Papa full-time, boss part-time: How to create compatibility

Papa full-time, boss part-time: How to create compatibility

A manager who works part-time, cares for the children twice a week and performs well in the team and the company? This is seen at OTTO.

4/9/2019 By Linda Gondorf Reading time: 5 Minutes
"Monday is generally blocked for appointments in my calendar. There is a big blocked space marked ‘Kids’." This is how Diedrich Bremer often explains his part-time model. A few years ago he applied for an 80 percent job at OTTO in order to spend more time with his family. It is important to mention here: Diedrich is in management.

Full-time focused work, the steep career path always in the forefront of their mind with the wife at home taking care of the children: "My wife would never have wanted it that way," Diedrich Bremer says over coffee in the cafeteria. The division manager in Consulting has found a different working time model for himself and his family. Diedrich works part-time, is in the home office on Mondays and picks up his children twice a week from the nursery. "Our children are now five and a half and three and a half years old. My wife and I have been working part-time since our little one started at the nursery - meanwhile it is at 90 percent again. This is the best way to reconcile work and family."
In the first few years, Diedrich and his wife, who also works for OTTO, shared their 80 percent positions so that both had one and a half days off during the week. This enabled them to plan time for their household and themselves. “In recent months, we have given up the free morning for ourselves and picked up the kids in the afternoon." Diedrich took parental leave in the first few months, but one aspect is clear to him: The first few months with a child are important, but in his opinion, a long-term effect is only achievable using a model such as part-time work. "When you divide it up as partners, you need a working time model where father and mother are consistently satisfied." What does Diedrich do when he is at home? "There are several matters put on the agenda for Monday. There are sports, then doctor appointments, things to do left over from the weekend, picking up children from the nursery, reading and housework. There are many everyday issues, a relaxed day."

"When you divide it up as partners, you need a working time model where father and mother are consistently satisfied."

Diedrich Bremer is Head of Consulting at the Otto Group

Diedrich and his wife quickly returned to the classic 100 percent position with the first child. A very vulnerable undertaking, because children become ill, daycare centres close and the grandparents do not live nearby either. "You may be able to get the regular schedule to work 100 percent, but exceptions are the rule and suddenly you are not able to do justice to a full-time job - and that again is a question of your own value system. You always deliver less than you promised and that feels silly, at least that is how it is with me. Then you should simply say that you are reducing working time for a period and do justice to both," explains Diedrich. But is it possible for an area manager to leave earlier two days a week or not to be there at all? Can you be a boss without being constantly present?

Thoughts revolve in your mind

Some fathers today still find it difficult to admit that commitment to children and family is important to them - especially to their employers*. Diedrich has also had discussions with his wife. "We have talked a lot about it, and at first I really distanced myself from it. My initial reaction to the idea of going part-time meant me giving up all my professional ambitions. Today I believe that this thinking is above all something social, something that has been exemplified to us and that we first have to remove again." The 38-year-old never thought that 80 percent of him would no longer be able to perform his duties sensibly. He was more concerned with the signal he was sending: "I was afraid of being sidetracked. That was only resolved through joint discussions. And of course I also saw how unequal it actually was when one party was at home and the other was working. Then the question quickly arose: “Why can't each have a bit of both?'" The couple recognized that the part-time model was the key to their individual happiness. Diedrich's boss had no problem with the proposed arrangement. Discussion closed.

When communication between male managers and employees on part-time work is to change, courageous people are required to initiate it. At least Diedrich did not have a bad feeling when it came to his team. "The assumption that some people have in mind that employees are completely disoriented without the boss is just not true and is nonsense."

"Enabling" Teams

Teams work independently and tasks are spread across as many shoulders as possible. This is especially the case in day-to-day business as the manager often sits in appointments, attends conferences and besides there is no obligation to be present in the office. "I got into the situation of having to distribute and relinquish tasks pretty quickly. The team has also become more independent as a result. This works very well the context of my activities in project business." Diedrich is also available for his team on days off. That is important to him as a division manager. When major appointments cannot be arranged otherwise, he comes in and postpones his day off. When the team is entrusted with an agile working environment, management as Diedrich practises it, should be the norm.
It is still a rarity in many companies for men to work less than 100 percent. According to the Federal Statistical Office, in 2017 the part-time rate of employed women with under-age children was 66.5 per cent, while the rate for men was six per cent. Diedrich has noticed for himself how well life is enhanced by a certain flexibility and how important it is to divide family time and working hours equally.

"How do you feel about New Work?"

"I myself am a beneficiary of this flexibility. And I find impressive how much has been transformed here at OTTO. I really appreciate this very much and am a great supporter of it." In a number of aspects though Diedrich misunderstands New Work. “It is not an end in itself It is about cultural change, about organisational development and above all about a reorganisation of work, which is the most relevant step. We must be able to think cross-functionally and become even quicker. This requires fewer large decision sessions, less internal occupational therapy and more decisions," says Diedrich.

At the same time, however, New Work also means for him that job and work in a modern society need to be reconciled. Best example: Family life is more important today than it was in the past for many fathers. Accordingly, work models are important today that also offer flexibility to fathers. The company also benefits as a result: "It was important for me to understand how much valuable time I could gain for my family with this model and that this clearly outweighed the loss of salary and the coordination effort required."
How much space should and may personal time take up in everyday life? Diedrich has found his model, where he has time with his family and still does not lose sight of his ambitions at work.

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