Making part-time work

Holly Mullin is a technical consultant on staff at SCH Technologies, a Cincinnati storage management software company. She recently reduced her hours so as to spend more time with her teenage kids.

“Instinctively, I think I might be at a disadvantage if I wanted to advance into management compared to someone working full time,” Mullin said. “But then again, I have a full-time attitude. And I had to earn the right to work part-time. Plus, it’s very challenging; I have to accomplish a lot in only three days. I would hope my dedication would shine through — dedication doesn’t have to be measured in hours.”

In a market where specialized IT professionals are in high demand, employers are eager to attract and retain talent, regardless of what compromises must be made. In some cases, this means allowing employees to reduce their work hours. And some evidence suggests that workers like Mullin may not need to worry much about the potential consequences to their careers.

Randy Rounds, director of IT at RF Microsystems, a San Diego-based systems engineering and satellite communications company, said he is open to reducing hours for valuable employees, no matter what their reasons for wanting to work part-time: whether to devote more hours to raise their kids, pursue a degree, or even moonlight.

“In today’s world, an employer has to be flexible and also think about the long haul. In our case, retaining part-time workers has paid dividends for our company,” Rounds said. “Some have returned to full-time positions, others have directed new business our way, and in some cases, we have teamed with the part-timer’s new venture.”

“People in general tend to perceive part-time workers as younger or inexperienced people seeking to gain skills,” said Edward E. Potter, president of the Employment Policy Foundation, a Washington-based public policy organization.

But a two-year joint study conducted by Purdue University and McGill University illustrates that at least some employers may agree more with Mullin’s approach than with the sentiment Potter expresses. In the study, 30 out of 87 corporate professionals were promoted despite part-time schedules.

Rounds said he wouldn’t rule out offering a part-timer a promotion.

“My feeling is that if the part-time worker performed well, and the job requirements were there, and it was a good fit for the company and the individual — why not promote that person?” Rounds said. “Part-time workers’ skill sets may change for the better because of their other pursuits. If they are earning a degree, or they become technically certified and that will directly benefit both parties, then a promotion [and a] pay raise, in my opinion, is warranted.”

And David Schutt, senior manager for workforce strategies at the Santa Clara, Calif., office of Norte — an international developer of digital telecommunications systems — who has devoted his last 15 years to human resources issues in the high-tech world while working at various Silicon Valley companies, said he has never seen managers consider a part-time job on a r