Tip and techniques for part-time working in communication

People choose to work part-time for a wide range of reasons. Many colleagues find it beneficial to balance part-time work with childcare and/or caring responsibilities but it’s important to remember that part-time working isn’t just for parents and carers.

Working part-time can bring numerous benefits both to the individual and their organisation.

This document provides a range of tips and techniques for part-time workers but managers of part-time workers may also find it useful. This guidance works for general part-time workers but also focuses on specific issues part-time workers in communications may face.

It is also worth reading your organisation’s relevant departmental policies around parttime working.

How to work

Communicating with your team

Make sure you discuss with your line manager and team from the outset what your working pattern is and how you envisage managing your workload. You may want to consider:

  • offering to assist your line manager in making provisions for covering your work on your days off. This will help the team to adapt to your working pattern; it may be useful for you to have a ‘buddy’ to hand work over to and for whom you can return the favour
  • being strict and sticking to your boundaries. If you get into the habit of responding to emails and taking calls on your days off, then it’s likely your team will come to expect to be able to reach you when you’re not there. Remember, you’re not being paid to work on your days off.
  • don’t apologise for your hours or part-time status. Your organisation has supported you and your colleagues should do likewise.

Adopt practical solutions to letting colleagues know what your working pattern is, including:

  • put your working pattern in your calendar and make sure it is always up to date – be clear when you are working and when you aren’t.
  • always use the ‘out of office’ on your non-working days, don’t assume others will always remember, including details of an alternative contact.
  • detail your working pattern on your email signature.
  • ensure your voicemail message sets out your working days.
  • ensure your ‘staff directory’ entry is up to date.
  • ensure you communicate in person with your colleagues and about your working pattern as appropriate.
  • offer solutions if a meeting falls on a day you don’t work – e.g. if a one-off meeting suggest a deputy and if a regular meeting suggest change of day on alternative weeks.
  • remember you don’t need to justify your no- working days but you can support your colleagues in accommodating them.

Being flexible and managing work during busy periods

Be flexible, without compromising your own needs, especially as peaks of work approach. It will be appreciated by your team. But make sure you find right balance and try not to make it a regular thing (be strict!). You may want to consider:

  • Whether you’re able to swap your day off to manage a peak in your workload, rather than handing large amounts of work over to a colleague.
  • Equally, whether you can get into the office a little earlier or leave a little later during particularly busy times.
  • Being realistic. Don’t take on more work than you can manage. Communicate with your line manager/team members about balance of work – is it sustainable? This is not just a problem for part-timers!

Practical tips on being more effective

  • Use a smartphone if this helps – be careful that this doesn’t impose on your nonworking days.
  • Attend appropriate priority management courses and/or courses on managing your email (e.g. Working Smarter in Outlook).
  • Block out a short period of time first thing on your next working day to review emails and prioritise or allocate work.
  • Give colleagues a quick call to follow up on any issues that have occurred on your non-working days.
  • Ensure your work plan is agreed with your manager and you both have an understanding of what is realistic and fits within your working days.
  • Be confident in how you manage your time – do you really need to attend that meeting? Participate in that email exchange?
  • Make sure your documents are available to your team when you’re not available.
  • Keep an up to date task list to manage your time- you may want to update it before leaving the office for the week.
  • Ensure you plan how priority work activities are going to be dealt with when you’re not in the office, where appropriate.
  • If possible be flexible with your working days – it is appreciated and noticed – however take care not to create the perception that you can always do it and be clear with colleagues if it isn’t possible.
  • Don’t apologise for being part-time or being unable to make meetings.
  • Consider all options for flexible working / working pattern / best days to be in the office. If you have flexibility, Fridays can be a good day to get desk work completed as there tend to be fewer meetings and less need to travel.
  • Learn how to say no and ask for help when you need it, providing solution options to help resolve an issue.
  • Stick to your working hours – avoid work creep. You may find recording your hours in a flexi sheet helps, even if you are not taking flexi leave.
  • Before you have a non-working day or days, tell your manager and colleagues about anything on the horizon that they might need to pick up.
  • If you have a team can you delegate more? Are there opportunities for your team arising from your working hours?
  • Everybody has a limit on their time, yours will just happen to be less than fulltime working hours. We all need to prioritise and focus on what matters.

How to improve your visibility

  • Ensure your work objectives provide for visibility and challenge back when you are only given activities that are not visible.
  • Try to be flexible on your working days if on an occasion you are available for a meeting that improves visibility or if not offer suggestions with justification for moving the meeting to a day you are available.
  • Look for opportunities – lead on presenting papers, run a Comms Exchange, write a blog, etc.
  • Chose corporate activities that will provide visibility – choose something you are interested in as you are more likely to increase your impact if you are engaged and interested.
  • Feedback to your manager and your team on your activities/training.
  • Get involved. It is tempting with limited working time to focus solely on your day job, but getting engaged in wider activity helps you to be visible and helps your chances of moving roles / progressing. Part-time staff should have corporate objectives too, just tailored to their working hours.

