Here, There, and Everywhere

Whether you are talking about Uber drivers and the gig economy, or the broader notion of free agents and the movement by many to work for themselves, there are many people who can be working for you who may not be working for you full-time. In these cases, do you have their full attention?

There is a growing movement toward balancing multiple part time jobs. The people doing this may be older professionals who want to get out of the corporate rat race but still continue to work, or they may be recent grads who are trying to figure out what they really want to do, or who perhaps hold down one job while trying to start a venture of their own. While not exactly earth-shattering — every waiter I’ve ever met in New York is also an actor/singer/dancer/playwright/waiter somewhere else — what is different here is that this new batch of part-timers are not necessarily people supporting themselves until they get their big break. Many of them work this way out of necessity because of a job market that does not pay them enough via a single paycheck, while others are testing the waters to see what suits them best (and of course, there are still the actors/singers/dancers/playwrights). Whatever their reason, the effect is the same: they are being pulled in different directions by different obligations.

For the employer, this means that your part-timers and free agents who are working for you, say, 20 hours a week, are likely to be thinking about the work they are doing elsewhere for at least part of that time. They may also ask for more flexibility in their work schedule since they have to be at different places. You should realize, too, that they probably are not going to have things like health benefits and vacation time, since part-time assignments typically do not offer those, so they are probably a little more stressed about issues in their personal lives than your full-timers may be. So even though you get them for those 20 hours per week, you may not have their full attention for all 20 hours.

Of course, there are benefits to you as well. With someone working for you part-time, you can probably make better use of their talents because you only use them on projects where you need them, and do not have them sitting around or wasting time on make-work during down times (while you’d still be paying them, of course). You may not be providing benefits (unless you have the same philosophy as Starbucks) so they cost you less. Most importantly, from a creative standpoint, your folks may be bringing a diversity of ideas from their various jobs that you don’t get from a full-timer who’s with you and only you. You only get these advantages, though, if you are willing to adjust your style to meet the concerns and requirements of your part-timers with multiple obligations.

This is not to say you should be you should hold people to lower standards simply because they are working multiple jobs, nor should you be allowing them to do work for other jobs while you are paying them. It is simply a matter of being more flexible in your relationship with them. For example, when I was teaching in graduate school I had students grad students who went to school full-time, and others who worked full-time while coming to school part-time. When full-time students needed to meet me, I expect them to come to the campus; for my part-time students, I might meet them near their office when they go for lunch, or catch up with them by Skype. If there was only a short time between getting an assignment back to them and having them turn in the next one, I may try to get feedback to my part-time students first because I know they are going to have less time to work on the next paper, and so they need all the time I can give them. I would be a little more accepting of class absences because of work-related travel (though there are limits, of course), but it was still up to the student to stay caught up. Through it all I had the same expectations for full-time and part-time students when it comes to grading; they both get the same diploma, so they both need to meet the same standards. I was just more flexible when it comes to dealing with people who needed that flexibility.

We would all like it if the people working for us focused only on the work they are doing for us, but there is a growing type of employee with whom that is not going to be the case. The reality is that many people, for a variety of reasons, are working at multiple jobs. You can either work within that reality, or lose their talents to someone else who will.

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