in balance. However, I have seen time and time again, that unless you understand what really happens when you go part time, you are setting yourself up for failure. 

The reason most people want to go part time is they feel like life is completely out of whack. Working too much, crazy hours, too much stress, overwhelm, relationships with kids breaking down, same goes for relationships with a partner, no time for you, your health suffering. And in all of this mess it feels like the only option. The only thing that can really give, is work. The kids don't go back, most people would like to stay married, or with their partners. There's life admin: Kids still need to be taken to sport, and dropped off, and fed. So in a world where it feels like there is no other choice, it feels like work is the one thing that has to drop. 

Now, in my experience, there are five key reasons why part time is not going to work for you. To be clear, part time will work if you solve all of these. So I'm going to run you through these five reasons why I have seen, time and time again, countless, countless reasons and examples, about why part time doesn't work. So let me share them with you. Let's clarify. When I say, "doesn't work”, what I mean is that it's not working for you, and as I go through all these examples, you're going to see what I mean. 

So one of the first reasons that part time work is not going to be successful, is if you haven't learned how to hold boundaries yet. And by this, I mean you've dropped your days, or you've reduced your hours, and yet you are still working in the time that you are not meant to be. Whether or not you're being paid for it. Let's say you go from five days to four and think, "I need to get some space for me. I need to get those appointments in. Well, if you are working on those days in any way, shape or form, you've just docked yourself 20% pay. 

​​And what's even worse, is that when you don’t do some work on your days off, usually you are doing other things. Whether it's childcare arrangements, or whatever else, you then feel guilty about it, because you know you shouldn't be working. And maybe your partner goes nuts at you because like, "This is your day off. You shouldn't be working.” Or you feel guilty because you don't want to let the team down, and you feel bad because you've had a day off, and other people are working, and you're not getting to a deadline, or the team needs you. 

So you have this constant pull for, "Oh my God, it's urgent, they need me." And the time that is meant to be boundaried for you, which is the reason why you're not working on that day, boundaried for the kids, or whatever it is that you've chosen to do with your time, ends up being draped in shame and guilt. And nobody wants that, and that's not fun. And this is why so many women I know try part time. And then because of this lack of boundaries, they end up going, "Stuff it. I'm gonna go back up to full time, because at least I'm gonna get paid for the time I'm working." 

So you must learn how to hold boundaries. And, really importantly, you also must learn how to not feel guilt around your decisions. Whatever you've chosen, however, you wanna structure your work time, hours, locations, whatever it is, you've got to be strong enough to know who you are, and to say no in the times that you're not working. 

A second reason that part time doesn't work, and you'll start to see that all of these are going to stack on one another, is you haven't learned to disconnect yet. What this means is that even though you might not be working on a day when you are not technically paid to work, you're thinking about it on your day off. 

And once again, you beat yourself up. And then, let's say, that you've got kids around you, or you're picking them up, you then yell at the kids because somebody from work contacts you who technically shouldn't have. You're angry at them for putting an unreasonable demand on you and for then having to get on your laptop when you shouldn't. Let's say you go and do the work, because you don't have any boundaries, and then you're thinking about it for the rest of the day. 

I often call this emotional pollution, when the thinking just follows you and maybe it's the resentment, or it's the anger, or it's the frustration that, "Someone's always meant to do it. And now it's left to me. And even if you're not doing the work like, “Right, no, I'm not gonna do it until Monday. They can wait. We're not changing lives here. We're not saving lives.” You think about it all day. You think about it all weekend, and you worry, and you stress, and you feel overwhelmed. 

And on Monday, "The first thing we're gonna do is this, and this, is what I'm gonna say to that person about my boundary.” And then what happens is the kids come home from school and drop a water bottle in the hallway, and you absolutely lose it at them, because you're still thinking about work. And you haven't understood your emotions enough, and you're not emotionally aware so that you, in essence, vomit your emotions over anybody who happens to bump into you. And this is when we're carrying work with us, and we don't know how to be present and enjoy this day off. Whether it's a day off to spend with children, whether it's a day off to spend with family, or even sometimes a day off for you. Another reason that part-time doesn't work is because you haven't learned to focus. Yet. 

When most people I know drop a day, it's pretty rare that their workload drops by anything close to 20%. And this is another piece that we'll come to. And what often happens on those days, is that they usually pick up other stuff because they've got quote unquote "more time.” Whether it's having a child not in daycare, whether they're going to help out. Maybe a part of these women not working, is they want to volunteer their time? So they pick up more stuff. Or, from a relationship perspective, it's like, "Look, I'll go part-time, because we're not coping as a family, and I'll take the dog to the vet, and I'll do the groceries." And so they're going and doing all these extra things, when work hasn't dropped. And while their perfectionist is still ruling the roost, and if they don't know how to tame their procrastinator, they will spend this day, and others, jumping from task to task. And then feeling even more behind because now they've got even more stuff on. 

