Flexible Work Arrangements: Part-Time Work

Part-Time Work is useful when an employee has skills that are not needed on a full-time basis, or when the employee has the means and desire to spend significant time on family responsibilities or outside interests.

Examples:

  • The employee can manage to be at home when the children return from school.
  • The employee shares care for an elderly parent with another relative.
  • The department needs a technical expert on a particular machine to be present only in the mornings when the machine is in use.
  • The department has experienced significant budget cuts and, to avoid laying off staff, is looking for volunteers who reduce their time.
  • The employee is enrolled in a part-time degree program. Although the department is supportive of the employee's long-term career advancement goals, it cannot afford to pay the employee while the employee is attending school, because the education is not directly related to the present assignment or to the department's foreseeable needs.

Part-time work can also be part of a job sharing arrangement, in which two people share the responsibilities and duties of a full-time position. Examples:

  • Two employees share a student advising position; the one with young children works in the mornings while the children are in day care and kindergarten, and the one who is writing a novel works in the afternoon so that he/she can write in the mornings when the house is quiet.
  • Two employees share an administrative assistant position so that one can spend more time with an elderly parent and the other can attend classes. Because class schedules vary from semester to semester, they vary their schedules from time to time.

Other Considerations:

  • Part-time workers tend to be more productive, hour for hour, than full-time workers because it is easier to work at peak effiency for short periods.
  • Part-time work can be a useful bridge for life transitions. For example, an employee may move from full-time to part-time upon the birth of a child, then return to full-time later. In allowing for this bridge, the department can retain a valued employee and avoid the cost of recruiting and training a new employee.
  • Part-time career positions may increase increase benefit costs for self-supporting operations.
  • Payroll and personnel administration may be more complex when there are many part-time workers.
  • Job shares work well when the two employees are compatible and cooperative in their work arrangement. Job shares can facilitate continuity during vacation times or when there is turnover.
  • Job shares do not work well when performance levels vary widely, or when there is lack of cooperation between the two employees. Turnover also has to be taken into account; if one of the sharers leaves, the vacancy may be hard to fill depending on the adaptability of the applicants.
  • Turnover tends to be very low with part-time workers, because the demand for part-time work outstrips the supply. Part-timers can thus be very loyal, high performance employees.
  • Space and equipment problems can become either better or worse when there are part time workers, depending on the specific situation. For example, part-timers who can double up can create savings on space and equipment, but part-timers who need separate space can increase space and equipment costs.