In a world of innovation and constant change, employers need a healthy, agile workforce to remain competitive. New arrangements, such as part-time employment, are the key to creating the sustainable employment culture necessary to stay on top.
After successfully recruiting a professional, an employer commits to take care of their new hire. They cover unemployment and social security contributions, offer paid vacation and finance professional development opportunities. Some go even further to contribute to employees’ health insurance, reimburse travel and meal expenses, or offer child care solutions. In return, an employee offers full-time engagement, the benefit of their know-how and work experience and their loyalty. But often, whether to get ahead or simply keep up with demands, employees find themselves doing overtime - working through lunch, answering emails on weekends, and so on. Competitive markets, economic crises or personal financial obligations may leave an employee no option but to play along until it’s simply too much.
The costs of overwork are well known. Chronic stress leads to chronic health issues. Although these may go unnoticed at first, they can add up to hours of missed work, and if left unattended, resulting in more severe consequences, such as heart attack, burnout (recently classified by The World Health Organization as a disease) or at worst, suicide. The traditional benefits offered by an employer may not be enough to offset these effects. Some lucky employees may manage to leave before their body screams for help – for another job, their own business, a sabbatical year or extended travel – but the majority cannot break from routine. It’s therefore up to an employer to set the standard for a healthy work culture.
In many companies, the cultural norm is to never slow down, in order to keep up with widely spread work pace. Presenteeism is common - up to 70% of employees claim they come into work even when they are sick and up to 30% don’t want to sacrifice their paid time off to illness. Most organizations don’t encourage breaks. Employers typically offer their full-time employees 30 to 60 minutes’ break a day – though sometimes less – even though breaks have been proven to increase productivity, creativity and mental well-being.
Knowing that it takes time and effort to change the status quo, some countries have started to regulate work breaks through laws that ‘force’ employees and employers alike to get used to this new productivity-boosting tool. Going even further, there is a great demand for new employment arrangements. Remote working is one option. But part-time employment - also called time-splitting - is a particularly interesting arrangement for employees and employers alike.
Employees - Benefits of working part-time
Increased concentration level
Greater agility - for those who choose to work on multiple part-time projects and shift between a variety of roles
Flexible leisure time - not only on Saturdays/Sundays
Ability to spend time with family while working
Overall greater happiness
Employers - Benefits of hiring part-time
Higher productivity – employees achieve more in less time
Overall greater agility as the result of more agile workers
Lower staff turnover
Effective and inexpensive personnel solution in case of sickness or leave of absence (instead of temporary staffing)
Less costs due to illness
Higher staff morale
It may seem counterintuitive to meet the demands of an ever-changing market through part-time employment. But at the end of the day, the costly endeavor of adapting business processes requires human capital. And the more agile the personnel in place, the higher the chances of surviving a crisis and succeeding on the market. Part-time employees are already used to adapting to new situations on a daily basis, whether balancing multiple projects or juggling work, family and volunteer engagements. In turn, employers stay more agile, able to react in no time to unforeseen changes, both external (multiple new projects due to unforeseen business scaling) and internal (changes in personnel).
Want some role models? In 2018, the countries with the highest percentages of part-time employment were the Netherlands (57%), Sweden (46%), Switzerland (45%), Finland (43%) and the UK (42%). With the exception of the Netherlands, the global figures are quite low, a fact that highlights that there is much room for improvement when it comes to part-time employment. Let’s learn from employers in these model countries, which will no doubt help to develop new policies favoring a healthy and effective employment culture.
Building a resilient and highly agile human resource culture through arrangements such as part-time employment is the number one way to prepare for the changes that will inevitably knock on employers’ doors, asking for overnight adaptation. It’s about entrepreneurs and organization leaders understanding the immense benefit of investing in and developing their staff ahead of time. Contrary to what employers often believe, this short-term, sustainable approach will secure a healthy and successful employment culture – the secret key to entrepreneurial success.
Published by Middle East Business Magazine, March-May 2020, page 22
Edited by Robyn Penney