Part-Time Work, Full Time Headache: The Pitfalls of Working Part-Time

Photo by Enrique Alarcon on Unsplash

For a lot of professionals who wish to engage in other activities or spend more time with their family part-time work seems like an ideal solution — an opportunity to strike a perfect balance between their personal engagements and professional responsibilities without sacrificing too much of either. And even though the idea of working part-time may sound great on paper, in reality, it often ends up creating more problems than it actually solves. Most part-time employees actually work more hours than they intended, while risking being seen as less committed to their work than their full-time colleagues.

Things to Consider

Due to the nature of part-time work employees who opt to work shorter hours usually have little to no time for things that full-timers feel comfortable doing while on the clock. Stuff like taking breaks, chatting with coworkers over a cup of coffee in the kitchen, or running small errands are all luxuries that most part-timers simply cannot afford. Instead, they have to focus all their time and attention on the task at hand to tie up any loose ends outside office hours. Which usually means ignoring company meetings and other opportunities for interaction with colleagues. And that, in turn, could come at the cost of appearing less visible (and by extension less important) in the company.

So when it comes to bonuses, for example, few companies even consider their part-time employees for eligibility. Truly, a part-timer would have to bend over backward in order to have a chance at beating a full-time colleague for bonus pay.

What’s more, a lot of part-time professionals face respect issues in the workplace stemming from their perceived lack of commitment and “special privileges” like leaving early, or having more days off in a week. Trying to maintain the same level of productivity in a shorter period of time without compromising on quality is stressful enough as it is, but having to deal with resentment from full-time coworkers on top of that can prove to be too much.

And despite one’s best efforts, work will regularly creep into a part-timer’s personal life, undermining the very benefits they sought to gain from going part-time in the first place. For many part-time workers, it’s as inevitable as it is necessary. Staying in touch with coworkers and managers outside working hours via phone, email or other means is often critical to being regarded as a productive and valuable employee.

So You’ve Decided to Go Part-Time

Despite the fact that the concept of part-time work has been around for a long time, it is surprisingly poorly regulated and relies mostly on informal agreements created on-the-fly to match the constantly shifting demands of workers’ professional and personal lives.

Most organizations give their supervisors little to no rules or guidelines in terms of part-time work management. And with them having enough day-to-day challenges on their plate already, there is little incentive for them to get involved in what is sure to be a difficult and time-consuming process. So employees are left to their own devices when it comes to creating successful part-time work strategies.

If you’ve already made the decision to go part-time yourself, then take a look at some of the most common approaches suggested by successful part-timers:

  1. Make your priorities and plans transparent to the management. Be as explicit as possible about why you need a part-time position and what steps you intend to take to make sure that your work output doesn’t suffer for it. Define in clear terms what intrusions on your personal time are acceptable and when, as well as how long you’re planning to stay part-time.
  2. Communicate to the organization that your going part-time will not have a negative impact on the business. Most managers understand that a valuable employee going part-time is almost always a better arrangement than a complete departure. So all you really need to do is subtly remind them what they’d be losing should they choose to part ways with you. And approaching them with clearly outlined solutions to any potential challenges that your transition might entail will further contribute to getting them on your side.
  3. Demonstrate to your bosses that the work is still getting done. If necessary, involve your colleagues in the process to ease them into your transition from a full-time position.
  4. Rework and adapt your work schedule for more efficient output. Build a new work process around the idea of increased productivity, focusing on doing as much work as possible in less time. Take advantage of various time management tools and techniques to help you stay organized and motivated.
  5. Establish routines and rituals to protect your work time and home time. Stick to a schedule religiously and make it transparent to your colleagues, so that they always know when you’re in the office and when your personal time starts. Take up hobbies or other out of work activities that require regular commitment to help you set up clear boundaries between work time and home time.
  6. Find allies within the organization to help protect you from skeptics and negotiate with the management. A supportive sympathetic ear in the company’s senior management will make overcoming obstacles associated with working part-time that much easier. Having someone who can make your contributions known to the staff and keep you informed on how you’re doing can be invaluable to successfully navigate part-time employment.
  7. Remind your coworkers that despite your part-time status you’re just as involved as anybody else in the company and your voice carries the same amount of weight. Stay connected, engage with your colleagues socially, and keep abreast of the office talk. Emphasizing to your teammates that you’re not any different from them and not getting any special treatment can go a long way towards demonstrating your involvement in the future of the company.

Is It Really Worth It?

Working part-time undeniably has its benefits, but it also requires a tremendous amount of extra effort to pull off successfully. So if you’re seriously thinking about shifting to part-time, but don’t feel quite ready to face the challenges that this change implies, you should probably consider if you could work a more flexible full-time schedule instead. That might be just the solution you’ve been looking for.



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