Tuesday, January 13, 2009

All the work in half the time: can it be done?

According to the Pew Research Center, part-time work is the "ideal", at least that's what 60% of the working mothers surveyed say.

However, the study doesn't tell you how to make a part-time schedule really work. As a mom who has worked part-time, full-time, no time and now (as a contractor) any time I can, here is what I learned.

First, ask yourself if you can afford to work part-time. In additon to the salary, you need to think about benefits and vacation.

Salary - When it came to my salary, I was pretty lucky. I worked for a large company with established policies for part time work, so my pay was calculated on a percentile. For example, when I worked 3 days/week, I made 60% of my full-time salary. All raises were also calculated based on full time salary.

Benefits - If you get them, great. But realize how much they'll reduce your paycheck and think about how much you want to contribute to things like 401(k), FSAs, etc. When I went part-time, I had to reduce my contributions to my 401(k) and drop the ESPP altogether so I would actually take home money!! So, I have lost out on future retirement income (maybe not a bad think with the current state of the stock market!)

Vacation - My vacation time was also reduced, but with all the days off, I didn't have to use vacation to go to doctor's appointments or anything else, so I had plenty of vacation time. One trick if I learned was to have Monday be my “non-work” days since it seems that many holidays fall on Mondays (labor day and memorial day, at least)—this way I didn’t burn up any vacation days unnecessarily.

Once you've figured out the nuts and bolts, you need to figure out how to make it work--for real.

In my opinion, and experience, you need to have flexibility as well as boundaries. Of course, flexibility is a two-way street. If the person you really need to meet with can only meet on your “non-work” day, you might have to take the meeting (or call). However, I found that once I started allowing conference calls to sneak into my “non-work” day, it was a slippery slope. And I slid down that slope a lot. I think that there were times when the company got more out of me than I was paid for.

Really, you have to ask yourself a hard question and give yourself an honest answer. Do you have a job that can really be done part-time? If you have responsibility for an entire area or for managing people, I'd say that you can't do this part-time. Maybe you could look for a job share option, but while it sounds great in theory, there are very few instances of this actually working. (if you know of a successful job share, let me know). The role I was in when I was part-time should have been a full-time position. I owned the marketing and communications for a 2,500 person organization. However, as much as I loved my job I wasn't ready to come back five days a week and give up the extra time with my kids. So I made a big mistake--I kept the job with a lot of responsibility and tried to squeeze it into three days. It didn't work. My performance was sub-par and I was completely stressed out.

The bottom line for me is that working part-time is not a cakewalk. It is hard socially, as I felt like I didn’t really fit into the stay-at-home mom world or fully into the work world. It was hard on my home life, as I found myself doing a lot of work while the kids napped or watched television. It was hard on work, as I felt that I was never giving it my all. When I worked full-time, in some ways it was easier because we all got into a rhythm and the boundaries are more clearly marked.

This is a very personal, very individual decision and I think that my work status (part-time, full-time, no-time) will continue to morph as the needs of my family change.

1 comment:

aztec-rose said...

I found your blog via Amy and Marc at ESP. I've got a blog and doing some reasearch on work life family balance or what I call interconnectivity (WoLFi). I am fascinated to hear your account that part-time work is not neccessarily easier than full time. I'm currently researching that very question with mixed results. Great blog, thanks.