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Summer 2007 Vol. 51, Number 2

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


 

Job sharing

Job sharing allows you to cut back on work hours and still get tasks done—with the help of someone else.

Essentially a type of part-time work, job sharing is an arrangement in which two or more workers are responsible for the duties and tasks of one full-time position. Some job shares are set up so that each person handles specific duties; others involve less formal divisions of work.

Job sharers usually coordinate their schedules. Each works at times or on days that the other does not. The percentage of time worked by each might be 50-50 or any other agreed-upon combination. And job sharers often plan to overlap some hours so that they can fill each other in on what the other has missed.

Pros and cons. Job sharing allows part-time workers to fill positions that typically require full-time work. And sometimes, this arrangement allows workers to keep half the benefits of a full-time job.

If you enjoy working as part of a team and are open to letting someone else take over some of your job tasks, then you might be well suited to job sharing. Ideally, job-share  partners should work well together, which can include having similar work habits and complementary strengths and skills. Being able to communicate with your partner is also important.

Occupations with easily divisible tasks, such as dental hygienists, are usually more conducive to sharing. Still, some job sharers find that the arrangement creates added complexities. And like those considering other forms of part-time employment, you must decide if you’re willing to live with less pay and fewer benefits.

How to get it. Job sharers don’t always find their own partners. But for some workers, this is a critical step. You might partner with a current coworker or with almost anyone your employer is willing to hire, so long as he or she is qualified for your job. Networking with friends and colleagues can help you identify possible partners. Or use job-share advertisements in trade magazines or other publications that are read by workers in your field.

 

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Because BLS doesn’t collect data on job sharing, it is difficult to know just how many job sharers there are. Most of these workers would be counted among the BLS total for part-time workers.

On-call, temporary, contract, and seasonal work

Maybe you would be willing to work as needed, provided it fits your schedule. Perhaps you want to work 2 days one week and 5 the next. Or you might like to work full-time but have summers off. To increase your time off, consider seeking jobs that involve on-call, temporary, contract, or seasonal work.

On-call arrangements involve working as needed—and, sometimes, at the last minute. For example, nurse Doris D’Errico works on call. When hospital administrators need someone to cover a shift, they contact her. "I usually know a couple of weeks ahead of time when I’m going to work," says D’Errico. "They can call on the day I’m needed, but I have the option of saying yes or no." Typically, she must work a certain number of hours each month to continue the arrangement.

Temporary arrangements are those in which workers are hired by an agency to provide short-term help. Because these workers decide whether to accept the assignments offered to them, they may have considerable flexibility over how much they work. And even though individual assignments may not be permanent, many temporary workers take these jobs regularly.

Contract arrangements can also give workers control over their assignments and hours. Some contract workers are hired by a contract firm to perform a job, often for a specified time or task. Others are independent contractors and sell their services to companies as freelancers or consultants. Some independent contractors might work in wage and salary positions, but many others are self-employed and find their own jobs. (Self-employed workers, more than half of whom are independent contractors, are discussed in more detail on page 24.)

Seasonal jobs offer blocks of time with less work. If you choose to pursue seasonal employment, however, keep in mind the times or seasons that you would prefer to work. Tax preparers, for example, have more time off between May and December, whereas construction and landscape workers, especially those in colder climates, often have reduced workloads during the winter.

Pros and cons. On-call, temporary, and contract workers usually like that they can choose among the assignments offered. Plus, hourly earnings are sometimes higher for these workers than for permanent employees. And seasonal workers enjoy having periodic work that is fairly predictable.

But not having a consistent income is one obvious drawback to any job that allows time off. Some jobs, such as those in teaching, take this into account by apportioning salary over the entire year. Other workers take multiple seasonal jobs—perhaps working as a camp counselor during summer months and as a school field hockey coach during the academic year, for example.

Having a sporadic schedule is less problematic if you have another source of income or if you don’t have other pressing commitments. D’Errico, for example, uses her earnings to supplement her retirement income and can usually change her plans on short notice, so the uncertainty is not a problem. "With my job, there’s no guarantee that I’ll have work," she says. "The hospital can call and tell me to stay home, and that’s fine for me. But this would be a downside for someone who was counting on that money or who had already arranged for babysitting."

An additional consideration for these jobs is that the agency or firm that matches you to temporary or contract assignments takes a percentage of what you make. And although some of these arrangements might command higher hourly earnings, other employer-provided benefits are not always included.

How to get it. Jobs without long-term commitments are available in many fields. In some cases, their prevalence makes them easier to get.

In February 2005, there were nearly 2.5 million on-call workers, according to BLS. On-call opportunities exist with employers such as construction firms, hospitals, schools, retail stores, and public and private utilities.

Temporary workers are hired across a variety of occupations and industries. Many temporary workers provide administrative support or do assembly work in factories. Government, construction and manufacturing firms, schools, and hospitals employ large numbers of contract company workers.

 

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For seasonal jobs, employers also vary. Seasonal work is common in retail trade, educational services, and agriculture, recreation, and construction jobs.

Independent contractors are the largest segment of these types of arrangements. In February 2005, BLS data show that there were about 10.3 million independent contractors, a number which accounted for more than 7 percent of all workers. Independent contract jobs are especially common in construction, professional and business services, and financial activities firms.

BLS data also show that in February 2005, there were more than 1.2 million temporary-help agency workers and 813,000 contract company workers. These jobs can frequently be found in a specific type of firm: a temporary help agency or contract firm. Agencies and firms will match worker qualifications with available jobs and pay for the work that is done. To locate an agency or firm near you, contact the American Staffing Association.

 

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Last Updated: February 15, 2007