As of June 2019, there were more than 26 million part-time workers—defined as people who work less than 35 hours per week—in the U.S. Despite such significant demand for part-time work, there is still some mystery around what the experience is actually like.
Read on to learn about the challenge of part-time employment—and how you can still make working part-time a successful experience.
The time crunch
People choose part-time employment for any number or reasons. These include a demanding family life that does not make full-time work feasible and limited opportunities within a chosen field. Whatever the reason, part-time work can seem like a great compromise at first glance.
Part-time work has undeniable benefits, like continued income, experience, and an extended professional network. But an alternate schedule can also present a serious challenge. If you’re working less than 35 hours a week, it may not be enough for:
- Your manager and team. Though your manager had to sign off on your part-time status, you are not exempt from experiencing office peer pressure. Whether you work on-site or remotely, you may feel tempted to keep up with a more traditional schedule to not harm your reputation.
- Your workload. You may find that you’re managing a full-time docket on a part-time schedule. This could leave you scrambling to sneak in extra hours when you can. While this may be helpful in the short-run, it's not sustainable.
- Yourself. You may worry that your career path will stall because of your time limitations just as much as you worry over finding adequate, affordable part-time support (i.e., child care, elderly care) during your working hours.
In this way, the part-time working experience can be similar to working remotely—concerns about your schedule and co-worker interactions may be more prevalent than with a more traditional office experience. When it comes to your part-time commitment, it is useful to remind yourself why you chose this schedule in the first place. And while you may feel pressured to put in extra hours, remember that working full-time on a part-time schedule doesn’t make sense.
7 habits of successful part-timers
The good news is that there are things you can do to ensure the hours you put in are as productive as possible. Here’s how:
- Talk to your manager about requirements, responsibilities, and expectations. When you become a part-time employee, have a clear conversation with your manager about your job description, what is required of you on a daily basis (i.e., your availability for meetings), and your expected results. This transparency will not only help you understand how your manager sees your role, you will also gain a stronger idea of how to organize and prioritize your work.
- Create and honor your boundaries. Once you and your manager have agreed on your working hours, stick to them. Start work on time and make sure your co-workers know your hard finish time. As much as possible, do not make working additional hours a habit. If you work remotely, make sure you have a designated workspace separate from any distractions.
- Schedule everything. As a part-timer, you need to master time management. The best place to start is by scheduling everything that goes into your workday. Use your organization's calendar to enter what time your day starts and ends, meetings, administrative duties (i.e., tackling your inbox), client calls, time allocated to project work, and lunch and other short breaks. This level of detail makes staying organized a cinch. And it will help you maximize the hours you have.
- Synchronize your schedule with the co-workers you collaborate with the most. When you are designing your schedule, make sure you are available at the same time as the co-workers you work with the most. Do not be afraid to speak to them openly to find the best days and times to work together.
- Communicate with your team. Your limited hours mean that you must be proactive in staying on the same page as your team. At formal team meetings, share what you have been working on and any questions you have. Let them know about any changes in your schedule and if there are times when you will not be reachable. Share your calendar so your team knows what you are working on and when to be available.
- Record meetings and client calls. If you are not in the office at the time of relevant team meetings or calls, ask your manager if those events can be audio-recorded so that the burden of filling you in does not fall onto your co-workers. The added bonus is that you can hear for yourself any relevant details that will directly help with your work.
- Be open about your achievements. You can still command big results on a part-time schedule. Keep track of what you have done and what the direct, tangible outcomes of your efforts have been. For example, if you authored a report that has inspired a new project, make sure your manager and team know that. This isn’t about bragging rights; it’s about raising awareness of your contributions. It’s up to you to show that being a part-timer isn’t holding you back.
From part-time to full-time
If your ultimate goal is to transition to a full-time position, let your manager know that you are interested in taking on more hours. Emphasize what your achievements have been as a part-timer. There is no guarantee that they’ll have the budget—or workload—to put you in a full-time role, but you can make a stronger case if you have already proven your value at work.
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Nisha Kumar Kulkarni is a writer and creative coach in New York City. She helps women living with chronic illness and mental health challenges to pursue their passion projects without compromising their health.