The challenges and benefits of reduced hours in a senior role


Balancing work and family is a constant challenge for many of us mums. My husband and I have two boys and we both work and his job involves quite a bit of overseas travel. Our evenings and weekends are filled to the brim with a myriad of extra-curricular activities and sports including football, hurling, running, swimming and guitar, not forgetting pilates, play-dates and parties to keep me on my toes!

Being able to successfully do everything so that every member of our little family gets their activity is a constant challenge. I am definitely one of the lucky ones, though, as I work for a company that allows me to do my job on a part-time basis, with flexible start and finish times. I work a three-day week spread over four mornings. I am the envy of friends who have not been able to get flexible hours. Frustratingly, I have seen many talented, skilled and clever women throw in the towel and give up great careers simply because they worked for organisations who were scared by the idea of offering flexible working hours.

That said, there are definitely challenges to doing what is effectively, a full-time job on a part-time basis. I work as Head of Marketing & Communications for a great software company called Softworks. It’s a very busy role as I’m in charge of marketing our Workforce Management solutions to organisations across Europe and North America. Here are what I consider to be both the challenges and benefits of my work schedule and hours.

The Challenges

  • Not working when you are supposed to be finished for the day. I’m terrible at keeping off my email in the afternoons – must try harder!
  • Getting out of the office on time. I have to work fast and always use my time carefully. I can never be late leaving the office as I go straight from work to the school gates.
  • Refusing meetings without causing offence. I avoid meetings like the plague, unless they are totally relevant. From time to time I have to excuse myself when the meeting goes off course. Harsh but essential.
  • I’ve so many balls in the air – I could be a professional juggler! Not letting any drop means I have to be super organised and plan ahead.

The Benefits

  • I get to collect my kids from school every day and hang with them all afternoon– it’s amazing the chat and little nuggets of information you get from kids when school’s out.
  • I get to be around for their homework – although I’m not sure that’s a benefit to me, but they certainly like it.
  • If they want to have friends over they can as I’m home – and I can see what they are up to.
  • I have no childcare costs, which is truly amazing as when I worked full time the costs were huge. More than once when they were toddlers the towel was nearly thrown.
  • I can attend school concerts, matches, teacher meetings and help out at school events.

Ultimately for me the benefits outweigh the challenges. I’ve listed a few here, but I could genuinely go on and on. The expression “you will never look back and wish you had worked more” rings true for me. Flexible working gives me greater ownership and control of my time and working hours and enables me to balance my career and my family. It undoubtedly also brings many benefits to businesses, including skilled workers at lower costs due to reduced hours, better retention rates, loyalty, motivation and improved productivity.

*Mairead Walsh is Head of Marketing & Communications at Softworks.

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