Our Divided FTE Lives

Drivers and costs of employment bundling.

September 15, 2015

How many jobs do you have? No really, how many?

I’m not talking about the second shift of family duties. I’m asking about how you bundle your work in order to get to 1.0 FTE (full-time equivalent).

A change that I’ve been observing in the higher ed labor market is that more people are doing more jobs. Folks are dividing their time between .2 FTE for 1 gig (1 day a week), .6 FTE for another role (3 days), and the remaining .2 FTE for yet another role.

Sometimes the job splitting is official, bureaucratic, and organizational. More often, however, the chopped up FTE’s of higher ed professionals are driven by opportunity and need.

A grant becomes available here, a director gig there, a consultant role over at that place.

FTE bundling (or is it packaging?) is a way to divide our contributions, and our compensation, over different units. By dividing up our work we get to participate in interesting projects, build new networks, and make important contributions. Splitting our roles also provides some measure of job resilience.

My hypothesis is that there has indeed been a significant increase in bundled FTE work. Moreover, I think that this trend has been driven mostly by exogenous forces, the result of employers being reluctant to increase headcount while the demands of work continue to increase.

Nobody set out to create an workforce where so many people do so many jobs. People bundle their work, and organizations create non full-time roles, because they are both responding rationally to incentives and scarcities.

Job bundling is less a strategy, and more a reaction to the (harsh) realities of the higher education labor market.

I’ve started to wonder about the costs of our divided FTE lives.

Can anybody really effectively do 3 jobs? Is there really such as thing as a .6 FTE or .4 FTE position?

The work that we do ebbs and flows. We work based on the demands and the needs of the tasks. Those with divided FTE jobs simply end up working more. They work more hours, more nights, more weekends, and on more vacations. They work so much not because they are workaholics, but because there is so much work to get done.

Divided work lives also make it difficult to deeply focus on any one challenge, and on any single large project. Juggling multiple roles makes it more challenging to respond nimbly to new opportunities as they may arise. All the time and all the effort is already accounted for, there is no give in the system.

Is anyone on your campus adding up all the folks who occupy multiple roles? (With multiple job titles and responsibilities).

How is your higher ed work life divided, segmented, and packaged?



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