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Part-time job design : symptom and solution for a changing work environment

By Natalie Smith


Part-time work presents a conundrum. Across industrialised countries, there has been significant growth in part-time work as a solution to resolving the diverse interests of employers, workers and families in managing time and resources. However, there are intrinsic disadvantages associated with part-time work; notably with pay and career prospects, which impact the same stakeholders it is intended to benefit. These disadvantages are particularly evident in professional services organisations, due to strong cultural norms of long work hours, single-focused commitment to work and 24x7 availability. There are indications, both in research and practice, that the design of part-time work arrangements could be improved to address some of the disadvantages associated with part-time work, and to challenge norms and dated assumptions that influence the structure of professional work. \ud \ud This study explored the changes made when professional service workers move from a full-time to part-time arrangement. The study drew on a recently proposed framework for work design, which extended previous models to reflect substantial changes in the contemporary work environment. The framework proved to be a useful perspective from which to explore the design of part-time work, principally because it integrated previously disconnected areas of literature and practice through a broader focus on the context of work. Exploration of the differences between part-time and full-time roles, and comparisons between part-time roles in similar types of work, provided insights into the design of professional part-time work. \ud \ud Analysis revealed that having a better understanding of design characteristics may help explain disadvantages associated with professional part-time work, and that some full-time roles can be more easily adapted to part-time arrangements than others. Importantly, comparisons revealed that even roles that are considered difficult to undertake on a part-time basis can potentially be re-designed to be more effective. Through empirical testing of the framework, a contextualised work design model is presented that may guide further research and the practice of crafting part-time arrangements. The findings also suggest that poor work design may lead to the symptoms associated with professional part-time work, and that improved work design may be a potential solution to these structural constraints

Topics: job design, work design, part-time work, reduced work load, professional services
Publisher: Queensland University of Technology
Year: 2011
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