Flexible working for an architect: ask the expert

My son is now 10mths old & I was hoping to go back to work part-time. Unfortunately my employer could only offer me full-time return to work. I was gutted. I  need to work due to our financial situation, but I also want to spend time with my son. The industry I work in – architecture is not kind to part time work! What can I do to return to work. Ideally I want to work three days a week or do a five hour day. What could I possibly do? Re-train to do something else? If I do find work, I can’t get guaranteed childcare at the drop of a hat. Is there anyone out there who can help/advise me on this. I’m sure there must be plenty of mums who go through the same dilemma I am experiencing. There doesn’t appear to be much flexible working  out there for professionals. Thank you.


As you say, it’s relatively rare to find part-time employment in architecture (though obviously some employers do offer it).  There aren’t any obvious reasons apart from the culture of the profession – the job’s no more complicated to organise on a part-time basis than many others. I think it would be worth digging a little more into your employer’s reasons for needing you to return to work on a full-time basis.

There’s just a possibility that if you understood what’s bugging them, you’d be able to suggest a way round the problem which allows you to work part-time.  If your employer thinks they need someone at your level on a full-time basis because the work’s there to do, is there a chance they might be persuaded to allow you to bring in a jobshare partner (two for the price of one, wonderful!!)?  If so, you’d have to do all the legwork – finding someone in the right area with the right skill set and with the communication skills to make it work.

Alternatively, if there isn’t as much work around as your employer would like, could you persuade them part-time work for you will reduce the company’s expenses during what will be a rocky few years, while retaining a loyal employee who’s already got strong relationships with customers, suppliers etc? If you can’t persuade the employer to allow a job share or (for the next couple of years) part-time working, then is there any chance they’d agree to use you as a freelance and help you find other sources of freelance work?  Obviously, you’d need to suss out in advance whether working as a freelance would provide you with enough paid hours of work and enough notice to arrange childcare.

If you can’t negotiate an acceptable deal with your employer, then you might like to consider trying for posts in the public sector or not for profit sector – both are more receptive to the idea of “family friendly” working than many private sector organisations are.  Although there’s a job squeeze on in the public sector, it’s huge enough for there to be some jobs on offer. I wouldn’t recommend you try to launch your own practice in times this hard, particularly not when you want “family time” with your son. I’d suggest you try to stay within the profession if you can, rather than look for something new.  Part-time professional work is always very hard to find.  If you stay within architecture, you’ll be able to benefit from your networks with past customers, bosses, professional training bodies etc; you lose out on all these potential sources of help in finding a new job if you move out.


Comments [4]

  • Alexander says:

    We are looking for a part-time registered architect in London. We are a young practice (two years running) based in Dalston, and also working in Berlin. If you are needing to work flexible hours or 2/3 days a week, please get in touch with us. Please email us at hello@studio8fold dot com !

  • Lesley says:

    Second note, all architect mums fed up, have you thought about teaching? The hours are friendly and the school holidays would work for you. Probably less stressful too and decent enough salary. They are crying out for teachers. Its never too late, my friend recently started a course lst year at age 55 so please never beleive you are too old. I had that misconcept too and its easy to feel trapped but its never too late to retrain and do something else. Good Luck

  • Anonymous says:


    So glad to see a post about this. am an architect, 43 years old and have two small kids, 3 and 5. I find it extremely difficult to find enough time for my kids. I started working in a company last year, in a senior role. I had my review recently and was openly told, that they are happy with my knowledge etc.. but that I could not do my job in a senior position because I work 8 hr per day, I do not have hours to put in that are required from a project manager… If I take lunches, which I love it gives me some head clearing space to have an hour break, I feel I am more productive in the afternoons if I have proper lunch… but I was told that they notice that I am taking my full lunch hour where I should perhaps work to show how dedicated I am…. `the overtime like in all companies is not paid, overtime is not announced, I am constantly pushed and definitely made feel guilty for not working as much as my colleagues, who are much younger without kids and mostly males or females without kids. I understand the point of view of my employer as well but I just wish I had nothing to do with architecture. This is perhaps the most family unfriendly profession on earth… I resent it, resent 6 years of studying, 15 years of crazy working hours until 3-4 am, crazy trips, deadlines, stress, low pay…. and when you need support no one is there… I am hoping to do something else but not sure at all what, I am also scared that I might be old to change professions, but also I am afraid to start from 20.000 again.. I just recently managed to earn 40K, so going back to junior position in something else is so hard. Not to mention the mortgage, kids schools, childcare… for us me working part time is not an option, my husband is self employed and one of us needs to hold full time job. we are also trying to sell our flat in order to buy a 3 bed house, we need to earn as much…it is a vicious circle…and I am just spinning

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi, I am in a similar situation. I am too an architect and have two children, 10 & 8. I took 8 years out and managed to find a part time job with a local architecture firm for 20 mths before being made redundant, last March.

    I have contacted everyone locally but there are no jobs. I am not willing to commute to London as I still pick the children up from school and have no childcare support, and I do not want the long hours.

    I love being an architect but being out the profession for a few years, I feel & need to be in an office with other professionals and not work for myself, just to catch up with the constant changes in the building profession.

    I am also considering changing career but not sure what I want to do and do not want to undertake another degree or long period of training. It is tough being in the building industry.

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