If you’re considering switching to working part time instead of full time but aren’t really sure if it’s right for you, you’re definitely not the first person who’s had second thoughts about this.
For many people, this often becomes a decision based on whether or not you can survive financially by working a part time job.
But there are actually a ton of other points to keep in mind. These include some pretty great benefits from reducing your hours, although the disadvantages of working part time are certainly worth considering too.
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Alternatively, this may not actually be your choice. Perhaps you’re being forced to change to working part time on furlough or you’re struggling to get a full time job and taking something that’s part time is your only option right now. You could even have medical reasons to work part time and so have to cut your hours because of that.
It’s obviously an understatement to say that if you’re not actually choosing to do this, this may not be ideal, especially if it’s not how you saw your professional life going.
But hopefully some of these points will help you see that there may, in fact, be a silver lining to the situation – and why considering all the pros and cons of working part time is important.
Why is it better to work part time?
As we just mentioned, when wondering if it’s better to work part time or not, people often make it simply a question of whether or not you can afford to switch from working full time. And that is absolutely something you need to work out when looking at part time jobs.
But there are also a number of positive reasons to work part time – more than simply the fact that you’ll have more time to do other things (although that’s a big one).
And these may also help you to see some of the good sides of this arrangement if this isn’t something you’re choosing to do yourself.
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1. More time to pursue your side hustle, studies or other projects
While this may be one of the more obvious benefits of working part time vs full time, it doesn’t make it any less important.
That is, reducing your working hours will suddenly free up a lot of time for you to work on your other goals.
Perhaps you have a side hustle you’ve been trying to start for ages but simply haven’t had the time to do so. Or maybe you’ve been looking into studying part time to upgrade your qualifications – or get certified in a totally new field.
You could even simply be wanting to have more free time to fix up the garden or work on your painting skills.
Whatever it is, those of us working 40 hours per week (or more) often have brilliant ideas of what we want to do in our spare time. We just don’t have the time to do it – or are too exhausted after a week at work.
So shifting to working part time can be a great way to give yourself the time and the energy to focus on your other goals.
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2. Creates new job opportunities
Working part time absolutely doesn’t always equal a step back career-wise. In fact, it could be a way to shift your professional path in a new direction.
- It could involve you working in a completely new field. Even if it’s at a different level from the one you were at when working part time, this could give you the flexibility to try something new which could, in turn, open a new career track for you.
- It could mean that you’re able to specialize in a certain area in your field. For example, if your full time work was quite broad, working part time in that same area could involve you “niching down” into an area you really enjoy or are good at. Your specialized work in that specific topic could open new doors for you.
- It could mean that you’re able to work with new clients which could lead to new opportunities with them in future. For example, if you plan to shift to consulting a few days per week instead of a more fixed position, you may be able to set it up so you have the freedom to work for the clients you want to work with, not who you boss tells you to support.
- You could plan to have multiple part time jobs, if the scheduling of your different positions makes it possible. This could give you the chance to have, say, one part time job that’s solely to make money and another with the aim of using it to leapfrog into another position, with the second one not being possible if it wasn’t for working part time.
3. Puts a firm limit on your number of hours each day/week
By moving to a part time job with a set number of hours each day or week, you’re making it much more likely that you’ll actually stick to that number of hours.
For example, when working full time, it’s pretty rare to actually work a set amount of 40 hours per week. Those eight-hour days can quickly extend to nine- or ten-hour days – if not more!
But if you sign up for, say, a 20 hour per week job, or agree to move to this with your existing employer, you’ll have a firm limit that you can rely upon.
It may take some discussions with your boss from time to time if your hours start to creep up. But, overall, it’s much easier to impose this limit when working part time.
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4. Possibility to earn a higher hourly rate
One of the main benefits of working full time, at least in most cases, is having a fixed salary. The pay off is that this means your overall hourly rate may drop slightly compared to someone who’s paid on an hourly basis.
This means that, when moving to working on a part time basis, your hourly rate could, in fact, increase. This is especially the case if you shift to something like freelancing for a few hours per week, where you may be able to charge more than if you were in a fixed, full time role.
Of course, it means your overall take home pay may not be as high as it was before. But knowing you’re getting more bang for your buck for each hour of work you put in definitely isn’t a down side.
5. Improved health
Research has found that sitting for long periods of time can lead to a number of health concerns, including obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar levels and more.
So if your work day consists of spending hours in front of a computer, reducing these sitting hours can definitely be good for your health.
Working part time can also mean you’re able to get more sleep and eat better, as you’ll have more time to prepare your own food rather than eating something on the run that’s likely to be less healthy.
It can also result in less stress, which is another step in the right direction for your blood pressure, along with other conditions.
That said, the positive impact of working part time will largely depend on what you do with your extra time. So will you actually go to the gym more – or even for more walks around the block? Compared to sitting at a desk all day, that’s definitely going to be good for both your mind and body.
