Family managers introduce a special spirit to a project

 

Britta Noack and Matthias Belke talk about contemporary work and family life

Ms Noack, it all started with you. You were the first part time manager in the BMP office.

BN: Yes, it seems that I am some kind of pioneer for new models of working. Due to my personal situation, I also tried out home office early on. I was somewhat sceptical at first, but it is now fully integrated into everyday office life and is popular with all colleagues. Maybe I am just the one who has the need for such models and tries out different options. And after my parental leave it made most sense to start with a part time position.

MB: I am only just starting with this venture. My daughter is now three months old. In August, I will take my first month of parental leave and in April the second. My wife also wants to go back to work fairly soon and I now have the opportunity to gain some experience on how this could work for us in the future.

We are adjusting – Office and constructors are also learning new ways of working together.

Reduced working hours are surely beneficial for family life, but how does this agree with working in a team and with the demands of the construction companies? Part-time on a building site, does that work?

 

BN: Supervisors and colleagues, specialist planners and constructors also have children – so we find that they accept it, as long as the performance and results are of high quality. However, it can be quite stressful if your child is suddenly ill in the morning, as this disturbs your entire schedule. On the other hand, the statement I need to pick up my child can make a meeting very effective, as everybody knows that time is limited – no ifs, no buts – and we must get to the point quickly. I think it is great that our office is willing to try flexible ways of working in our industry.

 

MB: You have to watch out for each other. As a colleague, I can step in to take care of urgent matters, go to meetings, delegate tasks – and I learn what is possible at the same time. This benefits all of us, as more and more men also want to go into part-time work, to take care of children (as I do), but also to care for elderly relatives, for example.

 

Women – and also men –
with families are well
organised.

 

BN: Nobody in this office goes into part-time employment for reasons of complacency or laziness. It is a contemporary method to combine your private life with your job. And this job should still be fun and ensure that you can work to a high qualitative standard. In part-time employment, I also demand of myself that I stay tuned in to developments in my profession, I have to make sure that I schedule my time really well and don’t burn out, because I am trying to juggle too many things at the same time. There is a fixed timeframe, in which I organize my work, exchange with colleagues and can handle my external contacts confidently.

 

So is it true, that women with families are the best managers?

BN: I wouldn’t go that far, that would be presumptuous. What is true, however: there is no afterwards, as you don’t have any spare time. Working part-time requires excellent time management, just as managing a family does. To decide quickly and correctly on different requirements at a multitude of levels, to spontaneously find new solutions, to keep calm in times of stress, these are the things that my combined roles as project manager and mother possibly equip me more with than other people. This has made me more relaxed and confident over time.

Which working hour models do you consider useful for the employee and effective for the employer?

MB: I believe that 30 hours are an ideal timeframe for part-time staff. A project leader can handle this easily, can be present in the office and externally, possibly even advance his or her career. I also believe that possible future models could include senior managers or junior managers working part-time. This allows us to keep the experience on the project and to multiply the knowledge in the office. Building owners are quite comfortable with having two persons of contact during a project.

BN: For the customer, it is the output which counts. First and foremost, we are doing a normal, professional job. At the same time, we are noticing how important friendly human interaction is in the projects, which often span several years. It requires understanding and a certain willingness to accommodate the new situation of the other person. A bit of family life can be very beneficial in different ways here.