More of us could work in part-time roles if they were designed better

logo-a0073854423c0c04eddfa9074f700eaf

File 20170822 4964 vnqyv1
Part-time roles become difficult if that employee is the only source of knowledge, contact or sign-off.
http://www.shutterstock.com

Natalie Smith, Queensland University of Technology

Lisa was a young accountant with plenty of experience, solid references and was looking for work. She approached a large accounting firm she had previously worked for in another city in the hope of working with them again.

They were interested, except one thing stood in her way – she could only work part-time. Despite having award winning flexible work policies, this accounting firm wouldn’t employ her, citing the role could not be done on a part-time basis.

Lisa (not her real name) is typical of the 24 people I interviewed as part of my research. These men and women had requested to move to part-time roles in legal, information technology, accounting and consulting firms, having previously worked full-time.


Read more: Three charts on: how part-time work is growing more slowly, but more men are doing it


The roles for nearly half the participants I studied, and across all industries, had not been changed at all when moving to part-time. Performance targets and workload remained the same; only the pay had changed.

The employees had reduced their hours by getting rid of non-urgent tasks such as networking and meetings, and delegating work to team members.

In one case, a female employee had been told by her employer that she wasn’t meeting the same high performance ratings she had in her full-time role, despite achieving the same performance targets for less pay.

My research finds there are actually effective ways to change a full-time role into one that’s part-time. The size of an organisation, the industry, gender of employees or complexity of work have little bearing on this.

However businesses are not considering that these roles need to be redesigned in the first place and this causes problems in managing employees’ workloads and interacting with other employees.

The problems in redesigning roles as part-time

Even though it is possible to design a full-time role into a part-time role that works, there is little guidance on how to redesign. One of the places to start is reducing the number of people the employee interacts with, for example, the number of clients they look after, or the number of people who directly report to them.

Part-time roles become difficult if that employee is the only source of knowledge, contact or sign-off. For example if the employee is an IT manager who needs to be on call for clients for 37.5 hours a week, when typical part-time hours are less then 30 a week.

To redesign these roles, businesses can assign work to a team rather than individual, or team senior employees with junior employees. Employers can also provide systems to share knowledge rather than having one single point of expertise. I found that hospital pharmacists had a lot more flexibility in their roles because they use systems that allow them to share information effectively and quickly between colleagues.

Contrary to findings from other studies, deadlines are not necessarily problematic for part-time work. What is problematic is when tasks are both unpredictable and urgent.

One manager I interviewed said that urgent deadlines were often arbitrary and could be rescheduled. If there is urgent work to be done, employees can work in teams or the employer can renegotiate when part-time hours occur to suit the project deadlines.

The other challenge is that there is little incentive for organisations to reduce implicit work for part-time employees as it is often not measured and is done as unpaid overtime. Implicit work is work that is integral to a role, but not dealing directly with customers. It includes training, business development, travel, administration, staff management and team meetings.

While arguably an issue for all employees, implicit work becomes more problematic when working part-time. For example, an employee can’t do a fraction of a training course or only go away for a few hours of an interstate trip. To make all roles more manageable, particularly those working part-time, organisations should monitor and reduce implicit workloads.

Some of the businesses I studied also relied on the employees to make their part-time roles work, which resulted in minimal redesign of the role. Whereas other organisations weighed up what the employee wanted with the minimum requirements of the role.

This approach, where the employee and manager negotiated, meant the part-time arrangement worked better for both. Being clear on the “job absolutes” gave the part-time worker autonomy to adapt their work around other commitments.

Understanding how to redesign full-time roles to part-time helps debunk some of the myths that existed in some organisations. These myths included that program director and partnership roles could not be done part-time. My study found that part-time can be easier at more senior levels, because of the higher autonomy and less urgent, unpredictable work.

The ConversationHaving part-time roles available means more people can participate in the workforce. Given the economic benefits of this, and the increasing demand from younger and older workers for these sorts of roles, organisations will be left behind if they don’t accommodate well designed part-time arrangements.

Natalie Smith, PhD Student, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

CDAA Keynote Speakers Podcast

The Career Development Association of Australia brought four keynote speakers to its 2017 annual conference of members and industry bodies.  Listen to brief interviews with Dr Ryan Duffy, Dr Ann Villiers, Dr Peter McIlveen, and Ms Marayke Jonkers, to learn more about their ideas for the field of career development.

