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Stack your specialists: 4 ways to totally redefine a role using flexible/part-time

How to really make a role light up.
How to really make a role light up.

The move towards flexible working should be a cultural shift within a business. But sometimes the best way to begin that shift is to focus on specific roles and whether they might be the catalyst for broader change. In some cases flexible working can completely redefine a role – not just re-arranging the hours it takes or location it’s done in, but completely evolving the way it’s structured and carried out to make something new and more effective.

Not all of these ideas will be right – or even plausible – for your business. We’ve deliberately chosen examples that are innovative and unconventional, simply to demonstrate what’s possible. Here are four things that flexible/part-time working allows you to do that simply aren’t possible with the standard 9-5 setup (and standard hiring/salary conventions)


1. Matching thinkers with doers

You can hire an expert at the top of their game part-time, AND a talented specialist still developing their career full-time, for the same (or less) than hiring the expert full-time alone.


Why does this work?

Even most strategic, thinky-thinky gigs have some implementation responsibilities attached. The strategy is crucial, but doesn’t always take huge amounts of time. The implementation is equally important, and can take every moment in a week. Supervising and guiding successful implementation of strategy is one of the most important developmental tools for any professional as they move into the later stages of their career.

See where we’re going with this? This asynchronous structure within the same role allows both employees to maximise the value of their contributions. The expert does the strategising, then they go home and let someone else with a similar core skill-set guide the implementation. The less experienced professional rapidly gains incredibly valuable experience – with someone to mentor them through challenges that require a little extra knowledge – and has the opportunity to develop their own high-level strategic awareness to move them on to the next level. And you save money in the process. Win.


2. Stacking your specialists

You can hire multiple part-time specialists – for the same limited period each week – for the same (or less) than one full-time expert employee.


Why does this work?

If you’ve got a really top-level “pure” strategy role, sometimes you want as many voices in the conversation as possible. Different perspectives, different experiences, the chance for collaboration and course-correction that comes whenever several talented people get in a room together. Stacking your specialists maximises your cumulative expertise, but should be reserved for either less hands-on roles or ones that are already highly collaborative in nature to avoid a “too-many-cooks” scenario. It’s also great for strategic roles that require diversity of perspective and experience, perhaps a high-level creative jobs, where a single hire would lock you into a single background, or for scaling start-ups that require lots of strategic thinking but where the implementation will be carried out by junior members of staff. Many start-ups are already doing this but across multiple roles, with many of the C-suite executives only there one or two days a week.


3. Role-sharing

Two part-time professionals at a similar level of experience split a full-time role between them, sharing responsibilities with an agreed schedule.


Why it works

Similar to the example above, this allows you to maximise the amount of available of skill and experience available within a single role. Two heads are usually better than one, and you get the added bonus of staff that can either collaborate on challenging issues or work independently on smaller or broader tasks, adding extra value (and often extending the boundaries of what you thought was possible within the role). You’ll need a pre-arranged and agreed flexible schedule for both workers, but the simple fact that there’s two people with the same basic needs often allows for intuitive flexibility – things like holiday or extended illness become less of an issue when half of a pair remains to pick up some of the work, and both employees have a chance to choose their working environment while still remaining in regular contact with the rest of the business as a unit. We’ve been told by self-managed professionals time and time again that the chance for solitude is incredibly valuable for strategy and business development.    


4. “Pillar and cluster” remote working

A single part-time employee (or a team, if that’s what the role requires) is the business-focused element (the pillar) of a group of part-time remote workers (the cluster). In our system the pillar isn’t totally static: the group operate on a flexible schedule so everyone shares this responsibility.


Why it works

We’ve nicked the terminology from SEO here (blogs are often organised with a cluster of relevant material linking to a single piece of anchor content) but we’ve chosen it because this structure is actually already adopted by plenty of online content creators and networks themselves. It’s one that could be used to redefine roles often held by a single over-worked, creatively drained maker of things. Everyone on the “team” has basically the same role, but only one member is physically present in the office – the rest contribute from wherever they choose.

This is ideal if you need diverse, regular content, but not so much that you need someone cranking it out 40 hours a week (or are finding that asking one person to do it all leads to burnout). You can match the overall hours worked to your specific needs, there’s a content lead or similar liaison that can interact with the business from the office and you can get creative work from a diverse group – who probably have diverse schedules to match. Well-thought-out remote working makes can make their myriad requirements a non-issue.

Often when businesses adopt a structure like this they make the in-office person static and full-time (blog manager, editor etc), but if there’s no need for someone to be there all the time – especially since contributors are turning in work to an agreed schedule – there’s no reason to our mind why they ought to be.


5. Something even more inventive…

These are four examples we’ve encountered where flexible working has been used to conceptually reinvent a role – often while keeping the same amount of total hours worked or the same budget. In every case you’ll note that embracing flexible working allows you to employ more people – which means more experience, more diversity and more collaboration.

We’re always excited to hear about inventive flexible working structures. Often they’re mind-blowing for about five minutes and then seem perfectly natural afterwards (strongly implying that the “normal” way of doing things isn’t simply the best or most efficient).

Have you encountered an example like these, or perhaps one even more distinct and different? Share it with us in the comments below or reach out on social media. And if you’re a business interested in how flexible working could completely change the way one (or all) of your roles operate, reach out to Juggle.  


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