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Wanting to reduce hours in very male/non-parent-friendly company

(3 Posts)
LeftoverCrabsticks Tue 28-Feb-17 14:14:01

I work in IT, so it's very male dominated, in fact I don't work with any other women and only see one very occasionally as part of my role. I took a career break for 8 years after having DC2, and had another two children. I returned to work a year ago for an entirely different company, but same sort of role. Not for the money, but because I was utterly depressed, lonely and losing all sense of my own identity and self worth.

Since returning to work I've got a lot of my self esteem back, I find the children a lot less stressful and I'm nowhere near as lonely. Except I don't want to be working full time, at least for the next year or so. I want a four day week until my youngest (3) starts school in September next year. So it's not a forever request and as I've been here over a year I'd like to think I'm not taking the p* by asking.

Unfortunately my team is entirely male, mostly under 30 (no parents, no understanding or interest in children) and only my manager is older and he does not have children although I think he wanted to. He is not very tolerant at all of any requests related to working from home or anything outside of core hours. I make very, very, very few requests like this, maybe 3-4 in the last year, others make a lot more which he randomly grants depending on his mood. He wants everyone in the office, all the time.

Other managers in the company are a lot more flexible - some teams I meet up with work from home half the week if they need to or have reduced hours. Trouble is, I don't have the skills (or even close, it's not transferable without an entirely new degree!) for those other teams as it's a different sort of IT - my team is the only one that uses my particular skills.

Personally I think I could do my job in a four day week. My boss will disagree on principle. I can't do compressed hours because of the limitations of childcare (or I can't compress them enough to still do 37.5.. maybe 34) or I'd not see the children in the evenings then which defeats the purpose.

It's a large company (~1000 employees) so a reasonably sized HR department. They know my manager well as he's been with the company forever. Would they respect my confidentiality if I went to them for advice? Is there anything I should be careful not to say when talking to HR?

Has anyone been through something similar in a male dominated environment?

Thanks for reading!

B1rdonawire Tue 28-Feb-17 14:22:34

I would get together your case for why you think you can cover your role within the hours you're asking for. Try and think of all the possible objections and draft out your solutions. Then go to HR and ask if you can have an informal discussion, to see whether you have put together everything a line manager "should" need when making a decision about parental flexible working.

TBH, I work in a similar field and have found that the preponderance of young male colleagues can be a distinct advantage because none of them are making similar requests, so line managers aren't having to balance out 5 parental flex requests in a team at once!

The bottom line, as you well know, is they don't have to agree if they think it would have an adverse impact on the business. So get as much together as you can in terms of compelling evidence, and then if you want to appeal you'll have good data to back it up with.

Also, think if there is a "next best" option to your 4 day week that you might accept as a compromise, such as a 9 day fortnight, where you work around half an hour extra for 9 days in order to get the 10th one off (with no drop in salary)? Or I suppose start off by asking for a 3 day week and let him negotiate you back to a 4 day week grin

LeftoverCrabsticks Tue 28-Feb-17 15:06:36

Thank you for your very useful reply! I'll have to have a very good think about the case I can make. It's tricky as my manager does not keep very close tabs on me, but maybe that could work in my favour too. I honestly can't see that it would have an adverse effect beyond me not physically being around but most days people barely talk to me about work, I'm kind of left to my own devices.

You could be right about there not being much competition among my other colleagues for flexible working requests! That said, I'm one of the more senior ones (and I have a direct report) which makes things a little more tricky.

Even a nine day fortnight would be brilliant, although if it was a result of compressed hours, due to train times it would mean the extra expense of Breakfast Club 18 days a month x 3 children which would end up costing more than unpaid for that time, so I'd push for the fewer hours every time. I'm already taking half hour lunches rather than the full hour, amazed he lets me do that really.

I was just thinking, there's always the worry for every person who requests this that if they are able to do their job in the reduced hours, there's no business case for going full time again.. that could be problematic.

Sorely tempting to ask for three days just to see what happens, heh! Frustratingly I just got rejected for a job with those hours (further away, but for a lot more pay than I'm on here full time) due to genuine bad luck with the questions in the telephone screening. Sod's law the interviewer asked questions almost entirely about something fairly uncommon I'd not come across before (although it's easily learnable) so I came across as useless which I am far from. That's why I'm posting here today as I realised how much I longed to not be full time in the short term, and I need to do something about it and this is the only option left!

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