The typical female over-achiever: do well in high school and college, get a great job, fall in love, get married and have a baby. Now what? The dilemma of most new professional mothers: work or stay-at-home. An increasingly popular option is part-time employment. This doesn’t mean leaving an executive or administrative job for an entry level part-time position. It means delegating some responsibility at your current job and consolidating tasks into a shorter work-week. Often, this requires professionals to job-share.
This is the situation I found myself in four years ago. After delivering my pride and joy, I struggled with going back to work. I knew the continued income would be nice, but wondered “How can I leave my baby?” Fortunately, I had an employer willing to let me work part time. After four years working a 60 percent schedule, I’ve learned to recognize the benefits and disadvantages.
From a strictly financial perspective, part-time employees cost employers less. Mostly because we don’t take advantage, or are not even eligible, for health benefits. Also, employers immediately save by not incurring costly employment turnover expenses that result from recruiting and training new hires. Employees who work a limited schedule are typically less maintenance (most don’t feel the need to be involved in team-building activities, celebratory lunches, etc). Part-time employees are efficient and focused. They know that their time in the office is limited and they’ve got to get their work completed. I find this is attributable to less unnecessary Internet surfing, avoidance of office drama and limiting coffeepot time. These employees want to accomplish their tasks/goals and ultimately not have to take the work home or come in on an off-day.
Many employers find part-time professionals have a definite sense of responsibility and are grateful for the opportunity to work their job on a limited schedule. The employees tend to come to work more energized. Believe me, you don’t “yearn for Friday” when you have every other day off. However, most people who have spent the first decade of adulthood as corporate or academic men and women enjoy the opportunity to put the sweats and burp cloths away and engage in the professional activities they were accustomed to before parenthood.
And even though previous discretionary income falls and some earlier splurges get curtailed, many part-timers don’t feel their families are as strapped financially as they would be if one spouse stayed at home full time.
I would be negligent if I did not mention the disadvantages to part-timers. One of the most difficult challenges for employers is the lack of constant availability. Part-timers require extra care when needing to schedule a team meeting and they often miss impromptu stand-up meetings. These employees may miss that BIG event because of a pre-school graduation, junior high awards ceremony or the doctor’s appointment of an aging parent. After all, these employees usually work part time because they are the main caretaker for either a child or parent.
Another downside to part-timers is they may find they now struggle with teamwork since they are not regulars in the office. They also may seem standoffish to other employees who want to sit and visit. The part-timer no longer has time for inner-office relationship building, and co-worker lunches and after-hours outings rarely occur.
Finally, part-timers often feel they have not accomplished what they set out to do at either work or home. It is difficult to understand why the house isn’t always clean, scrapbooks aren’t completed, your desk isn’t cleared off or you haven’t finished that additional work project. In the end, there are only 24 hours in a day, and we all need to sleep some of them.
When I look back over the past four years, I can see that it has been a great experience. My husband’s mother worked full-time, and mine was a stay-at-home mom. Our compromise was for me to work part-time. None of the above situations are wrong or right. It is best to find the balance that works for your family. I’m fortunate to have an employer support this schedule. I still waffle with the “should I be at home with my daughter?” guilt. But I have found my child enjoys play time with friends at pre-school and daycare and benefits from the special bond she has by spending extra time with her father. I have learned to become more efficient at home and at work. At the end of the day, my employer and my family win!
Nicole Linder is director of annual giving and donor relations at Fresno Pacific University. She lives in Fresno with her husband, Colby, and daughter, Sophia.