Business

The men who choose to work part-time

Rob playing with his children
Image caption Rob says he ignores the stigma of men working part-time

Rob Sinclair remembers the moment when he asked to go part-time at work.

"There were a few eyebrows raised when I suggested it," the 33-year-old dad-of-two recalls. "I think it was a big surprise to people."

Rob's career had always been successful and demanding. As a forensic accountant in Birmingham, he specialised in large scale corporate fraud and corruption, a career which took him to far flung corners of the world often at short notice.

His wife works for the same company and her job is just as demanding.

But with two small boys under five, the couple realised that something had to give.

"It was just proving too much of a challenge for us to keep both our careers progressing as they had been whilst also making sure we actually spent time with the boys."

It is a scenario that will sound familiar to many couples juggling work and family. But it was Rob who decided to cut his hours.

"It seemed to make sense for me to move down to working part-time, to give me more time for the boys, let my wife continue with her career and allow more time for me to write."

Rob was the first full-time male in his department to seek part-time work.

"There definitely is a stigma, but I ignore it,"

"Certainly I have had a lot of raised eyebrows within the office from some of the more senior men in the organisation and I am sure there have been whispers about it. But it doesn't affect me at all as it is something I decided to do and my wife supports me."

'More relaxed'

Since October last year, he has been working three days a week and is now the main carer for their two children. The move has also allowed him to develop his passion for writing thrillers. He has a book due out in spring.

Although he has had a small income from his writing, the family, from Sutton Coldfield, has had to make do with less income. It has not been easy, but Rob believes in the long term it will be worth it as his wife can dedicate herself to climbing the corporate career ladder. He also hopes his writing career will take off.

So far, he says he has absolutely no regrets, "I feel much more relaxed, life is on a more even keel.

That is exactly what Richard Steele had in mind when he went part time.

Image caption Richard believes life is more fulfilling now he takes Fridays off

He had been working flat out in retail for 10 years and decided to change his pace of life.

"With emails, tablets and mobile phones it meant there was no barrier to when work finished," explains Richards.

He now works as finance director for the frozen foods business, Cook, based in Kent. He takes Fridays off.

"It is a sort of transition from a very busy week to re-charging and having time for me and to build-up again so that I can spend quality time with the family at the weekend."

Those extra hours also allow him to really enjoy time with his three boys at the weekend as well as do voluntary work, including a role as a school governor.

Richard sees it as flexible working instead of part-time.

It is women, of course, who do the vast majority of part-time work. But more and more men are choosing to do fewer hours.

The number of men choosing to work part-time has tripled since 1995. Over the past two years the pace has picked up with the figure leaping 100,000.

It now stands at 994,000, according to the Office for National Statistics.

"This is the future of work as we know it and it is refreshing. Those who choose to work flexibly - be it reducing their hours or increasing their home working - are shaking up the status quo for both businesses and employees," says Karen Mattison, the joint chief executive of Timewise.

Image caption Pensioner Bernard works 18 hours a week for extra cash

Her organisation helps businesses and workers to work flexible hours.

"The challenge we face is debunking the myth of the outdated perception of what flexible working means and for whom. Just as there is no one reason for needing flexibility, there is no one gender who needs it either," she says.

Extra income

But according to the Office for National Statistics, it is older men who are driving this trend.

Some 38% of those choosing to work part-time are men in their 50-60s.

Most of the men who choose to work fewer hours are in public administration - which includes the vast majority of public sector workers - education and health. Banking, finance, insurance and other business services is the second most popular area followed by distribution, retail, hotels and restaurants.

Opting for part-time work is something that older men may find easier to do.

Bernard Brody could have retired two years ago after a long and varied career, latterly in the motor trade.

But he chooses to work three six-hour days at B&Q in Stockport and loves it.

"The money helps and I can't sit around doing nothing," Bernard chirps as he helps customers find what they are looking for.

Bernard has no intention of stopping anytime soon. And there are seven others aged over 65 working alongside him.

Bernard, Rob and Richard are three men with very different personal stories about why they chose to work part-time.

They also give a glimpse into how the way we work is changing in today's demanding world.

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