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Summer 2007 Vol. 51, Number 2

Flexible work: Adjusting the when and where of your job
Elka Maria Torpey


More to consider

Getting a flexible work arrangement can be situation specific. Even if an organization is in favor of flexible options, there is no guarantee that you will be allowed to use them.

Employer reluctance to embrace flexibility may be based on previous failed attempts. "If a boss had a bad experience with an employee who misused the policies, he or she will feel differently than if it was a positive experience," says Backon. "Both employers and employees need to know that workplace flexibility must work for the business as well as for the individual."

And flexible options have disadvantages. Overall, jobs that allow greater flexibility require you to be more accommodating, too. Celarek’s position, for example, involves a certain amount of give and take. Her workload—and earnings—can be unpredictable. And if she doesn’t get everything done during regular business hours, she might need to stay awake until 1 or 2 a.m. to finish.

Work less

One way to create scheduling flexibility is to work less. Working less can mean being on the job fewer hours each week or having more time off during the year.

Cutting back on work hours frees up time for other activities.

Working less is not always voluntary. Some workers end up taking part-time or temporary positions when they can’t find full-time or permanent ones.

Yet for workers who choose to log fewer hours, arrangements such as part-time jobs, job sharing, and on-call, temporary, contract, and seasonal work are invaluable.

Part-time jobs

If the standard 40-hour, 9-to-5 schedule sounds like too much, then maybe you want a part-time arrangement.

As defined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), working part time is working between 1 and 34 hours per week. BLS data show that in 2006, most people who usually worked part time did so for personal reasons, such as childcare, school, or retirement from a full-time job. Schedules of these part-timers varied, but they worked about 21 hours per week on average.

Pros and cons. With a part-time job, you can earn a regular, although reduced, paycheck and maintain ties to the workforce. Plus, part-timers like that they have more time for the things that motivated them to seek flexibility in the first place. "Definitely," says Celarek, "the best part of my job is being there for my children."

But before reducing your work hours, consider how your financial situation will be affected by earning less. Calculate your monthly expenditures, taking into account any savings in work-related expenses, such as commuting or daycare, and compare them with your expected earnings. This will help you figure out if a part-time income is sufficient.

Also remember that part-time workers often receive reduced benefits, such as employer contributions to healthcare or retirement plans. Reduced benefits may be prorated, which means that the employee is required to preparation. Table 2 shows occupations in which part-time work was common and in which workers had median wages of more than $20 an hour in May 2006. (Median wages are the point at which half of all workers in the occupation made more than the amount, and half made less.) These data are for both full- and part-time workers; hourly wages of part-timers can be higher or lower than those of their full-time counterparts.

[Table 1]




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Last Updated: February 15, 2007