Performance Management

Objective setting

Make sure your objectives reflect your working pattern. You should consider:

  • Comparing your objectives to those of your full-time colleagues. If the workload is similar, discuss with your line manager how they can better reflect your working pattern.
  • Don’t be afraid to discuss with your manager if you feel your objectives don’t take into account your part-time status.
  • Make sure your objectives are qualitative as well as quantitative.
  • Try to ensure your objectives are challenging but realistic within your working pattern.
  • Make sure you agree revised objectives if you reduce (or increase) your hours in a current post.
  • Make sure your corporate objective is also adjusted to your part-time status e.g. a rough 5-10% of your working hours rather than 5-10% of a full-time work week.
  • Consider asking what extra would be included in objectives for FT equivalent.
  • Make sure one of more of your objectives will help to improve your visibility.
  • Have regular discussions and review of work objectives and priorities.
  • Get regular feedback – this can help judge how realistic your objectives are.
  • Don’t be afraid to challenge any feedback or reviews where you feel your working pattern has not been taken into account.
  • Record evidence – have a spreadsheet to log activities or use tasks in Outlook so you can look back at those you’ve completed.
  • Be open and honest about your other commitments and how flexible you can be.
  • Discuss career development – it is not on hold because you are part-time!

Tips to focus on your development and training

  • Block out time for training/personal development in your calendar.
  • Plan ahead your training needs, prioritise with your line manager.
  • Negotiate deadlines and/or hand over urgent tasks to colleagues to keep training commitments.
  • Be creative – it doesn’t have to be courses or e-learning, perhaps job shadowing or coaching would suit your working pattern better.
  • Short courses may be better than long courses.
  • Seek opportunities that are strategic and provide opportunities for development.
  • Take a day in lieu if you attend a course on a non-working day.
  • Remember to take opportunities to develop and/or train. Part-time staff should get their share of the 5 days a year development time that full-time staff are encouraged to take.

Seek out the advice of others

Seek out other part-time workers to find out how they make their working pattern a success (or not) and what they’ve learned along the way. You could consider:

  • Joining a Part-time Network, which can offer support and advice.
  • Look for a buddy outside of your team who you can share experiences and advice with.

Changing jobs or working pattern

Tips for moving roles

  • Use your contacts and the networks (part-time and women’s) to help identify potential part-time roles.
  • Consider job share opportunities – make use of the civil service job share finder
  • Carefully read the job advert and/ talk to the recruiting manager if you wish before you apply.
  • Don’t be afraid to sell the benefits of part-time working (it helps people get very good at prioritising and managing their time, may mean you have more energy, are happier and more productive when you are working) and to challenge negative attitudes.
  • Ask the manager if they considered splitting the role – a job share, two part-time staff or delegating an aspect of the role to make another role more interesting or stretching.
  • Make sure as far as possible the job would be suitable for your needs e.g. will the role involve a lot of travel?
  • Make sure you ask the recruiting manager about information in the advert that seems off-putting – it may be that they’ve said something to make the role sound exciting and in reality there may be flexibility!
  • You can also apply for a role that is advertised as full-time role and then explore and negotiate the part-time possibilities, including whether a job share would work if there’s a genuine need for 5 day a week cover.
  • Use past feedback to support your case for how you deliver in your time.

Applying to change your working pattern

All employees who have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks have the legal right to request flexible working (not just parents and carers). There are many different informal flexible working arrangements as well, in addition to part-time working which is contractual. Your organisation may have a specific application form that you can use.

The right to request flexible working form: sections 3 and 4 of the form ask you to think about what effect your change in working pattern will have both on the work that you do and on your colleagues. This is an opportunity to pre-empt any concerns your employer may have and suggest potential solutions.

Things to consider:

  • If you have the flexibility, consider times which will have least impact on your team.
  • how will your work be delivered? Could an aspect of the role be delegated to make another role more interesting or stretching? Or are there things you could stop doing?
  • don’t be afraid to sell the benefits of changing your working hours, it could make you happier, healthier and more productive – all of which benefits the organisation as well as the individual.

Part-time in communications

There are challenges that communications part-time workers may additionally face.

A role in communications can be reactive and fast-paced; your working week can often be spent dealing with unforeseen work. As a part-time worker, it can be challenging to manage your regular workload and respond to urgent work.

  • tips: agree time in your diary with your line manager to catch up on emails and plan how you will get up to date with routine work

It can be discouraging if a communications activity/event that you have lead on e.g. ministerial visits, media briefing or stakeholder reception is moved to your non-working day.

  • tip: be flexible – If this is a crucial development milestone for you, consider swapping a non-working day. Alternatively, you could work closely with a ‘buddy’ in planning the activity/event. They could deliver the event confidently in your absence.

Part-time staff may feel confident planning a campaign but may find it challenging to keep on top of campaign delivery 5 days a week if you are not in a job share

  • Tip: buddy with a colleague who can manage campaign delivery when you’re out of the office.

some communications roles require working outside of normal hours – such as Media team (duty press officer,) or Visits teams (long ministerial visits, overnight travel or late stakeholder events). This can be particularly difficult when managing childcare arrangements.

  • Tip: planning ahead is crucial:
    • get involved where possible with event planning
    • can you attend the recce of a visit or stakeholder event? Can you support the event planning in any other way? If you are working from home, maybe you can remotely offer support during the event?

Achieving the amount of CPD required by CIPR and GCS while working part-time:

  • tip: when you are trying to complete your CPD for the CIPR (which should feed into the GCS CPD)
    • make sure you block out time in your diary and
    • don’t miss out on your yearly required points because you haven’t allowed yourself time

Where to find support

Contact your local HR team for advice:

  • see if your department has a part-time network to seek advice and get support
  • or join the GCS part-time network and get involved in the part-time project

Studies have shown that working reduced hours can help to increased physical and mental health, increase happiness and boost productivity. Read UK working lives.