6. Save money on transportation and other work-related expenses
Going to work full time isn’t purely a money making exercise. The old adage that “you have to spend money to make money” is true no matter where you work.
Not only do you possibly have to buy work-appropriate clothes (unless you have a uniform) but there are also transportation costs, parking fees if you drive to work and a higher food bill, if you don’t always manage to bring your lunch from home.
So this means that working part time can help to reduce all those costs. Just think about it: if you only have to get the bus or drive three times a week instead of five, you’re immediately saving money on those areas.
And you may find it much more manageable to make lunch three times per week instead of the full five, meaning you’re no longer having to buy from the (over priced) cafe around the corner.
7. More free time for your friends and family
One of the reasons that people say that they only want to work part time is simply down to wanting to have more time for their friends and family.
And while we may be used to hearing this as a convenient excuse for politicians who resign to avoid certain situations, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s true.
This is particularly the case if you find yourself working way over 40 hours per week. If that’s you, it can suddenly seem very tempting to switch to working part time so you can get a bit more of a balance in your life.
8. Save money on other areas of your budget
While your overall income may drop when changing from fulltime to part time work, some people find that it actually doesn’t have a massive impact on their overall budget.
The most common example of this is childcare. That is, if you’re spending a small fortune on someone to look after your kids during the day, you may see that reducing your income due to having less working hours could actually balance out with a similar reduction in childcare costs.
Plus this has the added benefit of being able to spend more time with your kids!
…well, generally a benefit, depending how they are that day.
9. More productive when you do actually work
It’s been found that the amount of real, actual work we do during an eight-hour day is only four hours. Apparently, our brain has a daily concentration limit and anything beyond that, we’re simply inefficient.
So one reason why it’s better to work part time is that you’re actually going to be more productive on average, as your brain will be more prepared to fully function for the hours you’re supposed to be working.
This can be particularly lucrative if you’re paid on a project basis, not simply hourly. This is because it may mean that you’re able to produce a similar amount of work as you would have done when working full time – without the wasted time of staring out the window or wandering around the internet.
What are the disadvantages of working part time?
While there are plenty of positives for changing from a full time job, it’s clear that there are also disadvantages of working part time.
This may especially be the case if your reasons to work part time are out of your hands.
But even if it’s something you’re trying to decide for yourself, considering both the pros and cons of working part time are definitely something you should do before taking the plunge either way.
1. Pressure to work beyond your hours on the days you do work
This is something you see time and time again. That is, someone may be contracted to work part time but they find themselves being pressured to increase their hours on the days they do work.
Then, before they know it, they end up practically working full time hours anyway.
This can be a particular problem for those changing from fulltime to part time work in the same company. Your supervisor may expect the same type of work as before, even if your contract has changed.
That said, this is definitely a manageable problem, but you may have to have some firm discussions with your supervisor if it starts to happen.
2. Difficult to meet expectations on the amount of work to be done
This is similar to the problem above in that you may have come to an agreement with your employer to work part time but they expect the same results.
It’s important to discuss work expectations with your boss no matter what position you’re in, but especially if there’s a fixed (reduced) amount of time that you’ve both agreed for you to work.
And if your workload in that time becomes unmanageable, it’s critical that you don’t simply accept it and try to shoulder the load. Otherwise, see above: you’re going to be working more than you expected (and possibly more than you’re paid to do).
Open lines of communication are the solution here, to ensure both you and your boss can communicate your expectations. That way, no one is going to be disappointed or feel like they’re being screwed.
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3. Reduced salary
This is the big one: working part time is probably going to end up with you having a reduced salary.
As mentioned earlier, this doesn’t always have to be a net negative, especially if your work hours are resulting in you incurring extra costs, like childcare fees.
But, in most cases, your household budget is probably going to take a hit. This usually means, in turn, that this is going to be one of the biggest disadvantages of working part time for most people.
This is also why, however, it’s important to balance out the pros and cons of working part time. You may find in the end that you can manage the cut to your income by making changes in other areas of your household budget or that it’s worthwhile because of the other things you’ll be able to achieve at that time.
Ultimately, however, it’s going to be up to you and will largely depend on your individual circumstances.
4. May affect your career prospects
It’s not always the case but, in some jobs, working part time may affect your career prospects. This is a particular possibility if you work in a field where you’re expected to put in long, consistent hours.
Let’s be clear: this is ridiculous, as we all know that spending more hours at your desk doesn’t equal more productive work. But it’s a mindset that continues to exist in many industries, unfortunately, and so asking to work part time instead can be seen as a negative – even if it’s simply not true.
That said, you may be assuming this without having actually done the research. And even if it’s not a possibility at your current employer, other companies in your field may very well offer this as an option.
So don’t completely discount working part time without asking around, as you never know what may be out there.
5. Could impact your benefits
As above, changing from fulltime to part time work doesn’t always affect the benefits to which you’re entitled – but it can.
