Part-Time Is the New Status Symbol

Forget passive income. It’s all about being part-time with full-time pay and benefits

Melissa Smith
Index

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Photo: Unsplash

For years, passive income was all the rage; income earned so effortlessly that money would pour into your bank account overnight, allowing you to live a life of freedom. It’s a lie.

I have traveled the world and come across many people spouting this nonsense. You’ll find them in cities where you can live like a king on what’s considered a meager living in the States. I found the densest population of these spouters in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It’s the ultimate big fish little pond setting. Can’t make it in New York? Go to Thailand. Start an Instagram account, post your vegan smoothie bowl, share how you’re living the ultimate lifestyle, record yoga videos, and sell how you do it all in three easy steps.

Thankfully, people have finally figured out a flaw in the passive income promise — there is nothing passive about passive income. It takes time, effort, and energy to provide value to people. Enough value that someone will give you their email address and click to buy your product or knowledge. Much like anything you do with intention, it becomes more valuable over time. The key is consistency.

In 2017, I traveled the world (16 countries in 12 months) — all while running my business. Every time I spoke to someone, they would tell me I was living the dream. The most common question asked of me was, How can I do what you do?

No one liked my response. When I revealed it involved actual work, it no longer seemed attractive. People expected me to tell them that I worked less than three hours a day. Boom! Clients would simply throw money at me while I slept, and each morning I would wake up to new money in the bank. When I would share my step-by-step plan (which isn’t hard but does require work), they didn’t want it. What they wanted was for me to give them three quick, easy steps to make their first $60,000 in three months.

Have some people been able to do this? Sure. Have most people been able to do this? Not even close.

However, the reason people kept handing their money over to someone else already benefitting from passive income was not just the idea of earning extra income. That was merely the bait. The dream they were buying into was freedom and flexibility. Doing what they wanted, when they wanted, with complete anonymity. Most of all, the ability to work remotely.

COVID’s impact on employers hit like a tidal wave

Employers didn’t see the storm ahead (or ignored it). Worse, employers turned their backs on what was being presented to them and stated their companies would never be impacted by remote work.

Never say never.

An employer’s job is to future-proof the business, which includes future-proofing their workforce. Instead of considering the consequences of defying change and the many predictions regarding the future of work (which has been a reality for years), it was business as usual until they were forced to change.

The first wave that hit employers was a tidal wave, and everything changed overnight. No one has fully recovered yet, and the second tidal wave is here. What we’re experiencing now is a king tide. Thanks to the COVID moon, the new high tide has rolled in. Unfortunately, as has been said many times, we are all in the same storm but not in the same boat.

Remote working works. Employees know it. They’ve experienced it. Still, the storm carried too much weight because the very thing employers were worried about backfired on them.

You see, the cry of employers for years when it comes to remote working has been, How do I know if my people are working? It’s a fundamentally flawed question. From the beginning of time, leaders have been working remotely. They just did so without technology. If you are leading and managing a team that only works when you are watching them, the problem is not your workers; it’s you.

What employers also refused to look past was their fears to read the case studies of remote workers. Remote workers have always been more productive, but with a caveat. Good remote companies have been and continuously put, systems, processes, and boundaries into practice on purpose. Productivity happens on purpose, not happenstance. It’s also to protect employees. Burnout from overworking is very real. As we’ve all seen now, remote employees are more likely to overwork — not work less.

Burnt out employees are jumping ship — swimming for freedom and flexibility and fewer working hours. The pendulum swung too far, knocked employees down, and now what we’re experiencing is an overcorrection.

On July 27th, 2021 H.R. 4728, was introduced to the House by Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA41). The Thirty-Two-Hour Workweek Act would reduce the federal definition of the standard workweek from 40 to 32 hours per week by kicking in overtime pay under federal law at the 33rd hour rather than the 41st.

You might think this is great, and companies should and can afford to pay for it. However, this doesn’t just apply to large corporations. This would have major implications on the millions of small business owners. Not to mention the inflation that has already hit. No one has correctly predicted when inflation will end yet. It was supposed to have been a flash in the pan, and now experts are pushing it out at least through the end of the year.

Who benefits from part-time as the new status symbol?

The workers who will ride high on this tide are those who can command part-time hours with full-time pay and benefits. These workers will also be able to advance the furthest.

