Background: Part-time working is a growing phenomenon in medicine, which is expected to influence informal networks at work differently compared to full-time working. The opportunity to meet and build up social capital at work has offered a basis for theoretical arguments.
Methods: Twenty-eight teams of medical specialists in the Netherlands, including 226 individuals participated in this study. Interviews with team representatives and individual questionnaires were used. Data were gathered on three types of networks: relationships of consulting, communication and trust. For analyses, network and multilevel applications were used. Differences between individual doctors and between teams were both analysed, taking the dependency structure of the data into account, because networks of individual doctors are not independent. Teams were divided into teams with and without doctors working part-time.
Results and discussion: Contrary to expectations we found no impact of part-time working on the size of personal networks, neither at the individual nor at the team level. The same was found regarding efficient reachability. Whereas we expected part-time doctors to choose their relations as efficiently as possible, we even found the opposite in intended relationships of trust, implying that efficiency in reaching each other was higher for full-time doctors. But we found as expected that in mixed teams with part-time doctors the frequency of regular communication was less compared to full-time teams. Furthermore, as expected the strength of the intended relationships of trust of part-time and full-time doctors was equally high.
Conclusion: From these findings we can conclude that part-time doctors are not aiming at efficiency by limiting the size of networks or by efficient reachability, because they want to contact their colleagues directly in order to prevent from communication errors. On the other hand, together with the growth of teams, we found this strategy, focussed on reaching all colleagues, was diminishing. And our data confirmed that formalisation was increasing together with the growth of teams.