How Do You Define Full-Time?

Do your employees struggle to fit in kids’ activities, doctor’s appointments and errands during the work week? Do they use work time to talk to their kids’ teachers or to check in with their elderly parents? Are they feeling overwhelmed with all their responsibilities both at work and at home? Reduce the number of hours they have to work, and everyone wins. Flexible schedules is one benefit most nonprofits can offer, and it is highly valued by employees.

Somehow, American culture has gotten stuck on the idea that 40 hours per week is full-time. In reality, employers can choose to define full-time as fewer hours, and doing so has huge benefits for your workforce.

At Community Crops, we set the required number of hours for full-time benefits at 30. One employee had requested this. She was a single mother who had her own small business and was active in the community, so she wanted to have extra time for those activities. I also was originally hired as an executive director at 32 hours per week due to budgetary constraints. Both my co-worker and I found that working 30-32 hours per week meant that our work hours were just that, work hours. While we were on the job, we focused on our work, and outside tasks were set aside for non-work hours. I was much more productive than when I was expected to put in 40 hours per week. At 40 hours, there are times when I just need a break. It felt at times like I was in the office to just be there, but I was no longer doing useful work. I am sure you’ve had those moments when you are waiting for the day to end, as well.

It is important to define what “full-time” means in your employee manual, so it is clear at what level employees get benefits, and to follow this guidance consistently, but you have the latitude to decide what the number of hours is. You can even decide to offer overtime beginning at 32 hours if you want.

Another option is to offer a four day work week with nine or ten hour days. I talked to a nonprofit executive director recently who shifted her entire organization to a four day work week. They had chosen to do it to save money, and they had, but they had found many other benefits. The agency saved money by reducing utility and cleaning costs with the shorter work week. They also found that employees were able to have a second job more easily since they now had Fridays off. Clients were still able to access the services they needed. Most importantly, employees were working harder and were more dedicated to their job under this new schedule.

This study found that employees were able to accomplish the same amount of work in four eight-hour days by being more productive. They were even more creative. Other employers have found their employees are healthier, less tired, and stay with their employer longer because they prefer the shorter work week. Here’s another good article about various nonprofit benefits including a shorter work week.

Take some time to think about what a shorter work week might mean for you and your organization. Could you start small by closing early on Fridays once or twice a month? Look at ways to reduce meetings and give your employees more time to get their work done.

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