Then there is the king tide. You can put your C-Suite, VPs, executives, and knowledge workers in the king tide category. These workers will become like royalty and untouchable. A new type of privilege and hierarchy to be born into.

While there is nothing wrong with freedom and flexibility, nothing bad about employees putting their feet down on the companies who cared nothing for them; not everyone will benefit. And thus, the Red Sea will part severely.

Those who will be blinded by a new moon and begin to drown in the low tide waters are the workers who were considered dispensable at one time or another. Workers who traditionally could only find part-time work will now be sought out for full-time work offered the minimum amount of benefits, and their status will be the lowest. Not to mention with inflation and the soaring housing market, their salary still won’t provide the same lifestyle or opportunities. This includes having the least amount of freedom and flexibility. Many workers won’t be simply facing a pay gap. We’ll see a new gap introduced — the time gap.

The rich may get richer but let’s not forget it’s more than monetary.

Freedom is the new wealth, and time is the new currency.

Enter in The Great Resignation, where workers are telling their employers; You can take this job and shove it. There is no scare of inflation or the consideration of not having another job lined up. It’s as much a privileged move as it is a power move.

Employees are no longer looking for security from their employers. Instead, employees are showing employers who is really the boss. For those who haven’t quit, it’s simply a matter of time because 65% of U.S. workers are looking for a new job.

Historically, those who worked 60+ hours a week were rewarded. Hard work was the name of the game. They were seen as important. Busyness was a badge of honor. Now those same workers are pitied. And where are the people who rewarded this work behavior? Well, they are leaving the workforce.

Or are they?

While Boomers can get a bad rap, don’t forget their great contribution to our workforce, economy, and the technology created. It’s for all these reasons and science they are sticking around longer. Heck, they are pioneering the new gray divorce showing 60 is the new 40. Not ready to retire in the traditional sense, Boomers are now entrepreneurs, board members, advisors, consultants. Watch for the Boomers to take their place in the king tide.

Generation X (my generation) sadly has never put up much of a fight in the workforce. Sure, we brought you grunge, experienced the golden age of hip hop, had teen movies with real depth, and catapulted MTV to its success but all as the forgotten middle child.

The changes GenXers made in the workforce were and are still not done in the same unified fashion as Boomers or Millennials. In our defense, we simply don’t have the same numbers. Not to mention we grew up alone as latch key kids in single-parent homes or homes with two working parents. We found a way to get what we wanted but grew up cynical for profound change. For all this, we are now most likely to face the biggest unemployment crisis. GenXers will have to learn to swim in the waters of the low tide.

Millennials have never considered they can’t have it all. They’ve been told their entire lives they could and are going to change the world. Yet, no one told them how they were going to do it. Call them entitled if you want but brand them as innovators trying to clean up the planet. These are now our leaders in the workforce, and they don’t just want work/life balance. They demand it. If anyone has forgotten, it is their guru, Tim Ferriss, who wrote the book on it, The 4-Hour Workweek.

How you receive this information will largely depend on the tide you find yourself in and how well you can swim.

Predictions only have a chance of being right, so many will read this and do nothing, hoping my predictions are wrong or won’t apply to them. Others will be thankful because, finally, someone is speaking up on their behalf.

Here’s what I do know for sure, chaos is the enemy of commitment. If you don’t have a commitment from your employees, you are in a state of chaos.

When people are jumping ship, it’s sink or swim time. It’s a demonstration they have already committed to something else. The likelihood of getting them back is slim to none. To steer your ship to calmer waters where thoughtful decisions can be made requires a commitment from everyone on the ship.

The best we can all do at this point is get employers and employees to the table and promise to commit to one another for a positive change.

With commitment, we will be able to close the new gap of part-time time as the new status symbol even before it begins.

Editor’s Note: This Medium Writers Challenge entry was added to Index on November 05, 2021.

Melissa Smith has been working remotely since 2013. In 2017, she became location-independent. Now Melissa teaches and consults others on how to effectively hire remotely and is an author and mentor for the first global, online education remote individual certification program with Remote-how Academy.

She has since gained international recognition and has been featured in ABC News, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, and The U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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Melissa Smith
Index
Writer for

World traveler. Virtual Assistant Matchmaker. Remote Work Consultant. Entrepreneur. Bestselling Author. Mother. Sister. Daughter. Human. Everybody is somebody.