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Part-time over time - It works!

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Published: 16 Feb 2005

Professionals and managers who work reduced hours can still keep their careers on track and see their salaries grow, a study by McGill University and Michigan State University has found. And the companies that allow workers to work fewer than 40 hours per week saw that they were able to retain top-level talent, according to the study released today as part of a press briefing at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Professor Mary Dean Lee

Professionals and managers who work reduced hours can still keep their careers on track and see their salaries grow, a study by McGill University and Michigan State University has found.

And the companies that allow workers to work fewer than 40 hours per week saw that they were able to retain top-level talent, according to the study, "Crafting Lives that Work: A Six-Year Retrospective on Reduced-Load Work in the Careers and Lives of Professionals and Managers." The report's findings were released today as part of a press briefing at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

"Even for demanding corporate jobs, part-time work is a viable path to career success and a fulfilling personal and family life," said Mary Dean Lee, professor of organizational behaviour at McGill University.

Lawrence Stalder is a management consultant currently working for Grant Thornton in Calgary. In 1996 he moved to a part-time, four-day-a-week schedule while at Ernst & Young to allow for more family and charitable responsibilities. He has remained on this alternative work arrangement through two company changes. "This flexibility has allowed me to blend my desire to give back to the community and deal with the needs of elderly parents and young children, while still pursuing my career."

Reduced-load work is defined as working less than full time (three or four days a week instead of five) and being paid less accordingly.

The study found that nearly half of participants working part time were still working a reduced-load schedule six years later. Furthermore, for most of those no longer working part time, their stated preference was to be able to work on a reduced-load basis.

Originally, 87 respondents working reduced load participated in interviews between 1996 and 1998 to discuss how they negotiated their arrangements with their employers. Ninety-one percent of them participated in follow-up interviews in 2002 and 2003. They worked for a variety of companies in the United States and Canada, in such industries as financial services, manufacturing, telecommunications, consumer goods, professional and management services and hospitality.

"In most organizations, six years after the first phase of the study, reduced-load work was either supported at the same level, or had become more prevalent," said Ellen Ernst Kossek, professor of human resources at Michigan State University. "We found that when salaries were adjusted according to work load, those working part time were earning salaries equivalent to those working full time."

The study also showed that for reduced-load work arrangements to be successful, flexibility was required on the part of the employee and the organization.

Beth Morris is director of Chemistry, Manufacturing & Control Project Management at pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly in Indianapolis. In 1994, she became the company's first manager to negotiate a part-time schedule. Since 1998 she has been working full time, but is planning to return to a reduced schedule in the near future.

When she returned to full time, her husband, who also works at Eli Lilly, shifted to reduced load for four years. "At Lilly, we have work-schedule flexibility that allows us to manage the ebb and flow of family and work priorities," said Morris.

The complete report can be downloaded at the link below.

McGill University is Canada's leading research-intensive university and has earned an international reputation for scholarly achievement and scientific discovery. Founded in 1821, McGill attracts renowned professors and researchers from around the world and top students from more than 150 countries, creating one of the most dynamic and diverse education environments in North America. It is one of two Canadian members of the American Association of Universities.

Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 15 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.

The study was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a philanthropic nonprofit institution supporting the needs of the workplace, workforce and working families.

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