The benefits to employers of part-time working

I don’t see much shouting about the benefits to employers of part-time working.

There’s plenty about how employees will benefit, but it is still apparently seen as a challenge that employers will have to manage. I think this is the wrong attitude, and employers of all sizes have a lot to gain from embracing it.

I’m not talking so much about the four day week experiment here. In most cases, it sounds like it’s an attempt to keep roughly the same job shapes but fit them into four days instead of five, on the grounds that people will be more efficient. I think that’s probably true, but what I’m really focussed on here is people working fewer hours than the “norm” in that company.

There has been a revolution in accepting part time work

I’m optimistic that the pandemic and the large scale working from home experiment has brought about a significant decline in presenteeism. Everyone had to learn how to use video calling, and organisations began to use other collaborative tools such as Miro and Microsoft Planner as well as making more use of the collaboration that already exists within Microsoft products. Now, more than ever, as a knowledge worker, you are more likely to be judged on your outputs and outcomes than simply just being there, which has always historically been one of the the biggest challenges for part-time workers.

Furthermore, in the UK flexible furlough normalised part time working in a number of industries, and so organisations that have never done it before had a crash course in how to make it work.

However, you do still hear the same old arguments against it.

Arguments against part-time working all start from the same flawed assumption

“It can be hard to organise meetings”. Counterpoint – it makes you really think about how necessary the meeting is, how short it can be, and whether other tools can help instead. Meetings are a tool, not an outcome.

“It won’t work for all industries”. This is a strange argument, as the five day week already doesn’t work for all industries – eg hospitality, emergency services. They manage, because they have to.

Fundamentally, most arguments against part-time working start from a flawed assumption, which is that every job fits naturally into a 35-40 hour week. If you stop and think about this for a moment, you realise how daft it sounds.

Stop contorting, start analysing your resource requirements

In reality, we contort ourselves and our roles to fit into this pattern by either;

  • having too big a workload and trying to fit it all in;
  • taking on roles that don’t fit with our core role or experience; or
  • working at least some time at levels beneath our skill and experience in order to put together a full time work package.

For example, Finance Directors often have responsibilities for IT and facilities. Are they experts in those things? No, but it’s a way to bulk out a role and give those functions a senior manager. Wouldn’t the organisation be better off with a part time Finance Director and part time IT and facilities managers or directors?

Another example I come across a lot is in SMEs which have one or two finance people covering a wide range of roles from data entry to strategic direction. What often happens is that the organisation deals with this by recruiting someone in the middle, who ends up working both below and above their level of experience. Whereas in an ideal world they might recruit a 3 day a week finance assistant, a 2 day a week management accountant and a 1 day a week finance director. (YMMV).

Granted, it can be hard to find the exact combination of hours and skill levels, but the more that employers support part-time working, the more likely it is to happen.

I am sometimes available as a part-time finance director. Find out more here.

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