While writing up her thesis, Postdoctoral Researcher Nikki Newhouse gives us an insight into her experience of working part-time, advising the use of career development resources and highlighting the importance of maintaining social relationships with colleagues.
This is the second in a series of case-studies of part-time working in the department, put together by the Family Friendly (including returning carers) and Part-Time Staff Better Workplace Group.
What is your part time working pattern?
I am employed to work three days per week in the Department. Currently, I am writing up my PhD and the relative flexibility of my working pattern allows me to adjust which days I work according to current deadlines. However, I try to keep to the same days every week, for the sake of routine and to be able to plan effectively.
Why did you decide to work part time?
I was offered the opportunity to undertake a full time PhD at UCL, with the option to work in NDPCHS a maximum of 1 day per week, in accordance with my MRC funding. The opportunity to work very part time in my old role was hugely valuable, not just financially but I also saw it as an important way of staying connected to colleagues and opportunities. When my doctoral funding stopped, I was offered the opportunity to take on an exciting new part time role in NDPCHS, working three days per week, which I jumped at.
What things did you consider when deciding whether or not to work part time?
The decision to work part time was an obvious one for me: it allowed me to supplement a doctoral stipend while maintaining important professional and personal contacts. However, I did consider carefully how I would manage my time and ensure that neither my doctoral nor my Oxford work suffered as a result.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of working part time?
For that reason, part time work has been an overwhelmingly positive experience, and has allowed me to access multiple resources and opportunities. It keeps working life fresh and interesting too!
My situation is a little unique in that I’m effectively working full time across 2 institutions, doing 2 completely different jobs, albeit in related fields. For that reason, part time work has been an overwhelmingly positive experience, and has allowed me to access multiple resources and opportunities. It keeps working life fresh and interesting too! A disadvantage is one of recognising that it is extremely difficult to compartmentalise professional roles. Deadlines and correspondence can’t be postponed, so it is important to be able to prioritise and juggle.
Another disadvantage is that I don’t necessarily feel like I am part of an established group within the department.
How do you feel working part time has affected your career development?
I think that, ultimately, it has been an advantage in that I have been able to apply aspects of both of my roles to the other, which has undoubtedly enriched my professional skill set. Working in this way has been personally and professionally challenging but I also know that I am now able to do more than I would have been able to, had I stuck with one role. I have a far broader perspective and understanding of some of the key issues impacting on my field of research.
It has often been difficult to connect with the right people and resources and I have sometimes felt unsupported or overlooked.
However, it has been difficult to ‘embed’ myself within a group of people in the department as I am not a regular ‘face’ or known entity, and therefore it has often been difficult to connect with the right people and resources and I have sometimes felt unsupported and overlooked.
What things do you think have or might facilitate your career development as a part time worker?
It is critically important to have a line manager who recognises the challenges of working part time and who proactively works with you to mitigate any disadvantages this might bring. I think this is particularly true for early career researchers.
What is the top piece of advice you would give to someone considering working part time?
Working part time is very rewarding, particularly if you are also working elsewhere. However, it’s important to make use of career development resources, especially mentoring support.
Those little chats while making tea are the glue of a good working environment and you need to make time to create those opportunities.
Also, it can be easy to see your limited time at work as being just that, limited, and therefore it is easy not to prioritise things like socialising with colleagues. Those little chats while making tea are the glue of a good working environment and you need to make time to create those opportunities.
What to read next
17 January 2019
Reflecting on her experiences of working part-time with two small children, Associate Professor Sara Shaw advises garnering support from your team, working flexibly and being realistic about what can be achieved is key to making it work.