Psychology of Working

ACCELL International Fellow, Dr Ryan Duffy, and ACCELL Research Director, Dr Peter McIlveen, emphasize issues associated with the psychology of working, decent work, unemployment, and evidence-based practice.


Acknowledgement: Thanks to CDAA Communications Officer, Georgia Kelly-Bakker, who recorded and produced the podcast.

Unemployment is Psychologically Destructive

The Psychology of Unemployment

ACCELL’s research into unemployment focuses on its social and psychological impacts on people who want to work but have no work or insufficient work to get by in life.  More importantly, ACCELL’s research and development is focused on determining and developing social and psychological resources that better enable individuals’ employability to survive, connect with one another, and live happier, productive lives.

Kossen McIlveen 2017 front page

Research recently published by ACCELL in the Journal of Career Development (Kossen & McIlveen, 2017) reveals a new and important perspective on unemployment.  The findings of this research show that unemployment can be understood in terms of the Psychology of Working Theory (Duffy, Blustein, Diemer, & Autin, 2016).

“I’m delighted to read about important research emerging from the psychology of working framework. Congrats to and colleagues.” Professor David Blustein, Boston College, USA.

Psychological Factors that Remediate Employability

The research demonstrates factors that may worsen a person’s chance of securing decent work. More importantly, the research pinpoints psychological factors that may also improve a person’s chances of getting decent work–and this is where ACCELL is focused on making a difference.  These so-called characteristic adaptations that improve a person’s chances of working in a good job can be learned.  For example, one of the most important factors is self-efficacy associated with well defined job search strategies that target the “right job” not just “any job”.  The “any job” strategy is a recipe for poor outcomes–despite what some politicians may say.  Professional career development practitioners (e.g., Career Development Association of Australia) know about these strategies and how to develop their clients’ self-efficacy.  Our R&D will sharpen the tools for improving their effectiveness and positive impact.

References

Duffy, R. D., Blustein, D. L., Diemer, M. A., & Autin, K. L. (2016). The psychology of working theory. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 63(2), 127-148. doi: 10.1037/cou0000140

Kossen, C., & McIlveen, P. (2017). Unemployment from the perspective of the psychology of working. Journal of Career Development, doi: 10.1177/0894845317711043.


This blog article is an extract from:

Kossen, C., & McIlveen, P. (2017). Unemployment from the perspective of the psychology of working. Journal of Career Development, doi:10.1177/0894845317711043.

A copy of the published version is available from the journal’s site or an “author pre-print version” is available at Peter McIlveen’s ResearchGate site.

A Measure of Decent Work

ACCELL has partnered with other researchers to establish an international benchmark measure of “decent work”.  We wish to better understand your experiences of decent work as it relates to where you live.

Please support our research by completing the Online Survey.

The notion of “decent work” refers to fair, safe, and equitable conditions of employment as defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). This project will contribute to that international study and also explore a range of factors, such as psychological flexibility, career adaptability, decent work, meaningfulness of work, work engagement, place attachment, and job satisfaction, that influence the wellbeing and retention of workers in non-metropolitan areas of Australia. Continue reading

Career Adaptability in Retirees

Retirees returning to the workplace is not so unusual and there doing so is not always about meeting financial needs. Our research using in-depth interviews with 22 retirees of different working backgrounds, ranging from corporate professionals through to semi-skilled labourers, revealed consistent patterns and themes in the results. We found the qualities of “career adaptability” in these retirees who had returned to work. What is interesting about this finding is that career adaptability is not often thought of as a psychological strength within older folk; more often, it is associated with younger people entering into the world of work and adults surviving or, hopefully, thriving in their daily grind.

Dimensions of Career Adaptability

Measures of career adaptability tap four psychological dimensions: a future orientation to working (concern), a sense of feeling autonomy over work tasks (control), interest in learning and developing new skills and knowledge (curiosity), and feeling positive about one’s ability to contribute to a workplace (confidence).

The figure below depicts the links among the themes revealed in the interviews and it shows that career adaptability is connected up to all major themes.

Consider the example of two retired sheep shearers who returned to work as roustabouts in shearing sheds. Fit as fiddles, these two decided to job-share, splitting the tasks of this demanding labouring job between themselves, depending on their physical capacities (e.g., one’s arthritic knee and the other’s arthritic back). Why? Because working hard gives them a sense of satisfaction and meaning more than any other activity.

