Monday, July 23, 2007

Why Part-Time Doesn't Always Work

When the results of a recent Pew Research study were released recently declaring that mothers prefer part-time work, I had initially decided not to jump on the band wagon of mommy bloggers who were less than surprised by the results. What mother juggling the majority of childrearing and housework responsibilities would not like to work a few less hours each week? Research like this only fans the flames of the so-called mommy wars by pitting at-home moms against working moms who might both be happier with a part time work schedule.

Recent events in my home have led me to revisit the results of this study and the many reasons why I have decided not to reduce my own work hours to a part time schedule. In fact, for many families, part-time work simply does not work.
  1. Part-time work = Part-time pay: Beyond the obvious math here, part-time employees doing the same job within the same industry make around $3 less per hour than their full-time counterparts.
  2. Benefits are cost prohibitive: Health and retirement benefits available to full-time employees are often unavailable to part-time employees. When equal benefits are purchased, an individual misses out on the discounts made available to large employers.
  3. Part-time does not always mean less than 40 hours: Most employees working a nontraditional schedule have experienced the reality that time spent away from the office during standard business hours is not sacred to coworkers. Crises and questions arise whether you are on vacation or home with your kids. Part-time employees who pick up that emergent phone call or check their work email daily will find themselves working several unbilled hours each week. Part-time quickly becomes less pay without a greatly reduced workload.
The best remedy is to seek work at a family friendly company with an acceptance of corporate flexibility. The more employees working any type of flexible arrangement, the more likely a corporation is to pay all employees on a common payscale. Similarly, family friendly employers may be more likely to offer prorated benefits to part-time employees passing along their corporate discount to all employees. The last one is up to you. Coworkers with similar family priorities may be less likely to call you at home, but you will need to personally define and communicate how much work you are willing to do on your time off. Do not feel bad letting coworkers know that you only work Monday, Wednesday, and Friday leaving you unavailable the remainder of the week. But then do not check your email until you are back in the office.

Would you prefer to work a part-time schedule at work? Let me know what you think it would take to make your part-time schedule a reality.


Becki said...

Good points and I think it needed to be brought to the light. I yearn for the days when a flexible schedule is the norm and not the special circumstance. I think one of the biggest parts of this is the retirement benefits/401k. Unless you invest on your own, most count on the employer to offer the benefit and if you are part-time, more times than not, this is not part of the package.

DirtyDiaperSyndrome said...

Thank you, that was an interesting article. Part-time never really worked for me either. I seemed to put as much energy into my work as if I were working full-time but I received less pay and no benefits. It was almost not worth the effort. It is a smarter move to create a full-time schedule that is flexible.

Megan said...

Hi Amy Thanks for a great article. Having worked "part time" since my kids were born, I agree that at times its not all it's cracked up to be. While the pay scale, benefits, etc... worked out. My biggest issue was that I wasn't fully part of either world of the SAHM or the working moms groups. And yet, I tried to do both which is stressful. I also agree that many hours at home were spent on the phone and blackberry but I felt that was small price to pay to see my kids more often. I'm curious about your organization. I'm a huge advocate for greater flexibility in the workplace. Megan

Amy said...

Part time also doesn't work if you actually want your career to progress. I loved my part time gig for several years, but found that after a while I wasn't being considered for challenging assignments or promotions. I ended up having to go back full time. See the "I'm going back IN!!!" posting on my blog ( about that difficult decision.

jlauren said...

I disagree, especially with the comment that it is "smarter" to find a full time job that is flexible. When I worked full time, I got called a lot during off hours. Now that I work part time, I get called sometimes during off hours. If I'm called, I bill it if it is billable. If not, I do not. Same as when I was working full time. As for benefits? Lost in this debate are those of us who get benefits through a spouse, and do not need full benefits from two employers. I LOVE trading benefits for a higher hourly wage - and it is about 40% higher per hour now that I am part time. Sure, it doesn't work for everyone, but that's an argument to make part time work better, not to abandon the idea.

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