Around august 2015 I decided that I wanted to step back from my 9-5 job and work part-time for the same company and it was one of the best decisions of my life.
In this post I want to highlight the story, the tradeoff, the benefits and the downsides of this choice to help everyone that is uncertain about it have a better understanding of what might happen.
But let me rewind for a second.
I’m a web developer (full stack, I’d say), and for over 14 years I did the same job for the same company. Well, not exactly the same repetitive job, but I showed up each day at 9 and got out at 6pm.
For 14 years.
I’m italian, so it’s not uncommon to trust a company for that much time, in america you would have probably changed company at least 5 to 10 times.
But I loved the bosses, they were (and are) awesome people, and the company was great, I didn’t have a reason to change.
But I did have a reason of unhappiness: I felt that we were all running too fast, with no solution, everything was repeating and we weren’t changing the workflow enough to make it happen.
I didn’t like the way this situation changed me.
I felt stressed and I was starting to think that the only solution was to change company.
Until… one day I found a comment in HackerNews that talked about moving from full-time to part time.
The alternatives: Remote Work, Freelancing, Changing company
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re considering the options.
To me changing company meant that I was leaving a great company for something much more uncertain.
What about freelancing? Well, some people are simply perfect for it, while others prefer to focus solely on their work. I was one of them.
I am not a good entrepreneur, and while I’m sure I’d do 120% of my work while freelancing, I didn’t feel that lifestyle would fit me.
Remote work? That was my best bet.
But giving that I’m in Italy it meant I’d have to find a company that allowed contractors from the EU. I also applied with some USA companies only to discover that the timezone difference wasn’t a good fit for them.
When the option of part-time started wondering in my mind, it was unappealing, yet interesting.
Could it be working for me?
I took a couple of weeks to think about it.
What would I gain, what would I lose? Those were my questions.
In my view working part time would have allowed me to spend more time with my family, to have extra time to recharge, to dedicate my time more towards “living the life” and less towards working.
The downside? Less money, obviously, around 20% paycut which meant that I had to reduce expenses and controlling my spending.
How did I ask to change my working hours
After doing some math I figured it out that I could handle the paycut with reductions that wouldn’t change my lifestyle so much.
Maybe I’d have less travels but I wouldn’t have to give up on good travels (1 month in japan, 1 in chile, etc). I’d simply need to be more picky on them.
I made up my mind and thought, ok, I’ll ask them if it’s possible.
I asked my bosses if we could talk and explained them that I would love to keep my work at the company but at the same time that I valued staying with my family and the time I spend with my wife.
I told them that I knew I was asking a lot and I know it’s uncommon, but it would have made the difference for me in a lot of ways.
Given the fact that I was working there for a lot of years together with my request and that I’d get less money based on the hours I’d not work, they accepted.
Obviously if you’re just starting with a company it’s probably too much to ask to them, unless you’re negotiating the salary for a new job.
In other cases, it’s worth a try if this is what you’re into.
What has changed for me in working part-time?
I once read in a book that we tend to allocate work based on what we have to do.
So in the end if we have 5 days to work and only one small task, we’ll tend to expand the task to take 5 days (well, I’m exaggerating here).
It’s so true.
Reducing the time is an extra constraint that even Tim Ferris advice for in his famous “17 Questions that changed my life“.
Truth is: Having less time you automatically forces you to find new solutions and this has happened to me too.
I started planning, having a more focused way of working, be on time, etc.
It gave me some sort of extra focus and clarity because I wasn’t allowed to waste time, because I didn’t have the fallback of “I’ll postpone it”.
Everything needed to be good and ok, people needed to be in touch and have work ready for them if they’d miss me for one extra day and so on.
What were the downsides of working less?
I hate when I see an article about all the benefits of “X” (place any topic here).
Everything in this world has its up and downs and so did my choice.
First of all: You earn less, so this choice can be feasible only if you have a job that with a 20% paycut allows you to live a nice life by reducing some extras.
If you can’t make it to the end of the month, it’s not for you.
Go for a raise first, and handle the time reduction after few years.
Second: You need to do extra work to prepare the work of the people you’re in charge for.
If you choose to have one extra day off in the week and your job is to coordinate some people then you’ll need to be able to be sure that everyone is on the same page, has all the information and can go in autodrive while you’re away for a day they’ll work.
Might not be a big deal if you are all skilled remote workers, but depending on the setup you’ll need some extra adjustments to make it right.
In my case it meant that I needed to have the next week of work always clear and ready by friday.
Third: From time to time you’ll miss both time and money.
This is the hardest part. From time to time you’ll wish you had one extra hour or that extra cash.
To me, when this happens, it means that I’m slacking and not in control of what’s happening. It’s a signal, a memento of the fact that I’m not doing my best, because if I did, I wouldn’t need more time.
The upsides of working less
I always start the workweek full recharged, I have less need to take a day off unless I’m traveling, I can stay with my family more and more.
To me the upsides crush the downsides every day of the year, even when I’m down, even when it’s hard.
It was one of the best choices in my life and I know that, from now on, this is my new standard.
Can it fit you?
It’s hard to say. Companies are very different, but to me the major difference is the fact that we tend to exclude possibilities in our minds.
Asking doesn’t cost you a penny.
The worst it can happen is that nothing changes.
So my advice if you’re thinking about it is this
- Do your math (to see if you can handle the possible paycut)
- Prepare your speech
- Ask for it
See how it goes.
To me this change was mostly moved by this thinking:
In ten years I won’t remember what I did in that day at my job, but I’ll remember the days with my wife, the travels, the joy.
That’s why it was important for me (obviously if you hate your wife then you should avoid working part time 😀 but that’s another story).
I hope to have given some insight and I’m open to questions if anyone needs extra info about my experience