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Management
Law partner and mother? Do a split shift
From the Financial Times of Sun, 21 Dec 2014 12:49:23 GMT

A 4.45am weekday start has become the norm for Jenny Afia, a partner at law firm Schillings. She works what has been dubbed the “split shift” after having her first child 11 months ago. By dividing her working day into three sections, she can keep pace with her full-time career while spending mornings and early evenings with her daughter.

Logging on at 5am, Ms Afia puts in two hours of work before playing with her daughter and taking her to nursery in time to arrive at the office by 9.15am. She finishes the main part of her working day at 5pm to pick up her daughter and put her to bed. She then spends at least part of her evening checking emails or on conference calls with US clients, and is out with clients once or twice a week. “It is like working nine-to-seven but the five-to-seven is done in the morning instead of the end of the day,” she explains.

As partner, Ms Afia has the freedom to set her own timetable, and says she always knew she would continue to work long hours after she returned from her 12-week maternity leave. Working a “split shift” seemed obvious. “There is no way I could do a job at my level nine-to-five.”

She says the early pre-dawn hours were the obvious “dead time” during her day. These “golden hours”, free of distractions means she uses the time to do valuable proactive thinking rather than just fielding emails. “It is my most efficient and productive time of the day,” she explains.

However, her morning gym sessions are no longer, and she admits that surviving on between three and six hours’ sleep can be tough. Tough too was losing the kudos of getting into the office early, while leaving at 5pm made her feel “weird”. Is it worth it? “I get to have the best of both worlds,” she says decisively.

Striking a deal from a bad position

Negotiating from a position of power is not all it is cracked up to be. In fact, going into negotiations without the luxury of a vaguely tolerable plan B can free you up to achieve a better deal, according to research published in Psychological Science. Having no fallback — not even a weak one — makes you braver in asking for more because you are not constrained by the “anchoring effect” of a poor alternative option.

“Anchoring” is the tendency to rely too heavily on one piece of information when making judgments. The lower the bar has been set, the lower your expectations. Having no alternative, it is likely you will make a bolder first offer and generally end up with a better deal.

Raise high the ladder, sisters

Enough about the glass ceiling; these days it is all about the glass floor, says Miriam González Durántez, partner at law firm Dechert and wife of UK deputy prime minister Nick Clegg: “Women have spent years talking about the glass ceiling. But I think it is very important we do not create a glass floor, so that the women who get there throw the ladder away and say ‘nobody else’.” Remember, it can get lonely at the top.

workingsmarter@ft.com



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