Should you be working part-time?
I was invited to speak on BBC Radio recently in response to a BBC article Three-day working week ‘optimal for over-40s‘. The article referred to a study undertaken by researchers at the Melbourne Institute at the University of Melbourne. Intrigued, I had to read the full working paper: Use It Too Much and Lose It? The Effect of Working Hours on Cognitive Ability.
The findings of the study were that working up to 22-30 hours per week had a positive impact on the participants and that any hours worked in excess of this resulted in a negative impact on cognitive functioning. Why was this? It was discovered that stress and fatigue played a large part in impairing participants’ cognitive functioning. The study concluded that ‘too much work can have adverse effects on cognitive functioning’.
This got me thinking about the many clients I work with who are keen to explore ways in which they can slow down, take it easier and reduce stress in their lives. They talk about how their working lives impact massively on their emotional and physical health, relationships and levels of happiness. Working part-time is a common desire yet the challenge is how to achieve part-time work whilst maintaining a degree of economic stability.
Let’s take a look at the reasons why people might want to work part-time.
Benefits of working part-time:
- Research shows that a good work life balance leads to boosted cognition, improved physical and psychological health leading to increased well-being and happiness
- Time to care for children or other family members
- Time for doing things you enjoy doing such as hobbies and interests
- Ability to set up and grow your own business (if that’s a dream of yours)
- Time to study or learn new skills (to help you earn more or get a job you would enjoy more)
- Reduced expenses e.g. travel costs, childcare, work clothes, lunches, wear & tear on car etc.
Disadvantages of working part-time:
- Reduced income although some would argue that the less you earn the less you spend e.g. ‘lifestyle inflation’ phenomenon whereby the more you earn the more you find ways to spend it.
- Part time roles can be difficult to find. Most part time roles are negotiated with a current employer (through job share or a change in role description) or created (e.g. self-employment or contracting)
- Some part time roles can expect you to work more hours than you are paid for e.g. full-time workload but only pay for part-time hours
- Although labour laws are meant to protect part time workers’ rights, full-time staff are still often favoured over part time staff for career progression opportunities within organisations
- As a part-time contracted staff member you are likely to miss out on basic benefits such as pension, health insurance etc.
Once you’ve made the decision to work part-time you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- Is part-time employment a good fit for you?
- Can you manage on the income a part-time role can generate or will you need to take on more than one part-time role? (portfolio career)
- How do your skills and experience fit in a part-time role?
- Is there an opportunity or do I need to create one? (at your current workplace or by going freelance/self-employed)
Given the above, what are the compromises available that might achieve the same benefits
Portfolio working – Portfolio working is when you work more than one job. The idea here would be to find the optimal working hours that suit you and developing a portfolio of work that meets your needs. Combining part-time employment and self-employment is increasingly common way for people to transition into self-employment without the risk of leaving secure employment.
Self-employment – Self-employment can take many forms. You might use your skills as a freelancer or contract worker or perhaps you have a business you want to get off the ground. Self-employment allows you the freedom to work on your own terms and generally offers a high level of flexibility.
Flexible working – Flexible working enables you to work in different, non-traditional ways for example remote working/working from home which can free up a lot of travel time if that’s an issue for you. Other ways to claw back more time through flexible working include the compressed working week where you work a little longer on a daily basis in order to take a day off a fortnight also known as the ‘9-day fortnight’.
Finding more enjoyable and fulfilling work – There’s no doubt that those who are happiest at work love what they do and where they work. Many research studies support the idea that being happy in your career impacts on your general health and well-being.
How can I get a part-time job?
Investigate the practicalities:
- Speak to your boss or HR manager – go to them with a list of all the positives for them and the organisation – don’t make it all about you
- Have a backup plan in case things don’t go as you had hoped
- Job boards specifically for part time jobs and regular job boards allow you to filter your search to seek out only part-time roles. Try www.timewisejobs.co.uk or www.workingmums.co.uk
I hope these thoughts have been helpful in exploring whether part time employment is for you. Please feel free to comment in the comments section below.