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Part time / job share in big four firm

(31 Posts)
TheWaterHorse Wed 02-Feb-11 23:50:40

Does anyone have any experience of making part time / job sharing work as a fee earner in a big four professional services firm?

I'm trying to think through how pt / js might work before applying to reduce my hours; therefore it would be great to hear how others have made this work.

slhilly Wed 02-Feb-11 23:53:47

I know of someone who does it 3 days / wk at a Big 4. Not an auditor, on the consultancy side (niche). Has worked fine -- but she made conscious decision not to push for partnership, whereas she had previously been a high-flier. If you ask some more specific Qs, I can give you some more specific As!

ZenNudist Thu 03-Feb-11 09:52:54

You stole my thread idea, I am wrestling with same quandary! I work in a project based advisory role (on mat leave atm) thinking of going back ft (but 'only' 9-5 iyswim) as ultimately I do not want to do full time hours for a part time wage which is what seems to happen to others in my firm.

What role do you do? Would love to talk more about this. Big 4 such an unforgiving environment, lots of scope to take reduced hours (esp in tax and audit) but I don't see how you meet client deadlines when pt unless you have very good support.

TheWaterHorse Thu 03-Feb-11 11:16:09

I look after a list of clients plus do some ad hoc projects. Most of the time my work could be spread out to fit into a 3 day week (which would be my ideal) but when there is a big project or more urgent work, it would be harder.

Work have indicated informally that a 4 day week might be acceptable but 3 days not acceptable. Therefore I was trying to consider if a job share might work instead - I know someone who does the same job as me who would be willing but the question is how to organise it.

One way would be for us both to play key role on the same clients - this would give a lot of duplication and extra costs.

The other way might be for us both to have separate clients but provide some back-up to each other. I could see how this could work with small pieces of work, but could be harder with a bigger piece of work - would one person stop half way and the other person finish it?

TheWaterHorse Thu 03-Feb-11 11:19:56

Zen - I agree with your point about doing full time hours on a part time wage, but I think this will happen to some extent whatever hours are agreed. E.g., I used to regularly work 6 days on my 5 day wage. Similarly, I would expect 5 days work for 4 days pay and 4 days work for 3 days pay - seems to be the nature of the job. sad

The way I see it, if I work 3 days, this gives me 4 more days to fit my day's overtime in,whereas if I work 5 days, I only have 2 days to fit my day's overtime in.

ZenNudist Thu 03-Feb-11 18:49:07

Ha I like that way of thinking re overtime.

I don't know anyone who job shares for the reasons you outline (duplication of effort non-billable!). Generally pt workers ensure that every client or project team has a junior staff member who can 'act up' on the pt person's non working day. So if you can organize this support then a job share not necessary.

I have acted in supporting role to my pt coworker for several years and she is now talking about her supporting me on my return to work. Practically this means picking up work and running with it when she's not available. We maintain an interest in each others work so we can be knowledgeable if called on suddenly and have received good client feedback for continuity of service. Downside is that there is always an element of 'the buck stops here' where there is only one of us that knows the answer/ can ok the final deliverable. So we essentially keep things moving or handle the client until the issue is resolved. Usually works well, but it isn't a jobshare as we each have our own work.


TheWaterHorse Thu 03-Feb-11 21:06:19

Thanks Zen, that's helpful.

Clients I've worked in the past have had other team members to pick up work when I've been absent. Work are saying that this isn't enough though - even if I were able to take calls on my days off.

I think your idea of providing support rather than a formal job share is the way forward, if we can convince management.

I was thinking that we could give up one or two lunch breaks a week to update each other on ongoing work (without charging for the time) so that we could pick up each other's work more easily when necessary. How do you keep each other updated?

Also, how much contact would you have with your coworker's clients and vice versa? Did the clients know that you were an alternative contact, or did you work on your coworker's clients in the background and use the rest of the team to communicate?


