The 30-Hour Work Week: A Win-Win Solution

November 6, 2008 by Lynn Faughey

It’s great to see that some employers and employees are finally catching on to this new trend.  Thirty hours a week.  It’s the magic number for the employee who needs some extra time to manage a household, especially when children are in the picture.  At the same time, it’s a cost-effective solution for employers who need talented workers to get their key projects done.

Do you ever find yourself wishing you just had one day off each week to get your errands done, take care of those doctor appointments that are overdue, or even go grocery shopping?  Many more of today’s workers are opting out of the typical 40-hour work week in favor of the 30-hour work week to enable them to have a better balance between work and life.  No more running around cramming chores and errands into the weekends with everyone else.  They are now spending their weekends focused on quality time with family and friends.  Life is short and they are finding a way to live it to its fullest.
Yes, it’s technically part-time, but these 30-hour workers are quite fully committed to their work. I’ve found them to be among the most happy and effective employees that I’ve ever had the privilege to work with.  Perhaps it’s because they are seasoned professionals with lots of work experience (and life experience!) Or maybe it’s simply because they’ve found that perfect balance that keeps their households running while they are still making significant contributions in the workplace.  Their families are happy and they are personally fulfilled as well.  They didn’t have to give up their career because they decided to have a family.  They are very organized and efficient – probably because they have to be.  Oftentimes, they are carrying the workload of a typical full-time employee but because they are high-achievers, they find a way to get the work done.  I’ve talked to their managers and found them to be among the most highly regarded and respected workers.
The sad part is that most larger companies in Corporate America haven’t figured out yet how to accommodate the 30-hour worker in their permanent workforce.   Because they officially count as a full “headcount” on the financial books, managers do not typically allow it.  A common response is “How can I ‘waste’ one of my headcount for a 30-hour person when I can get a 40-hour person instead?”  What they don’t realize is that there is a huge pool of untapped talent out there, lots of people (many of them moms) who would give their heart and soul to a job if only someone would let them work it 30 hours a week.
Well, that’s where the contract staffing solution comes in.  With the recent economic downturn, more companies are reducing their core workforce and relying on outsourcing as a business model.  So, when a company is paying for their resources by the hour, it’s easy to see how the 30-hour work week is a good idea.  There are no financial headcount games to play and most projects don’t need attention 40 hours per week anyway, right?  Hiring managers have the chance to save their company 25% just by being savvy enough to hire a 30-hour resource instead of a 40-hour one.  Besides, with today’s standard technology, it’s easy for workers to check in and stay “connected” via laptops and Blackberrys and cell phones, even on a day off, if needed.
I’m convinced that the 30-hour work week is the “Holy Grail” that we’ve all been looking for.  It’s a smart solution that gives employers access to great talent cost-effectively, while providing the sought-after work/life balance for our workforce.

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