I was downsized two months ago, and while initially upset, I came to appreciate the newfound time I had to get to take care of things around the house, exercise everyday and read the paper. I know I need to get back to work after the holidays, but how can I land a new job that still allows me the time to manage and enjoy my life?


If there is an upside to losing your job, the respite of a less hectic pace is certainly the ticket. You can finally get to all of those things that you swore you’d finish when you had the time; sip your coffee rather than dumping it into a thermal mug to go; and actually read the paper instead of scanning it online at the office.

And this affects people in different ways. Financial motivation aside, some can’t wait to return to work, as they feel their brains might turn to mush if they don’t get back on the business treadmill post-haste. But the lucky ones, those who have enjoyed this slower, more reasonable pace, and who have had this glimpse of more balanced living, approach the job hunt with a new and improved set of criteria.

For many, the solution is returning to the workforce on a part-time basis. Now, before you screw up your face and conjure up images of evening shifts at the local pizza joint, remember that part-time employment has come a long-way, baby. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that more than 25 million Americans are currently employed part-time (less than 35 hours per week).

This is a concept that businesses large and small have tapped into in the name of efficiency. Many offices utilize job sharing, where two part-time employees create a seamless full-time system. Other businesses can’t afford full-time salaries in the face of the recent economic downturn, but would welcome high-level talent on a part-time basis.

Still others have simply read the recent Gallup annual Work and Education poll, which tells us that approximately 47% of American workers spend more than an hour each day on non-work-related activities. Since 146 million U.S. employees earn $17.57 per hour on average, that means that every business day of the year we’re talking about more than $2.5 billion dollars of wasted wages.

“When a part-time employee enters the office, she is ready to work,” says Ilyse Shapiro, founder of the job search Web site “She has already made her daughter’s dentist appointment, e-mailed her friends and typed her son’s book report – activities many full-time employees regularly incorporate into their work day. Part-timers are ready to work from the get-go.”

Shapiro also points to other research to substantiate her theory:

  • A recent study showed that half-time workers produced nearly 90% of the work of their full-time counterparts in half the time. This enhanced productivity saves the employer money. (Breaking with Tradition by Felice Schwartz)
  • The turnover rate for half-time workers is 14%, compared to 40% for full-time workers. Turnover rates can cost between 150-200% of an employee’s annual salary. (The Job Family Challenge by Ellen Bravo)
  • The 2007 absentee rate was 2.3%. Unscheduled absences cost businesses more than $760,000 per year in direct payroll costs and more when lower productivity, lost revenue and poor morale are factored into the equation. (The 17th Annual CCH Unscheduled Absence Survey)
  • 67% of HR professionals polled said the part-timers employed at their workplace are seen as a critical part of their workforce. (SHRM Weekly Online Survey)
  • 22% of employees used paid sick time for family issues; another 18% for personal needs. (The 17th Annual CCH Unscheduled Absence Survey)

“The above research illustrates that part-time employment makes sound business sense,” adds Shapiro. “Employees are absent less and more eager to contribute when they’ve already taken care of their personal obligations during non-work hours.”

While we know part-time employment is a good solution for employers, and a more balanced solution to a more reasonable pace for you, there are, of course, real world concerns that you have to address.

First stop: financial matters. Can you afford to work part-time? Before you assume you can’t, do the math. Subtract the cost of gas from the normal rush hour commute. Remember that you’ll be home when the kids get off the bus, so you don’t have to pay the sitter. Even the costs of items like dry cleaning or take-out meals are reduced significantly when you work part-time. Look at your budget and see how many expenses are related to working full-time; when you cut them out, does the math work?

Next stop: benefits. Many people assume unless they work 40 hours, benefits like health care are out the window. You can actually negotiate benefits even with a part-time arrangement, so don’t be afraid to ask potential part-time employers about this. Or, look into your spouse’s plan at work; even if your insurance was better at your old job, the benefit of a less-intense schedule may make it worth it to get those pesky referral slips every time you need to see someone other than the primary care doctor.

Last stop: you. What would a better balance between your work and your life look like? What would it feel like not to have to pull off a Houdini move every time one of the kids had to stay home sick from school? How much better would you feel if you didn’t have to trade in your daily treadmill routine for the corporate climb?

If full-time chaos no longer works for you, look into a part-time solution.

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