With jobs more plentiful these days, Matt Tait could easily find full-time work. But he wanted to focus on his wooden toy business and took a part-time gig at Team Detroit, Ford Motor’s advertising agency.
It’s a win-win. Tait’s boss is happy to have him because the 31-year-old graphic designer’s outside activities make him more creative. And Tait has time to run Tait Design Co., which sells balsa airplanes and wooden yo-yos of his own design.
Six million Americans like Tait are choosing to work part time, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Typically young and college-educated, they’re not doing so because personal or economic circumstances forced them to. Rather, many are abandoning the traditional career path their parents took and working just enough hours to pay the bills or pursue a passion: toy making, puppetry, nonprofit advocacy. Their numbers have increased 12 percent since 2007, according to the BLS, a shift with broad implications for hiring practices.
“The workforce of the past was organized around company,” says Chauncy Lennon, who runs JPMorgan’s workforce initiatives and is studying flexible working arrangements. “The workforce of the future is organized around the worker. If we can’t find the right people, it’s going to hurt our bottom line.”
Businesses keen to tap this pool of well-educated workers are tailoring jobs to individuals—not the other way round. Team Detroit is letting Tait take a few months off later this year so he can focus on filling orders in the holiday season. Deloitte Tax is breaking projects into pieces and parceling some of them out to teams of part-timers. Customer-service giant TeleTech Holdings texts job alerts to a pool of workers, who tell bosses if they’re available or not.
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