This means that it’s important to do your homework to make sure that the benefits you could lose are, overall, worth it for you and your family.
This is especially the case for things like health insurance, as well as the impact that such a shift could have on your retirement accounts.
Is it bad to work part time from an employer’s perspective?
Some employers are still going to consider it bad to work part time, especially if they’re stuck in an older mindset that used to be more common.
Today, however, many employers fully recognize the benefits of flexibility, both for their work force and for the company’s purposes.
(You could even use some of these points as a way to convince a reluctant boss why they should consider letting you work part time)
Some of the reasons to work part time from an employer’s perspective include:
- It’s often a more cost effective way to reduce the workload of their full time workers. There may be too much work for an extra full time person, but still a need for someone to fill a hiring gap – which is where you come in.
- It can be better for a company to have a more flexible workforce. Staff working for flexible employers are, on average, much happier, less stressed and less likely to look for a job elsewhere – and recruitment is expensive for companies.
- It helps for companies where the work is seasonal, as they can increase and decrease the hours of part time workers accordingly.
- They can prioritize the skills of part-time workers to be project-specific. For example, if you have a particular specialization in a certain area, you can be put to work part time on projects in that niche while others focus on sections that you may not be quite as experienced in.
- For companies looking to cut costs, they may be particularly grateful to have staff who are willing to shift to working part time. This is especially the case if it helps them avoid putting people on furlough or laying them off.
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How many hours a week is part time? Or how many hours a day?
The question of how many hours a week is part time is going to very much depend on where you are and what’s considered full time.
We can, however, look at the requirements of the Affordable Care Act for some indication, at least in the US. The ACA provides that companies with 50 or more full-time employees have to offer health insurance to those on full-time employment, which is defined as those working 30 hours per week or more.
This means that the answer is 29 hours per week or less – or, for the question of how many hours a day is part time work, the answer would be just under six hours for a five-day work week.
Is 4 days a week part time?
Four days a week can be part time, if you make sure it’s less than 30 hours per week overall.
This means that it would be equivalent to working just over seven hours per day on your work days.
How many hours can you work without it affecting your benefits?
As above, in terms of health insurance, the ACA states that you have to be working at least 30 hours per week to qualify.
That said, this isn’t the only benefit you should be looking at. And while sometimes the answer will be employer-specific, sometimes it is up to the relevant law.
For example, access to 401(k) accounts is being legally expanded to include some part time workers. A summary of these changes can be found here.
Can I work 16 hours a week and claim universal credit?
Here’s a question for those in the UK.
In brief, you may be pleased to hear that you can work 16 hours a week and claim universal credit. In fact, the so-called “16 hour rule” was removed as payments are based on earnings rather than the number of hours worked.
Do part timers get unemployment?
This is going to depend on where you are but, in the US, you may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits even if you’re currently working part-time. You may also be eligible if you’ve lost your part-time job.
If changing from fulltime to part time work is your own choice, then you normally won’t qualify for partial unemployment benefits.
However, most states provide partial benefits if your work hours have been reduced through no fault or choice of your own. You also may be covered if you’ve lost your full time job and have replaced your lost income in part by working part time, including if you’ve taken on several part time jobs.
You also could qualify for these benefits if you haven’t been laid off but you’ve been put on a so-called “zero-hour schedule”.
Check the requirements in your state, including those relating to minimum earnings during the relevant period and minimum time-of employment requirements, to see what you may be eligible for.
Should moms work part time – or dads?
Part time work could definitely be a good move for any parent.
Maybe you’re a parent who’s currently working full time but wants to switch to working part time to spend more time with your kids.
Or perhaps you’re a stay at home parent who wants to get back into the workforce. In that case, starting off by working part time could be a great way to get your foot back in the door.
As with anyone weighing up the pros and cons of working part time, it’s going to depend on your personal circumstances – which aren’t only financially-motivated, although that’s certainly a major consideration.
Final thoughts on the benefits of working part time vs full time
If you’re in the position of being forced into working part time because the full time opportunities simply aren’t there at the moment, this should at least show you that there could be some silver linings.
You could even use this time to find some new income streams. And you never know: these could even continue once you’ve gone back to full time work, adding even more to your household budget.
For example, take a look at these ideas:
Alternatively, if you’ve found yourself checking part time jobs more and more recently as a way to switch from your current work arrangements, you may have already started weighing up the benefits of working part time vs full time.
But as this article shows, there’s often a lot more to this question beyond simply “Can I afford it?”
It’s the right decision for many people. Meaning it could very well be the right decision for you too.
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About the author
Anna is the founder of LogicalDollar and a personal finance expert, having been featured on Forbes, HuffPost, Reader’s Digest, MSN Money, Yahoo! Finance, CreditCards.com and many more. She’s committed to helping others get on the path to financial freedom using the experience gained from turning $60,000 in debt into a six-figure investment portfolio. Find out more.