Decision Making Series: Want to Downsize Your Work Year? Work Part-Time Work-Life Balance

Want to Downsize Your Work Year? Why Your Employer Might Say Yes

Want to Downsize Your Work Year? Why Your Employer Might Say Yes

Pursue life on your terms and you just might achieve it! iPhoto by Austin Schmid on Unsplash 

When a conversation rolls around to the topics of careers, work schedules, personal finances, and parenthood, there is A LOT to talk about. This is the second article in a series called Want to Downsize Your Work Year? Links to all posts in this series are available at the end of this article.


In the first article of this series, I suggested you consider and identify the non-monetary reasons behind your desire to work less than full-time. Careers and work can be very fulfilling, and not every new parent wants to be a stay-at-home mom or dad who takes a break from their career. Others are further along in their family life, have health issues, or are ready to start winding down to the retirement years.

Whatever the scenario, there is a key point to remember as you seek your ideal schedule.

It’s not just about you

There are many types of employers – corporations, small businesses, government, institutions (academic, hospitals), consulting firms, medical or legal practices, retailers, to name a few. They all need one thing to get the job done: employees.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most companies are in business for one main underlying reason – to make a profit. They need operating expenses that are lower than the incoming revenue so they can be profitable. The leadership team spends time each year developing strategic plans and specific goals for which they are accountable. Workload planning that provides a lean and efficient labor force keeps costs down.

Non-profit organizations have an operating budget based, in part, on grants and/or donations. Wise stewardship of those funds should be essential.

The government is funded by taxpayer dollars. Ideally, it should be the leanest and most efficient employer around. Don’t we all wish?!

Whatever the business model of your employer, or potential employer, consider your request to work fewer hours from their point of view. It needs to be a negotiated, mutual decision. While an employer can downsize their workforce unilaterally, an employee cannot downsize their work schedule without approval. However, I can think of several scenarios where an employer would be willing to accommodate a part-time schedule.

Downsizing Your Schedule with Your Current Employer

Caring leadership:

  • This scenario is my favorite because it offers a win-win situation between two existing sides. You’ve already proven your worth to the employer. You’ve been there long enough to have shown yourself to be a reliable, responsible employee. Your boss loves you, your clients love you (all in the professional sense, of course), and you love your work. Perhaps your career of choice is even the calling on your life and it’s very fulfilling. But you just had a baby or you have multiple kids in grade school, and the pace of your life is just too hectic. Or maybe the health of your aging parent has seriously declined and you need to help him or her out, a lot.

Business is slow:

  • Donations that fund your non-profit are down. Sales are down. Workloads are down. For whatever reason, the pace of work has slowed and employees are just not that busy. In the consulting world, for example, employees have billable goals, which means you perform work that is billable to the client. If you’re not billable, you’re charging your time to overhead, and that reduces profit margin. Extended periods of low workload can kill your and your department’s billable percentage. A well-scheduled project minimizes this risk, but factors out of your employer’s control can impact even the most carefully crafted schedule.

Transition to retirement:

  • You’re a senior level employee with a high rate of compensation, but also still so valuable. Retirement is approaching but you don’t want to call it quits yet. You enjoy your job, you have a lot of experience, an incredible network of associates in your industry, and quite frankly a lot that you could teach the younger employees in your firm. You add a lot of value to the team. Your company wins big projects because of your expertise and because you’re identified as a key member of the team in proposals. For some people, your salary has grown quite nicely over the years, but it can be a drag on the project’s profit margin and the number of hours you’re needed on the team is limited.

Economy:

  • In an economy with low unemployment rates, it can be difficult to find good employees so employers may be more accommodating of flexible hours.

Seeking Part-Time Status with a New Employer

Rapid business growth:

  • Business is booming so workloads are up, employees are overloaded, and there is no sign of slowing down. A good employer doesn’t want to wear out employees with stress and overtime, so hiring more people reduces the burden on existing staff. This context is a better plea for someone on the outside trying to get hired. If you’re already working there and ask for reduced hours, you might get a response along the lines of “We’re swamped, are you kidding me?”

Controlled growth:

  • It costs a business money to bring new hires on board – in-processing, training, benefits, and just getting Mr. New Guy up to speed in general. A new or young company might be looking to grow but not too quickly.

Fluctuating workload:

  • The business’s workload fluctuates and the employer doesn’t need workers 40 hours per week. In my years in the consulting world, I’ve heard the phrase “feast or famine” more than once. In other industries, it may be a predictable cycle tied to the seasons or the calendar.

Again, there are many types of employers with many different business models and some businesses aren’t suited for part-time employees. I can tell you, though, that I have benefitted from more than one of the above scenarios and I have successfully used some of the following methods to identify part-time friendly employers.

Downsizing Your Schedule with Your Current Employer

  • Consider the structure of your company and your team, the goals of your employer, and the current health of the business. Know how you fit on the team and how a reduction in your schedule will affect the team. Consider what you can propose to offset your reduction in work hours. In your mind, start building your case for the eventual discussion with your boss.
  • Read your company’s employee handbook to see what part-time policies and benefits already exist.

Seeking Part-Time Status with a New Employer

  • When talking with others in your everyday life, tune in to verbal cues that may be present in routine conversations. Such cues can point toward a local employer who needs to hire additional staff. Network with others. Listen for phrases such as “we’re so busy at work,” then ask follow-up questions about what they do for a living and who employs them.
  • When you hear of someone who works a lot of overtime, ask about the company. Find out what they do. Look for connections to your interests and skills.
  • Ask friends and acquaintances if they know of others who work part-time or if they know of employers who accommodate part-time professionals.
  • Identify local companies and pay attention to the local business news for announcements of big project wins that may lead to hiring increases.
  • Search online job boards, such as indeed.com, for the companies in your area with multiple job postings, which may indicate the company is growing quickly. Subscribe to notifications for new postings for those companies or your job type.

Share in the comment section below what other scenarios could lead an employer to grant your request. Do you have experience with those mentioned above?




Links to the Complete Series: Want to Downsize Your Work Year?

Article #1: Read These Non-Monetary Considerations

Article #2: This post

Article #3: Four Ways I’ve Balanced Career and Family Life by Working Part-Time

4 Comments

  1. Insightful– and really has me thinking!

    1. R – Thanks for stopping by. I hope you’ll visit again!

  2. Vicki@MakeSmarterDecisions

    Most of my recent jobs wouldn’t have allowed for PT status. It’s hard to get a part-time Chemistry teacher to fill the other part of a full-time role. And a PT school administrator isn’t super helpful – unless it is for some special project. I can totally see the reason some companies would do this. Steve – at ThinkSaveRetire wrote today about his wife going back to work for a few months after a sabbatical. If her company would allow her arrangement to be part-time (full-time but only part of a year) instead of a sabbatical, maybe she would stay? (Or maybe not…) But company policies often don’t allow the flexibility! It’s important to ask though! The worse they could say is no!

    1. Yes, I can see how it’d be difficult for teachers and school administrators to negotiate part-time status. I guess your opportunity to schedule life on your own terms comes with that well-deserved summer break?! Doesn’t help reduce a hectic pace of life during the school year, but at least you have it to look forward to, yes?

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