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20 February 2017

Bell Pottinger’s Emily Luscombe as part of our series of blogs on the ‘Agile Work Revolution’

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Proud and loud to Work Part Time

Being named in Timewise’s fifth annual Power Part Time 50 has prompted a bit of self-reflection.

The fact is, when I got the email telling me I was in the final, my initial reaction was embarrassment. Yes, embarrassment. I actually cringe admitting this now.

Because I hadn’t told any of my colleagues I had been nominated. It never occurred to me that I might make the final – so assumed that this information would stay comfortably buried, and I could continue to pretend to the outside world that my working practices are ‘normal’.

And why would I feel the need to do this? For the precise reason that Timewise has founded this fantastic initiative. In our corporate world, and in the world of London consultancy particularly, it is still not really acceptable to command a senior position on anything less than five (or perhaps seven) days a week.

For the same reason, I never set my ‘out of office’ on a Wednesday. I check my emails when my toddler is asleep. I manage a portfolio the same size as that of my full time colleagues, and go to pains to ‘switch days’ (thanks to a very accommodating childminder) rather than admit to a client I cannot attend a meeting. Which is ridiculous, when you think about it, because while I am very much working full time on a Wednesday, I am not paid a penny to do so!

What I do recognise is that my need for some level of pretence originates for the most part in my head. Bell Pottinger could not have been more supportive to my returning to work part time. It is me who puts the pressure on to ‘perform’ as a full timer, as if doing otherwise implies I contribute less. My clients have been supportive, prospects are sympathetic. It is generally seen as “a good thing” for senior women to return to work from maternity leave more efficient, creative, and enthusiastic to do their jobs because they are striking the new balance that parenting affords.

I do see that, having somewhat succeeded in striking this balance, I now have a responsibility to advocate this way of working. To stand proud about being in a band of Part Timers who have been held up as the industry’s best. This is great PR for my employer and great PR for me. It shows clients and prospects that I can be best the very best while juggling two equally high pressured jobs. And, as we heard from the Timewise judges this year, these men and women are generally found to contribute more to our businesses than our full time colleagues.

So I am a convert. I’m going to strive for a bit of pride, for me and Bell Pottinger, when congratulated on my work-life juggling achievements. And I might even start using that ‘out of office’.

Emily Luscombe, Deputy Managing Director at Engage by Bell Pottinger