I’m rounding out my first month working with CodeSee and wanted to take a moment to reflect on the structure of my work with the company. I’m the head of developer relations here at CodeSee, a reasonably specialist role that can often be difficult for companies to fill. I spoke to the team about their product and fell in love with what CodeSee does to help people understand code, but the team was looking for a full time devrel person to join the team and I didn’t have the capacity. Instead of passing up on a great job with an amazing team I came back with a respected friend who was also looking for part time work and pitched a jobshare to the team. Now Ramón and I both work 2.5 days a week with CodeSee, overlapping with each other a day a week.
I wanted to briefly touch on the benefits of this arrangement for both companies and tech talent, before moving on to look at how we make this work at CodeSee.
Hiring can be one of the biggest challenges for tech companies, especially for high demand or difficult to source roles. While part time or flexible working arrangements won’t work for all your roles, offering them where you can gives you an edge in hiring. So few tech roles are explicitly advertised as part time or flexible that the few that are available are much sought after by talent that needs a non-traditional schedule.
Flexible work as an unbeatable perk
As tech hiring gets harder, an increasing number of employers have launched a range of sometimes strange perks, many of which don’t meet the needs of remote workers. I’ve seen office happy hours, dogsitting and in-office haircuts offered alongside competitive wages to try and lure in top talent. Instead of giving your employees weird perks they don’t want, you could give them more time back.
Part time and flexible work isn’t just for people who want longer weekends (though as someone who has them, they’re great), these working patterns are a great fit for talent that isn’t served by full time work. This could include those returning to the tech industry after a break, people with caring responsibilities, people managing health issues or even just someone who wants stable work while they work on their own side projects.
I like to encourage companies to present the part time and flexible working arrangements they offer in the most concrete ways possible. Just saying in the job description that your company embraces flexible working won’t often be enough to show your potential employees that you’re serious about offering them a flexible role. I like to encourage companies to cross post flexible roles both as full and part time roles, noting in the job description that you welcome talent in either pattern. With few companies offering part time roles, doing so lets you stand out to the talent looking for these gigs.
Day to day benefits
Once you’ve hired someone into the role, a part time working pattern unlocks additional benefits and challenges. Hiring multiple part time staff into roles means that you have the extra overhead of planning how they’ll communicate and share knowledge as they share the role. It also means that you have multiple different people sharing work around the same role’s domain area, allowing you to benefit from the added depth and diversity of multiple viewpoints. These part time team members will also bring in their own specialties, meaning you can bring in a wider range of skills into the team on the same headcount. For example, I’m a strategy specialist in developer relations working closely with Ramón who is a brilliant developer and public speaker. As your part time staff works together and with their full time peers, these individual skills can be further dispersed through your teams. This means that we are each able to focus on tasks best served by our core skills. I get to do the planning and strategy and Ramón joins me for the implementation and development work. Our arrangement is an especially good fit for early stage companies whose needs for hard to source strategy skills require more than occasional consulting but don’t yet require a full timer.
As is the nature of part time work, your part time employees will have more time away from their duties to rest and refocus. A growing body of work in the occupational sciences suggests that working long hours doesn’t result in greater output.
One of the largest challenges in a larger number of staff on shorter hours is accounting for the additional communication overhead. As I have a clear agenda here (I want you to offer people meaningfully flexible work!), I’ll look at this challenge as a potential hidden benefit. Ramón and I both work part time on the same projects, only overlapping our hours around half the time. This means that we need to carefully document our thinking and work to keep from blocking the other person during their solo work. The documentation we’re forced produce to maintain the flow of our workweek isn’t just useful for us, it also creates radical transparency for other teams. Anyone wondering what the devrel team is doing can jump into living documents where we plan, chat and work in the open.
I would love to bully more companies offering part time and jobshare roles, but I think convincing companies to change is a tall order. I’m going to take a moment to instead chat to you about why asking your employer for part time or flex work might be a great fit.
I’m still new to working part time, but I can’t overstate how much it has improved my life. At a time where things are so stressful [Ed note: if you’re reading this in the far future, the 2020s were rough], having three days to focus deeply on work and more time off to take care of myself seems like an impossible luxury.
Looking for work in tech and feel that a part time role would be a better fit for you to come back to, please ask potential employers to consider it. Many employers hide a muddled line about embracing flexible work somewhere in their job descriptions or mission statements. Asking if they would apply this in practice only costs you the time it takes to send an email. I would especially love to encourage folks who have left the industry or who are taking a break from it to consider coming back part time, to see if this working pattern better meets your needs.
Not everyone can make their lives work on a 50% pro rata salary, but there are a range of potential flexible work options that might fit you. A dear friend of mine arranged with their boss to move to a four day a week schedule after Covid cut their commuting costs, freeing up some extra space in their budget. They now alternate working Monday to Thursday one week and Tuesday to Friday the next, making half their weekends four day weekends.
For many people who have critical healthcare or other services tied to their full time roles, cutting days from their schedule just isn’t an option. While I loathe suggesting more hours, I’ve seen contacts have success with fitting their full time hours into four days each week, giving them three day weekends to recover.
While the power imbalance between employer and employee is often tilted markedly towards the employer, the high demand for technology roles in some markets can give us a bit more negotiating power. I would love to see more of us using this power to ask for the kinds of considerations we really want from our work. I have hazy, optimistic daydreams about a future of work where our work supplements our lives instead of dominating it. My experiment in working less is my most recent step in seeing if I can better balance this for myself. If you’ve found the next big breakthrough in healthy work/life balance, I would love to hear about it!