ZenNudist Thu 03-Feb-11 22:13:04

For keeping updated we chat, a lot, over lunchtime coffees or for specific internal things we meet to discuss. Its because we are specialists so genuinely interested and care about it. (downside - not always able to do this if im heinously busy but then she makes sure someone else supports her. We often work on same projects so this helps on giving clients joint details. Also she uses me as an alternate contact so clients getting out of office from her get my contact details and I can always blag it reassure them we take their concerns seriously and it's in hand. grin This works because we are such a small team so usually we have worked on bringing in the work and we have weekly team briefings anyway. When she is off I either delegate up or down the actual project team who can usually deal with it without hassling her as if it's absolutely urgent chances are she deals with it herself so doesn't go through me.

ZenNudist Thu 03-Feb-11 22:34:30

Hmmm thinking more about your position, sounds Like they are being quite harsh, most people aren't fortunate enough to have a willing colleague to provide support as you have. Also sounds like you'd be willing to take calls, check blackberry for emails and review documents on non working days (which every pt-er I've ever known does). Although it doesn't seem very fair.

2 women i know in v.high pressure senior advisory roles work 3 day weeks in the same team. They don't job share but they do take calls for each other, don't have the same days off and generally facilitate each other to have non working days, so there are definitely examples out there, it's just a matter of convincing your partner! Be interested to know how you get on. I go back and forth thinking 'full time, no 4 days...' etc - tis difficult to know how much worse the job would be if I only had 4 days to do it in!

TheWaterHorse Thu 03-Feb-11 22:56:27

Thanks Zen - very useful to get your perspective. I am meeting my colleague tomorrow to discuss how we might work it in more detail before we approach management.

I agree that taking calls etc on non-working days isn't ideal but think will be the trade-off for having the more flexible hours.

Also agree that job could be horrendous with only four days to do it in, probably worse with only 3, but worth a try!

When do you finish mat leave?

LadyBiscuit Thu 03-Feb-11 23:02:48

For those of you thinking of going back 4 days, I'd suggest you do 4 1/2. I and everyone I know who went back 4 days eventually moved to 4 1/2 (with the half being at home). That means you can focus all the office days on clients and do admin on the half day. Obviously you do overtime but it does mean that you don't resent calls/emails on your day off as long as they're in the morning. And with a 20% cut in salary plus 20% fewer holidays, you begin to resent that a bit!

mumtalktalk Fri 04-Feb-11 02:21:02

My friend is a qualified solicitor and used to work for a top 10 ten law firm. She now works for a bank in their legal department 5 days a week. 1 day working from home and she manages to leave the office by 5.30pm and no longer does horrendous long hours. Mums at my DD's school who are qualified solictiors are either stay at home mums (that's if you can afford it or would like to put your career on hold) or work 4 days a week. 3 days in the office and 1 day working from home but actually end up working the 5th day unpaid at home. I guess it's all about compromise. I hope all goes'll have to post the outcome so it can help other mums.

slhilly Fri 04-Feb-11 10:00:01

I'm not sure about 4 days a week at a Big Four, at least not for a client-facing role. It tends to feel too similar to 5 days for your colleagues, and they are disrespectful of it. 3 days a week feels radically different from 5, and so you do the work in a different way, and people tend to be a bit clearer that you are not available on certain days.

The person I know who does this is senior manager level (ie 2 steps away from partner), and I think that makes things easier -- she was already splitting time across multiple clients, so she could work with fewer clients, rather than spend less time at any one of them.

I think the other thing is, you have to be clear with yourself and then assertive with the firm about what your boundaries are. They will (understandably) push, so you've got to know what you really care about and what you don't, or you'll find all the benefits of a part-time role salami-sliced away.

