Always Active: Juggling Reserve and Full-Time Employment Concerns

Always Active: Juggling Reserve and Full-Time Employment Concerns

As a career reservist and full-time employee, it is often difficult to achieve a perfect balance between these competing obligations. Employers who value the significance of Reserve and Guard employees constantly find ways to accommodate this dual schedule. Overlapping responsibilities will push one obligation into the other’s space and causing friction points. Employers also seek to improve benefits both tangible and intangible for these hybrid employees. This article will highlight that a service member does have to work a little harder than most to fulfill their end of the bargain, and some of the frustrations that are friction points with the balancing act of these two obligations.

As a Reservist or National Guard member, it is a volunteer opportunity to receive job training, educational benefits, and career benefits through the federal government. Most importantly you are serving your country and that does require time, commitment, dedication, and effort. Time obligations include monthly training and yearly training, as well as larger obligations such as deployments and advancement schooling. Keeping your employer in the loop is a great way for predictability in the schedule, but too many friction points still exist, often with compensatory issues. Federal benefits such as an additional paycheck, healthcare, educational benefits, and retirement funding can add significant weight when considering long-term incentives to continuing service in the Reserves or National Guard.

The monthly requirements of performing military duty usually fall on a weekend. From the viewpoint of the civilian employer, it usually has no effect on the employee. However, for the employee it is 12 days of work with no time off, and can quickly tire and tax the employee who may be coupled with additional family responsibilities and other items that can easily get neglected. Peeling away from the desk or worksite and clocking out on a Friday, getting home to pack bags, and hitting the road while “resetting” yourself for military duty, usually earlier on a Saturday morning is a routine for Reservist or National Guard member. Working until closing time on a Sunday and returning back home to unpack and then “reverse reset” yourself for your full-time job first thing Monday morning can quickly take your weekend and personal time away.

Brings to another subject, compensation. In today’s fast world of performance metrics and constant analysis, how and why would an employer pay for an employee who needs to take more time off than someone who is not a service-member? It would be an added benefit to the service member to be off at least a half-day before or after a drilling weekend. Does that count as personal time off? Also, the annual requirements of training with service members can often confuse employers. As they may view the employee as “being off” it raises questions or concerns if the employee then asks for additional time, or another full week off as “vacation”. Why would the employer grant this person one month off for the year, when others may only receive their 2 weeks and holidays? As a service member, it is not a “vacation” at all, but rather hands-on training, often with longer days and nights, and away from home. Reservists can also bring their own health coverage to the offering table when it comes to calculating and formulating reasonable employment offers, which is frustrating when offers are low and do not include their benefits and value-add to the organization.

In an ideal world, and some employers are able to counterbalance multiple “weights” on this complicated scale. Reserve and Guard employees are compensated adequately during their training time and even deployments. They’re given a workable amount of military days that don’t count against their civilian time. Their years and seniority accrue when they are gone for a longer duration. The organization promotes professional development catering to these Reserve and National Guard professionals. As the military relies more and more on the part-time force to fulfill full-time obligations, civilian employers will need to continue to refine the bridge between the two competing organizations.