For decades, working full time was considered a career apogee — a sure sign that you’ve earned a secure job with a trusted employer, that you’re deserving of a protected salary and that you’re skilled enough to warrant investing in for the long term.
There are advantages and disadvantages of full-time employment, and the modern world of work is taking stock of alternative modes of career building, flexible schedules, adaptable employment options and much more personalised styles of work.
If you’re unsure about what sort of work contract you want from your current, or next, job, then start with one of the most important questions: how do I know if a full-time contract is the wrong choice?
Whatever stage you’re at in your career (and especially if you’re starting a new career), a healthy dose of self-analysis is warranted. This is especially acute as we move into a post-pandemic environment, and more and more people exit roles and look for new career paths.
We’re living in the era of the ‘Great Resignation’, and employee turnover in some key industries is hitting record levels. This means employers are cognisant of changing expectations, and they want to attract employees by offering much more adaptable working structures.
But this isn’t uniform, and in some industries it’s impossible to change. For example, remote working has no bearing on the hospitality market, and hybrid work won’t staff an airline. There is, however, one central component of getting a job that is up for debate: whether you chose to work full-time.
Below we highlight the pros and cons of full-time employment, and this guide should help you on your way to deciding what sort of employment contract — and working lifestyle — will suit your future.
The pros of full-time employment
1. You earn a steady income
Full-time employment contracts include an obligation to pay you an agreed, protected and legally binding amount every month (or, in some cases, weekly or bimonthly). Your employer is also obligated to pay legally mandated tax and pension contributions and honour any bonuses or commission payments earned within agreed fiscal pay dates.
This financial security is one of the most attractive elements of working full time — it provides professional and financial peace of mind and the ability to accurately budget in the long term.
2. You’re entitled to paid leave
A full-time contract also requires employers to provide paid leave. Although this varies from country to country and employer to employer, there are minimum mandated leave periods that employers must offer. Some will offer more paid leave, dependent on a multitude of factors such as time served with the company, seniority or more bespoke contract deals with employees.
The knowledge that you have secured, paid time away from work is a vital component of how employers are trying to manage a healthy work-life balance. Workers both deserve and need time off to recoup, recover, rest and relax. It's regenerative, and the knowledge that your job is secure only adds to the effectiveness of a rest period.
3. You receive more social security benefits
Employers are again obligated to support employees with their welfare, and much of this will be through social security benefits. Although these can vary, at the very least employers will offer sick pay and set return-to-work policies for those who have extended periods of time away from work. Employers can also offer a range of other benefits such as childcare vouchers, increased sick leave pay and other welfare perks.
Most importantly, full-time employers know that almost every eventuality is looked after, including unexpected periods of time away from the office due to illness or injury. Again, this sort of support is an unheralded positive to full-time workers.
4. You work a fixed schedule
Full-time employment generally provides set working structures, such as set hours worked per week or shift patterns. This differs to freelance or contractor working schedules which are typically project-based, short term or at the behest of a client. Full-time work in this regard provides set working schedules and rigorous commitment expectations.
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5. You grow your career
For any employee with one eye on the future, most full-time work offers a pathway to career advancement. This is achieved both through proximity to senior members of the team who can foster development, and internal training courses, L&D programmes and mentor relationships.
6. You enjoy more perks
Perks are the cherry on top of the employment cake, and they come in all shapes and sizes. They could be anything from discount commuting costs to gym memberships, cultural days out to a company car, a company phone to high street discounts, and social events to partnerships with brands. Perks are uniquely powerful in attracting people to full-time work and are a sign of how much an employer values your time and labour. It's a clear reward for your hard work.
The cons of full-time employment
1. You may find it difficult balancing your personal life
Full-time employment is all-encompassing. Considering we spend two-thirds of our waking life at work, finding the balance between a productive and effective working life and time away from the grind can be difficult. This can lead to overwork or, at worst, burnout.
2. You may become too comfortable in your routine
It’s no exaggeration to say that routine is the enemy of full-time work. The inherent security of full-time work can lead to employees taking their foot off the gas- - which can lead to a dispassionate workforce, a lack of drive or desire to progress, and an uninspired career.
3. Your CV may lack versatility
Although commitment to a company isn’t a bad thing, CVs are designed to show your versatility, adaptability and passion for whatever industry you work in. Your CV needs to show your vision, and, as such, having a long tenure at one employer can be a sign of a lack of energy to progress or advance your career.
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4. You may experience more work-related stress
Committing to working for one employer full time can in some regards lead to an increase in work-related stress. It's unavoidable that full-time staff become emotionally invested in their work — it’s a natural state when so much time and energy is spent providing for that employer. As such, stress levels will rise in tandem with increased workloads, responsibility or pressure. It can, and should, be managed by both teams and management, but it can be overwhelming if left to fester.
5. Your may find it harder to find new jobs
There’s a school of thought that says it’s easier to find a job when you have a job. However, job searching takes a lot of time, effort, strategising and patience: all things that become harder and more difficult to commit to when you’re in a full-time job and every professional moment is committed to an employer. Plus, you may find it difficult to leave your job due to loyalty. This is objectively no bad thing, but when the time comes to pulling the trigger and exiting that company, you may find it very difficult to part ways.
6. You can’t choose your projects
Although there’s no formula for full-time working schedules or workloads, the employers that offer full-time contracts generally speaking have set hierarchies, structures and workloads that are meticulously managed. This means that, compared to freelancers or contracted workers, you will not get to choose where you apply your skills. This can be, for some, frustrating and limiting.
7. You could get bored
Boredom is one of the most impactful hidden negatives of full-time working. Boredom is bred from routine and a lack of engagement in your work, and can, left unchecked, hamstring your career. Most critically, it makes you a less productive worker, which will reflect in your ongoing performance management, analysis and employee return on investment. Boredom effectively makes you a poor worker.
Take a long hard look at what you do, analyse this alongside what sort of work-life balance you want, then craft a strategic job search that takes stock of what you want from your work.
Research how colleagues within the industry work and what structures and contracts work for them.
If you have any doubts about full-time work, the best thing to do is communicate with those who can help you: your employer, prospective employer or recruiter.
You’d be surprised at how supportive and forgiving business owners and hiring managers can be when confronted with incontrovertible proof a full-time contract — with all the attributable working expectations — works, or doesn’t work, for you.
At the end of the day, employers want happy, engaged and productive staff. Having a candid conversation about whether full-time work is right for you is necessary.
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Join the conversation! Can you think of any pros and cons of full-time employment? Do you prefer holding a full-time or part-time job? Let us know in the comments section below!
This article is an update of an earlier version published in January 2015.