LR Legal Recruitment: Introducing the power part-timers

It was once a requirement of all high-flying lawyers that they put in long hours at the office - home, as well as lunch, was for wimps. Things have changed; nearly three-quarters of a million men and women in the UK are earning over £40,000 each year working fewer than five days a week. According to recruitment agency Timewise, who yesterday published a report documenting the growth of ‘generation job-share’. If the workplaces of 2017 have one thing going for them, it’s the rise in fewer and more flexible hours, for both sexes at senior level. Only three years ago, a TUC survey found the average UK working week was 43.6 hours (compared the European average of 40.3) with many managers and professional staff working for up to 60 hours and burnout. The number of top level execs who have ditched full-time office work has increased by 5.7 per cent in the last twelve months, It’s a dramatic change.

Companies in both the private and public sector are finally seeing sense. Karen Mattison MBE, co-founder & joint CEO of Timewise says Job-sharing at senior professional level is “a massively growing trend.” Mattison notes, growth has been rising fast “in the higher-tax bracket part-timers proving that the preconception that part time work is for menial or low paid jobs only is dying. In 2014 there were 680,000 workers. Now, there’s 773,000; that’s a 12 per cent increase.”

This trend reflects the growing numbers of firms accommodating highly-skilled women returning to careers after having children. Interestingly the increasing numbers of high-powered men embracing a more holistic work-life balance is also growing at a similar pace. Last year, for the first time, 1 million of that 8.5 million were men; in that higher tax bracket of 773,000, one third are men, while one in eight men choose to work part-time.

The key is for businesses to operate with emotional intelligence, as flexible employment terms should be formed around taking care of your most valuable assets. “There is a much bigger picture here, for your general lifestyle, health and wellbeing. Part-time work makes people happy, family happy and balance restored.”

A study last year by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research found that working more than 25 hours a week led to a decrease in cognitive function, with every hour chipping away at your mental dexterity. For those clocking up more than 60 hours, they found, the brain performed worse than those who did not work at all.

Large corporations who are relentless in their work ethic and have traditionally driven their partners very hard are adapting to the fact that they need to offer more dynamic working options if they want more high-level recruits.

Timewise’s Karen Mattison says that at any level of the pay scale, employees value time and flexibility often as highly as salary, but this has not been well understood by businesses until relatively recently. “In a sense,” she muses, “all those big jobs; city lawyers, bankers, belong in a different working age, as in the 1950s, with a two-person operation: the man doing purely work, and the wife doing everything else required in the family unit.”

In the 21st century women are an intrinsic and valuable part of the workforce. “If you don’t fundamentally change the structure of how work gets done, people can’t or won’t stay. The demand for flexible working is growing, if we can get it right, we become the kind of business people want to

work for. It’s good for talent retention and attraction. In the working world of the near future, expect more power part-timers coming to an office near you.

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