At the office the other day there was an exhibition of sorts which was meant to highlight some of the groups and resources available for professional growth and advancement within the company. I attended and poked around the various booths for about an hour. One of the booths had the label "Staffing". They talked to us about the tools available for managers to hire new employees, and for employees to look for career advancement opportunities. I am not particularly interested in changing jobs at this point, so I started to tune out for a few moments, but at the end of the presentation I decided to take the opportunity to ask a question I have been wondering about for a while. I asked why it was that I had never seen any part-time positions offered within the firm.
The Staffing folks told me that they don't offer any part-time positions, period. They did admit that some people do end up moving from full-time to part-time due to personal circumstances, although rarely, "on a case-by-case basis". But they said that most people are interested in working full time, so they (Staffing) don't bother creating part-time opportunities.
I followed up by asking if people nearing the end of their careers ever asked to scale back their hours. The Staffers exchanged blank looks with each other and said they couldn't remember any examples of this. They said the part-time work arrangements usually come from people who have extenuating family circumstances which limit the amount of time they can dedicate to work.
As I was returning to my desk afterward, I chatted with a co-worker who had been with me at the Staffing booth when I asked the part-time question. He told me that I'm an unusual case: no debt, no mortgage, no dependents, no need for benefits (our health insurance comes from my wife's employer) -- 100% of my earnings goes into saving. So even though it seems strange to me that there isn't more demand for professional part-time positions, I am certainly the exception and not the rule. He thought that most people at our company feel they need the benefits and the pay that comes from a full-time job in order to support their lifestyles.
Meanwhile, I've been reading a number of news articles lately about low-wage workers (mainly in retail and fast food) who want the opportunity to work more hours but must deal with employers who purposefully keep hours below a certain threshold to avoid providing certain benefits, etc. It makes me feel somewhat out of touch to find myself wanting fewer work hours when so many others want more. Of course, one big difference is that I am working for a company where even a part-time salary would handily exceed full-time pay in retail or fast food. I'm not interested in taking one of those very low-paying jobs just for the sake of reducing the time spent at work. I still value my own time more than that. Another big difference is that we are not struggling financially. My wife and I had opportunities to increase our incomes based on our professional experience and performance at work, and we took them, while at the same time taking aggressive steps to reduce our expenses and debt -- in essence maximizing the utility of our income. I bet we spend far less on discretionary expenses like cell phone service, restaurants, and television than the average retail or fast food employee does (for example, in the case of TV we pay nothing since our antenna picks up broadcast channels for free). So if those who are struggling financially want the opportunity to work more hours to earn more money to make ends meet, doesn't it logically make sense that those who are not struggling should want the opportunity to work less? That's how I see it. But I seem to be in the minority. The prevailing attitude is: if money is good, than any opportunity to earn more money must be taken.
Although the Staffing contacts didn't give me much to go on, I was intrigued by the possibility that part-time work may be available to me if I ask for it. As Staffing said, it's offered "on a case-by-case basis". I suppose I can present the best case possible for myself and see how my management reacts. I think I'd want to pick the right moment for this, though. I'd want to do it at a time when I was prepared to face the possibility of not working at all for this company anymore. Perhaps if my request was denied I'd have to deal with some backlash, a stigma that I wasn't interested in pulling my weight and would prefer to have an easy job while everyone else picks up the slack for me. I might be put on the short list for the next round of layoffs -- who knows? Honestly I don't know what to expect. Still, if my request was granted, I'd be a much happier person. A three-day workweek would be pretty nice. I think the earliest I'd want to take a stab at this would be at the end of this calendar year, when we have reviews scheduled. I'll mull it over and seek the opinion of my wife (who obviously would be impacted by a change like this).