And so, the idea is that if you've dropped your hours in whatever capacity, "All right, well, I'm only gonna work four days and I've got three to focus on the family, or on me." But if you're not able to disconnect, and then learn how to focus on you, and either get the stuff that you need to get done from a life admin perspective, or whatever it is that you're doing, well, everything is going to bleed. And you now have this crazy pollution, where all you've now done is you've got four days worth of, let's say, working four days. 

You've got four days worth of tabs open from work, and now you've got three days of tabs of personal stuff. Maybe you're renovating, maybe you've got medical stuff you've got to do, and so this appointment and that, and you cannot get it all done. And so your focus is completely dispersed, and then you end up running around like a headless chicken. And that is not the idea of part time work. Part time work is meant to be about balance. 

But just because you have more time doesn't mean that you should allow everything to take longer. So this is why focusing is a really, really important skill that you must develop, if you want to be successful in any kind of reduced hours. I mean, generally, this is just a life skill that we need anyway. Now we talk about boundaries, disconnection, and focus. 

One of the other pieces that I have found must be in your toolkit, and really must be embodied in you, is you must have unshakeable confidence, if part time is going to work. And where I see this rear its ugly head, is people feel like, because they've got flexibility, "Well, I've got to prove that I've still got it. I've got to prove that my output isn't going to suffer. I'm going to prove that I'm still a senior or I can delegate and I'm on top of things.” 

And so these women, because you don't have unshakable confidence, lean in to feeling like they have to get more stuff done. And thinking that doing more is going to make them feel better. They're so focused on everybody outside of themselves, without having what I call inside-out confidence, or unshakable confidence, that they actually get into a spiral of eroding their confidence. So if your confidence is based on how much you can get done, well then, when you can't do enough, you don't feel good. If your confidence is based on what somebody says about you, or feedback that you get, well if they can give it to you, they can take it away. And so you might have a bad meeting, or something doesn't go the way you wanted, or a project you're running goes off the rails. Well, now you start shaking because, "Oh, I've got to do more. And then you dive in and you do more.” 

Now, the last piece that makes a really, really big difference, and I see this play out in so many different ways, is part time will not work if you have not found your voice yet. And you usually won't find your voice until you have unshakable confidence. What this means is that, if you haven't found your voice, you aren't able to have that perhaps difficult conversation with your boss, or your team, about your workload. To say, "All right, I'm now making the shift to part time, what are we doing about my workload?" So many women go, "That's okay, I'll keep it, take this one project off me." But then, because there's still guest people, they still say yes to other things. And so, their workload ends up being just as big. And now they're doing a full time role, in four days, and just getting docked 20% for it. And they don't have the ability to speak up and ensure that the structures are set up well for success for them. 

And so many women feel happy that they've, you know, been able to drop a day and still retain the senior position, and whether they're in management. But, if this is what you want, well then, you have every right to it. But you have to claim it. And when you've really found your voice, I know women who build all of these things, and they are so productive that they managed to negotiate working a four day week with no drop in pay. And, without thinking, "Well, I've got to do 10 to 11 hour days, because I've now got to do my 50 hours a week in four.” There is so much data now coming out, with many companies actually shifting to this permanent four day week, and still paying staff for five, around productivity, around creativity, that there are huge benefits to this.

But if you aren't focused, if you are still procrastinating, if you are still being a perfectionist. Well then, this isn't going to work for you. If you can hand on heart say, "I've got strong boundaries, I have learnt to disconnect, I know how to focus, I'm not gonna fall victim to procrastination. I completely back and believe in myself." You're not beating yourself up, you're not second guessing yourself, you have access to your intuition. And with all of this, you can find your voice, you can deliver the zinger, you can say that piece. Well then, I wish you all the best on your part-time journey. And I know that this can be a wonderful way to set up your environment for success. However, I see too many women that don't know how to do these things, and don't know how to put these strategies in place because of a lot of beliefs and a lot of inherent lack of worthiness. So, it's only once you can build all these things up, and as you can see, these all are gonna work together, I wish you all the best.

OUTRO: Thank you for joining us today on the Balance and Beyond Podcast. We're so glad you carved out this time for yourself. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend who might need to hear this today. And if you're feeling extra generous, leaving us a review on your podcast platform of choice would mean the world. If you’re keen to dive deeper into our world, visit us at to discover more about the toolkit that has helped thousands of women avoid burnout and create a life of balance, and beyond. Thanks again for tuning in, and we'll see you next time on the Balance & Beyond Podcast.

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