One of the great things about planning our retirement is that we don’t have to go from working full time one day to not working at all the next. Part of that is being driven by organizations that realize they don’t want to lose talented employees. Frankly, they can’t afford to. Unemployment is at a historic low.
But the other piece driving companies to discuss phased retirement strategies are employees. People just want to work longer. Maybe not in a full time capacity, but they still can and want to contribute. I happen to work with someone who falls into the category. She just recently made this transition from full time to part time work.
Joyce Maroney is executive director of The Workforce Institute at Kronos, a think tank focused on empowering organizations through education and research. I serve as an advisory board member for the Institute. When I heard what Joyce was planning, I asked her if she would share her story and thankfully, she said “yes”.
Joyce, how did you decide that transitioning from full time to part time work was right for you?
[Maroney] I have been thinking about my retirement strategy for a few years. My husband retired completely in 2012, and we wanted to spend more time together. At the same time, I enjoyed my job and wasn’t ready to give up the intellectual stimulation of my work or the professional collaboration with colleagues inside and outside of Kronos. Finally, since it will be a few more years until I am eligible for Medicare and other senior benefits, part time work allows me to pay for benefits I need and to enjoy things we like to do like travel without relying entirely on savings to do so.
Walk us through your development of the conversation with your boss.
[Maroney] I began discussing retirement strategy with my boss in January 2016. It was he who initially suggested part time work after my desired retirement start date of January 1, 2018. At that point in 2016, I had been with Kronos for almost 10 years and had a broad portfolio of responsibilities.
There was one particular responsibility, however, for which there was no clear alternative internal owner. I had founded The Workforce Institute @Kronos in 2007. This is a think tank through which we publish research, expert opinions, books, and podcast interviews related to human resource management. In that capacity, I had been (and continue to be) a company spokesperson as well. We agreed that this was a job that I could do almost entirely from home and on a flexible schedule. Once he suggested this, I leapt at the opportunity to make it work.
How did you prepare Kronos for your transition to part time work?
[Maroney] The conversation with my boss continued as we discussed how to structure my team and their work beyond my transition. My planned departure gave us plenty of time to revisit the mission of the team, realign resources, and identify and develop my successor. We decided on an internal successor by mid-2016.
Once that decision was made, I began to involve her in any strategic decisions (hiring, for instance) that would have ramifications for her beyond my departure. I told my direct reports a little more than a year in advance, and the broader organizational announcement was made about 3 months in advance of my transition.
What would you say has been the easiest part about the transition?
[Maroney] Because we had plenty of time to plan the transition, I feel very good about the personal and professional impacts of my departure from my former day job. I have so much confidence in my successor and she was nothing but gracious during the last few months of 2017 by which time she was already doing the job with me on the sidelines as an advisor as necessary. Also, because I am still a part time employee of Kronos, she knows I’m easy to find if she needs my help.
On the flip side, what’s been the most challenging?
[Maroney] Because this change is still new, I’m still figuring out how to best organize my time. After almost 40 years of full time employment that included raising two children, extensive traveling, and long commutes, it’s hard for me to fully comprehend that I have so much more free time. I’ll be working 15-20 hours a week most weeks. I’m trying to stop feeling guilty when I go for a walk or run an errand in the middle of the day.
Last question. Now that you’re not working full time, what are you doing with that extra time?
[Maroney] First up is a major item from my bucket list – to visit Japan. My husband and I are taking a two-week tour of Tokyo and Kyoto later this month.
I am doing more of the things that have always been important, but always took a back seat. As a result, I’m spending more of my time cooking and going to the gym. I’m doing more of my fair share of walking the dog. I’ve been quilting for 20 years, and am looking forward to developing my artistic skills more deeply in this area of my life. I’m reading more – with the goal of reading a book every week in 2018. We moved to a new town within the last year, and I plan to increase my volunteerism here. Lastly, I have time to spend with my husband doing nothing but enjoying each other’s company.
I want to extend a HUGE thanks to Joyce for sharing her story. There were two big takeaways for me: 1) Don’t make the assumption that the company is ready to usher you out the door at the first mention of retirement. And 2) Successful planning can create a win for both the employee and organization.