At a recent team lunch, a Juggler pointed out that since:
a) a lot of problem-solving is done by the brain during periods of conscious quiet, and;
b) that taking regular breaks from a problem increases efficiency…
…part-time employees in any even slightly strategic position are providing extra value when they’re not at work. They’re working on your problems even when they’re out of the office. They’re acquiring new skills and experience that might be useful for your business without you having to spend a penny in training costs. You’re not paying them for their eureka moments in the shower, but they’re having them regardless.
And if we accept that a lot of good thinking and problem-solving (what most companies are actually paying people for, when you get right down to it) happens in moments of psychological quiet or inactivity, then the more opportunity you can give your employees to cultivate such moments, the more effective they’ll be.
Why part-time makes sense
Part-timers are good business. They’re cost effective, because they allow businesses to better match the number of required working hours with the number of actual working hours. If a job requires more than what one person can effectively manage but less than what two people could achieve, hiring two full-time employees is, on the face of it, a waste of money (a good business would need to challenge that duo to add extra value and support them in doing it).
Hiring part-timers also gives you access to a wealth of skilled and self-managing candidates who, for whatever reason, can’t or would prefer not to work full-time. Parents and other caregivers, entrepreneurs, creatives, people with disabilities: there are plenty of qualified and motivated job-seekers who prefer part-time work.
Hiring part-time also helps businesses to diversify the talent they can draw on. It’s much more efficient to hire someone at the absolute top of their game/field for one day a week AND someone who’s talented but nowhere near as experienced on full-time, than it is to hire just the expert full-time. Based on the way salaries tend to develop with experience it’s also usually cheaper. The interaction between two professionals – one with a wealth of experience to impart and the perfect position to suggest strategic change, one with the time to implement and the hunger to drive successful initiatives – is always going to worth more than the sum of its parts. You get more of everything of you want – more thinking, more experience, more energy, more time – and less of everything else, including expenditure.
None of this is new thinking, but it’s a concept that employers have been slow to adopt. The presenteeism of the 1980s has been strangely persistent for such an obviously pernicious cultural development. Everybody knows they are less effective when they’re tired, stressed or over-stimulated. Everyone knows that more mistakes happen when people are overworked, yet we persist in overworking; businesses seem to believe that a poor work/life balance only negatively affects the “life” bit, not the “work” bit.
Perhaps the sluggishness in embracing part-time and flexible working is down to that lingering stigma: part-timers aren’t ambitious or serious. But it’s more likely that it’s the switch between “time spent” evaluation to purely results-based measuring that’s holding things up. Changing some roles to part-time relies on trusting employees to deliver on targets and goals in their own way: they can’t be managed all the time, and the business can’t work to their schedule, so they must be trusted to balance their own time and maximise their own output.
Self-reliant, self-aware, self-managed
At Juggle, we’re convinced that it’s these exact qualities that set the best candidates apart. Someone who is self-reliant, used to setting their own goals and having to achieve them without constant management – what business wouldn’t want those attributes in an employee? We’re increasingly coming to believe that self-managed workers are what working culture should be striving to create. Part-timers aren’t just good value for businesses because of the structural relationships between hours required, experience and salary/budget. Self-managed part-timers are good value for businesses because they increasingly represent the best, most motivated and effective candidates.
It’ll take more than your own eureka moment about self-managed workers to attract the best candidates. These professionals have needs and expectations of their own. It’s one of the reasons why, when we vet the culture of our business partners, we always ask about both their values and vision. If you don’t have a clearly defined vision you’re probably not set up for self-managed professionals yet. They rely on goal-setting to be effective – how can autonomous and self-reliant workers know exactly what they’re working towards when you haven’t figured it out?
It’s also important to point out that flexibility and self-reliance are learned behaviours, not an innate talent. They also don’t come as a package deal with going part-time: professionals will need diligence and drive to cultivate the right skills and behaviours. But this also means that businesses don’t have to sit around and wait for self-managed professionals to come to them – they can create them in-house. Flexible working policies could go a long way to establishing the right attributes in employees that have only ever worked a very structured 9-5. Shifting towards a truly results-based model of performance will have positive effects on everyone who works; autonomy and self-sufficiency are always good skills to learn.
If you’re excited about the potential of self-managed professionals and would like access to a pre-screened network of the most adept and experienced candidates, why not post your role with Juggle?
If you’re a self-managed professional looking for part-time or flexible full-time work, create a Juggle profile now.