For me, part time working boils down to a simple philosophy: attaining balance in different areas improves performance in all areas – Gunnar Peters, CEO Veygo.
So, who am I?
I’m German, born and raised, and came across the channel before Abitur (German equivalent of A-levels) to experience a new culture and actually learn English (some may question when this will actually start). I met a girl and, after a few years’ long distance, found myself engaged and heading back to the UK to study Maths at Cardiff University. I quickly fell in love with Wales and Cardiff and decided this was where I wanted to settle.
My life in Admiral started as a Pricing Programmer in 2008 and I worked my way up in different functions like New Products, part of large-scale programmes, IT and much more. As you can probably tell by now, I never had a clear vision of what I wanted to do – this continues to the present day. I essentially always wanted to find something that I was good at and then making sure that I like it, not the other way round. My latest adventure is leading Mobility within Admiral Pioneer. I am part of the Admiral Pioneer Leadership team, which is really exciting as we bring the best talent across different industries together to concept and launch new ventures. Mobility is currently synonymous with Veygo, which I have been heading up for nearly a year now. However, Mobility will be broader than Veygo and insurance as we explore electric vehicles, ride sharing, green fleet and mobility as a service. It has its own setup and functional organisation and operates as its own business, which is exciting and we have some very ambitious goals.
In spring 2017, I made the decision that I wanted to go back to University and do a Msc in Applied Statistics. Admiral was kind enough to support this, even though it meant that I would only be in the office for 4 days a week for most of the year, during exam periods even less so. Between deciding on and starting the Applied Statistics course, I applied for the role of Head of Telematics (also known by many as Black Box Insurance), taking over a team of 20 and the Profit and Loss account responsibilities for the product. My 4-day week was acknowledged and supported throughout the interview process and so I started a new role in the same summer as I went back to school after 10 years of no formal education. The following 2 years taught me that being busier than ever before can be energising! Strangely, the stress of one took away from the pressure of the other. It provided me space away from work and thus perspective.
It also helped my team. They knew when I was not in the office and knew that they did not have to run everything past me. Being in the office 4 days a week provided a weird sense of clarity between us all. Reflecting on this time, I realise that this helped the team feel more empowered. The one day out of the office means that the team had to step up to fill the void on those occasions, which I believe enabled them to have increased exposure in the business and to develop their own abilities while knowing that support was available at the end of the phone if they needed it. Several of my direct reports have themselves been promoted into other roles, which would suggest that this process has helped us all.
Everybody who knows me also knows that I struggle to switch off, my mind is always going, and I work very hard. But I have learned the hard way that just like when you work out in the gym too hard for too long, you need recovery periods to continue to perform at the same level over a long time. A 3-day weekend gives additional recovery time and a chance to recharge to bring more energy to the working week. So, in autumn 2019 I asked to formally go to 4 days, while reducing my hours to 90%. It also means I am more present for my 2 children and can actually be of real help with the childcare duties.
I have now been promoted twice since working a 4-day week and it has had multiple benefits to me, my team and family:
· I work hard and, whereas I previously worked myself towards burnout when things got tough, now there is an energy buffer that enables me to step up and carry the team in these moments. Working 4 days gives me enough time to recharge and be there, really there, for my team.
· The extra day also gives me the time to develop myself further. Doing an Msc and creating real space for a coach and mentor to make the most of their valuable input rather than trying to squeeze this in. Having a day off allows time to digest wider reading and previous conversations, allowing space for creative solutions to present themselves in a way that rarely happens in a day packed with meetings.
· The team has more obvious opportunity to step up: delegation is necessary, not an option. This gives development opportunities and empowers the team. Did I mention that many of my direct reports are succeeding in their careers too?
· My Children and wife have more quality time with me (mind you, they may see this as a negative)
· My wife has more freedom because I pick up more of the childcare burden and as a result has taken on additional responsibilities in work.
· I keep my lightness and unique character for work and home equally, reducing the risk of mood swings.
Admiral have even set up a new initiative to embrace new Ways of Working (WoW) that give even more flexibility in where and how we can work. The idea will be for our business to run in a hybrid working environment with people at home and people in the office at the same time. There will be a lot of testing and learning as we go, but it’s a really exciting project and I’m looking forward to seeing the changes that are made in the future.
If you consider reducing your hours, working different times to others or dropping a day here is some advice from me:
Understand why you want to do it. How will it benefit you, your family, your team, your career? Creating this clarity will help you feel confident enough to ask. There is still a stigma that reducing your hours or the number of days you work means you are not ambitious, you want to step back, you are disengaged, etc. This stigma is likely internal as well as external: challenge the little voice in the back of your mind that doubts what can be achieved by part-timers! But if you understand why you are asking then you can tell a true story, you can ask with conviction and you know how you will measure the success of the change.
If you decide, like me, to drop a day, make sure you drop it fully. No access to work! The team can always reach you on the phone if they truly need something from you, but otherwise, you are off. Do this for a few months as otherwise it is difficult to get the benefit you desire. And make sure you enjoy the day and achieve what you wanted to on that day. For me, it was self-development and doing the school runs to spend time with the kids. What is yours?