Thursday, December 01, 2005

Part timers

I had lunch with two (male) clients today. One (P) has worked four days a week for some time; the other (D) has just asked his manager whether he can also. Both pretty much for family reasons - they want to spend more time with their kids. In both cases, their wives work (I think as an IT person and school teacher respectively). In D's case, he has had a small business on the side which he has managed to sell a bit of, so he doesn't need the money at the moment as much as he usually does. They're both pretty senior - they are easily paid six figure salaries (even when working four days a week).

The manager said no immediately, until D said, "well in that case I'll have to resign then" and the manager backtracked hurriedly.

We had a really good discussion about part-time work, and what is really possible and what isn't. P's experience is that you really have to be proactive to make it work. And constantly make sure that your employer is getting value for money. P's take is that the employer gets value, because you tend to pack more than 80% of your job into four days, but will also lose out because of the extra administrative load associated with having someone who is not there one day a week, and has to be covered. He is grateful enough for the chance to do it, that he is quite happy to take on the chance of managing the process for his employer.

Rebeldad would be very pleased. It's another sign that the tipping point of men taking their family responsibilities seriously enough to make work sacrifices is getting closer.

I'm convinced that any company that manages to create meaningful work for part-timers (i.e. jobs which can legitimately be paid 80% of full time for 4 days, 60% for 3 days etc) will have a competitive advantage in the next 10-20 years. I have quite a few friends who are now doing jobs that are way below their abilities, purely so that they can work part time.

But it's very hard, as an employer. You have to deal with the reality that the world of work is (at least) a five day a week world. It would be easy if everyone worked four days, but having to deal with the administrative burden is real, and difficult. But it will be worth it if you can make it work.

According to the ABS Labour force projections, labour force growth in 2016 will be 0.4% pa (or around 40,000 people). It's currently 1.6% pa (or 170,000 people). Good people will be harder to find in 10 years, so if you find them, you'll have to hold on to them.


At 5:42 pm, Blogger Susoz said...

I'm not sure what that adnministrative burden is ...?
I work a part time contract job below my abilities in order to be part-time. I recently enquired about a job in my workplace and asked if I could do it at 32 hrs a week, coming into the office every day. They said no. I really don't see how an extra two hours in the office each day would have been necessary.

At 8:42 pm, Blogger Jennifer said...

Administrative burden depends on the job.

But in this case, what I meant was things like not being able to have team meetings one day a week. Not being able to have deadlines on that day that involve that person. The whole team having to be that much more organised when thinking through how long things will get done. Someone else having to be available to answer queries (and therefore briefed) on the days that person isn't there.

But if you work by yourself, on something that just has to be done (I have a friend doing accounting reconciliations working 2 very long days each week, and that's fine) then there is no administrative burden. Of course, those jobs are the ones that tend to be below your abilities.

At 11:00 am, Anonymous elsewhere said...

I was a bit bemused by the administrative burden thing, myself. Not being a manager, I may not fully gather the situation, but in the work I do (policy research) I wouldn't have thought it made much of a difference, so long as you don't take Monday off, the day when bulk meetings are usually scheduled. Friday's pretty safe as a day off, I would have thought, especially since people in most offices I've worked in start drinkies at 4 pm...From memory, when I worked 4 days a week, it was also up to me to meet the deadlines, which sometimes meant I had to hand stuff in earlier than everyone else.


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