Stuart Clarke is one of a steadily growing number of men to make the Timewise Power Part Time list. He is optimistic that it is getting easier for men to ask for reduced hours as relationships between men and women become more equal and discussions about working life become more open.
Stuart works four days a week as a Principal at management consultancy A.T. Kearney. There is now another male colleague who works a similar pattern. He’s also spoken to several other dads who are interested in more flexible work patterns. He says the main concerns they have are financial and to a lesser degree career progression.
Stuart has worked at A.T. Kearney for five years, three of which have been part-time and far from his career suffering, he has been promoted since he went part time.
When he joined he had one child in nursery and one in school. His wife was working three days a week. Everything was going fine until they hit a childcare problem. Stuart asked if he could reduce his days to four a week. Initially he thought this would be for a short time until his daughter started school. His proposal was discussed by the Partners, who were very supportive. Stuart thought carefully how it could work best for all involved. He took Mondays off as Fridays were important to connect with people in the office.
He says of his decision: ‘It was a risk. I lost a fifth of my salary and my career could have suffered, but I succeeded in being promoted within two years.’ Indeed at his promotion interview he was asked about how he made it work. ‘The interview panel saw it as a positive that I could prioritise and manage my team with a flexible arrangement,’ he says.
Although his part-time hours were initially for a year, the pattern has worked very well so he has extended it on an annual basis. ‘I check in with HR every year, but there has never been any question from the firm that I would not be able to extend it. The onus is on me,’ he says, adding that he will probably go full time again when his children are older.
Stuart agrees that it takes ‘a degree of prioritisation and planning to make it work’. He checks in on a Monday morning and never plans critical team meetings on Mondays, although he can be flexible if necessary. However, he says that is the exception rather than the rule.
Clients are quite accommodating if he makes his work pattern known as early as possible. One recent client even highlighted his flexible working as an example of how forward thinking AT Kearney was. It doesn’t always work for all types of projects and all clients, though.
Stuart is also a ‘Flexible Work Champion’ at A.T. Kearney. ‘As a firm we have some very good policies for men and women who want to work flexibly for all sorts of reasons. The challenge is communicating these. I wanted to help with this, explaining how it works in practice,’ he says. He does presentations to staff and says this has provoked a lot of conversations about different approaches to working. Many consultants he talks to think their only option is to move out of consulting if they want to reduce their hours. He shows them it is possible to do the job on less than full-time hours. A.T. Kearney has 180 employees in the UK, 18 per cent of whom have a formal flexible working agreement.
Stuart’s children are now aged ten and eight so he has Mondays during school hours to himself. He likes that as it means he can focus totally on the family at weekends. On Mondays he meets friends and does some sport, some family organisation for the week ahead and then is around to pick up the children after school. Before he went part time he worked abroad a lot and typically would fly out on Mondays and get back on Thursdays then spend Fridays in the office. That meant he would not see his children between Monday and Friday bar the odd Friday working from home. ‘It’s been quite special getting to see more of the family, so I feel fortunate about being able to work flexibly,’ he says.