The professional tennis circuit is a punishing arena for men’s and women’s bodies. To aim for #1 requires a level of commitment and a volume of matches that seem beyond the capacity of the human body to sustain. Hence, our heroes regularly need injury time off, or even worse, limp off the court without finishing their matches – leaving the public without the contest we have paid good money watch.
The rule of sport, and most working lives, seems to be “play full-on for as long – or as short – as you can, then retire”.
Roger Federer understands the cost of full-time commitment to the game. In mid-2016 he took a six-month recovery break and looked to be facing the end of his career. But in 2017, he staged an amazing resurgence, winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon, among others. Instead of returning to full-time tennis, he cherry-picked the games that he would play and we heard him use the term “part-time” at both Wimbledon 2017 and at this year’s Hopman Cup win. In the Hopman Cup interview he explained: “I’ve played almost 1500 times so you have to be careful now. It’s nice, I work part time now. I work in the morning, I’m off in the afternoon or I do it the other way around. It’s good being a dad, good being a husband, good being a tennis player. I have the best of all worlds, it’s great.”
Many senior business people face a similar dilemma, working too hard and not participating in their children’s development, until a disease or illness knocks them down. Then they re-evaluate and have to decide whether to persevere or retire. They often don’t have the choices that Federer – a self-employed professional – has the advantage of making. Federer can choose which competitions he enters. The only thing he may have to give up is the ambition to be number one again, if he is not playing as many competitions as his compatriots.
Federer is a great example to reinforce that “part-time” doesn’t mean “poor quality” or “poor commitment”. In fact, many part timers work harder than their colleagues and yet they are distrusted.
Given the paucity of good quality part-time jobs, it’s time to start having more conversations to remind our leaders that having happy and high-performing part-timers can be a better option than requiring senior employees to remain full-time and frazzled?