ZenNudist Fri 04-Feb-11 10:59:45

I will go back in either July or September. Am thinking later is fairer on ds, he will be one and I will do ft, it seemed like a good compromise. I like the idea of a 4.5 day week, or more likely I would get a set hours contract to do a certain number of my off days in work, so I can be there for essential project completion or meetings that can't be moved. I'm going to have to talk to colleagues who do this to find out what works. I have been guilty in the past of not respecting off days for pters but often that has been because the person shows themselves to be responsive! I have often said to my colleague she should turn her phone off and ignore it if she doesn't want to be bothered. I can see it's not that easy to ignore work when office life is going on as usual.

The other thing that bothers me is that on a full time salary sometimes working weekends or round the clock (4am finishes anyone?) is necessary, I would expect my staff to still do this but it seems harsh to have to do the same for 20% less money.

LadyBiscuit Fri 04-Feb-11 11:22:46

I think it depends how senior you are if you're prepared to do late nights/weekend working. I still did a fair few when I was on 4 days but went back to 5 (one day working from home) because it irritated me so much!

TheWaterHorse Sat 05-Feb-11 13:38:02

Thanks for everyone's input which is very useful. Our meeting with management has been delayed so it will be a few weeks now before we get to put our proposal forward. I'll update again when I know more.

Bellamehta Tue 15-Feb-11 17:54:17

Hello. I've just come across this thread. I'm working on some research into senior level job shares in professional firms - two of the big four involved.

I know it's not quite in time for your meeting, WaterHorse, but we are producing toolkits eventually to support job sharers and would-be job sharers, HR managers, leaders and organisations with best practice. There are some great job share examples out there. Please do read about the research, take the survey and keep in touch - see Capability Jane

samels001 Tue 15-Feb-11 18:47:05

hi, I think my post was lost. Are you looking at the City investment banks? They talk the talk when it comes to flexible working but really have no clue about implementation.

silver28 Tue 15-Feb-11 18:54:37

I do three days a week for a bug 4 firm. I work in tax and am at manager level. I've never experienced any problems and know lots of people who do similar. I am fairly flexible and I respected the request not to work three days all together (so would be out for four days in a row) (I prefer splitting my days anyway). I check emails regularly but rarely do much with them on my days off.

I'm really happy with my arrangement although I do work in a relatively small office, which may differ to larger offices.

silver28 Tue 15-Feb-11 18:55:06

Big 4, not bug 4!

lucysmum Tue 15-Feb-11 18:59:42

I did it for 5yrs as a nominally part time (4 days per week) partner. Really really hard. Pretty much full time hours, no respect for day off particularly from colleagues, clients never did things when they were meant to etc etc. I sort of snuck in the back door as a part timer when I moved firms and management never really liked it. Eventually threw it up to be a full time mum when I was pregnant with no 3. Sorry !

ZenNudist Tue 22-Feb-11 19:11:23

Just revisited this thread. Am updating my own situation. Have asked for 4 days and changed my hours to start and finish earlier. My boss has been very supportive. He's also said it won't affect my promotion prospects but I think that is unfortunately a lie, he can't say anything different! I've come to the decision to try pt as although my career is important I owe it to myself to try and enjoy family life too and not let work dominate my time as much.

I'll probably change my mind again! Would love to hear more of peoples experiences working pt in similar roles.

fridayschild Wed 23-Feb-11 19:06:11

One of the mums at school does 4 days a week for a Big 4, one of those at home. I don't know much about her role though - she's not a partner - but she does have clients.

She has been doing this for 6 years and is always pretty chilled.

cheggersplaysplop Wed 23-Feb-11 19:52:21

I do 3 days in a reasonably senior client facing role.

It's not working for me and I am about to leave. 4 days was just about manageable with one child, but 3 days and 2 small children doesnt. Something has to give, and for me it's work.

TheWaterHorse Fri 15-Jul-11 21:12:21

Meant to update and forgot. If anyone's still interested...

I went back to work this week. The job share idea fell through and instead I'm back three days a week for six months then up to four days a week after that. The increase is at their request as I'd still prefer three days.

Will see how it goes. I must say I'm not optimisitic.

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