Implications for Workplaces and Policy

Policy makers and employers should note that older workers’ interests, needs, and reasons for working may be very different to those of younger workers. Indeed, a proven approach to attracting and retaining younger employees may not be as effective for older workers. Instead, harnessing older workers’ career adaptability and how they wish to express it may be just the thing to refresh motivation and restore dignity in the workplace.


This blog article is an extract from:

Luke, J., McIlveen, P., & Perera, H. N. (2016). A thematic analysis of career adaptability in retirees who return to work. Frontiers in Psychology. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00193

Vocational Psychology for Agriculture

As the human population continues to grow, the demand for food continues to outstrip the security of its supply.  This conundrum is not a problem of any single nation state; it is an international problem—a problem for humanity. Its importance is manifest in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger. Despite halving the prevalence of extreme hunger since the inception of the MDGs, the rate of improvement is decelerating and more effort is required to maintain the downward trajectory of the prevalence of hunger (United Nations, 2014). Regular access to nutritious food is not just a problem of production and supply, as there are other causes such as conflict and corruption; however, sustainable and equitable production of food is a vital part of the solution.  ACCELL has the SDGs within its vision and aims to conduct R&D that is useful and, moreover, vital.

As a branch of applied psychology, vocational psychology has the scientific and professional capability to make a substantive contribution to agriculture. To that end, the three objectives of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) succinctly capture the intent of the research agenda for the Vocational Psychology of Agriculture—Farming Food and Fibre (VPA—FFF; McIlveen, 2015; McIlveen & McDonald, 2018) that is advanced by ACCELL:

  1. the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition;
  2. the elimination of poverty and the driving forward of economic and social progress for all; and,
  3. the sustainable management and utilization of natural resources, including land, water, air, climate and genetic resources for the benefit of present and future generations (FAO, 2015).

Thus, the VPA—FFF is motivated by an ethical mandate to contribute to the social and emotional well-being of the world’s population. Continue reading

Unemployment and Underemployment are Scourges

Public Health Problem

Unemployment and underemployment are scourges—nothing short of a problem of public health of pandemic proportions. Unemployed people are at greater risk of poorer physical health (Griep et al., 2015) and mental health (Wanberg, 2012), including suicidal behavior (Breuer, 2014; Drydakis, 2014; Madianos, Alexiou, Patelakis, & Economou, 2014; Milner, Morrell, & LaMontagne, 2014; Milner, Page, & LaMontagne, 2013, 2014), and change in personality, such as agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness (Boyce, Wood, Daly, & Sedikides, 2015).  It is alarming that poverty is associated with diminished cognitive development in children (Dickerson & Popli, 2016; Heberle & Carter, 2015; Kalil, Duncan, & Ziol-Guest, 2016).

Unemployment not only diminishes mental health but also, in turn, poorer mental health is a risk factor for unemployment (Butterworth, Leach, Pirkis, & Kelaher, 2012; Olesen, Butterworth, Leach, Kelaher, & Pirkis, 2013), which sets up a vicious cycle that entraps those with mental health issues in poverty. Furthermore, poor quality employment confers similar negative effects on mental health. Tragically, suicide is concomitant to unemployment (Milner, Morrell, et al., 2014; Milner, Page, et al., 2014; Norstrom & Gronqvist, 2015; Reeves, McKee, & Stuckler, 2014) and evident higher rates of suicide within the first five years of unemployment (Milner et al., 2013).  With the provision of interventions for unemployment and re-employment within their professional domain, career practitioners must be alert to mental health concerns and suicidality for their clients (Popadiuk, 2013). Continue reading

SVP 2016 Conference e-Book

The Society of Vocational Psychology has released an e-book of the keynote papers and a selection of special topics presented at the 2016 SVP Conference held at the beautiful Tallahassee campus of Florida State University.

Sampson, J. P., Bullock-Yowell, E., Dozier, V. C., Osborn, D. S., & Lenz, J. G. (Eds.). (2017). Integrating theory, research, and practice in vocational psychology: Current status and future directions. Tallahassee, FL: Florida State University Libraries.

Thanks to the authors and editors for sharing this magnificent collection of papers.  The book is licensed under Creative Commons and can be downloaded as an e-book free of charge, or printed on demand for a small fee.