Author Topic: Downshifting from full-time to part-time work -- employer concerns?  (Read 2404 times)

less4success

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For those of you who (for reasons other than coming back from parental leave) had a full-time job and then attempted to cut back on hours (i.e. negotiated down to part-time work from full-time work), I have a few questions:

  • What were your employer's primary concerns/objections to letting you go part-time? (E.g. high fixed costs associated with an employee, lack of full-time availability, possible contagion effect :)
  • Did you actually end up going part-time? If so, how did you assuage your employer's concerns (if necessary)?
  • How long did you stay part-time? What prompted you (or your employer) to terminate the arrangement?

The reason I ask is that I'm planning to semi-FIRE later this year and I'm currently trying to "build a case" for convincing my employer to let me go part-time (or, more specifically, trying to preemptively create rebuttals for their counterarguments).

The qualifier about new parents is just that going part-time seems more acceptable after having a kid -- but I'm not in that situation, so I selfishly want to focus the discussion on single/childless semi-FIRE aspirants :)

Thanks!

VeggieTable

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Re: Downshifting from full-time to part-time work -- employer concerns?
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2017, 01:05:31 PM »
I have not personally done this, but at my last job, one of my coworkers did. She worked full-time our first year working together, but she had 3 young kids and the after-care costs were prohibitive. She wanted to go part-time, but still work 5 days/week. She proposed leaving early every day, and at first got some resistance b/c things just weren't done that way. We worked in a school, and there were concerns she wouldn't be able to see students in the afternoon. I was happy to take the afternoon students, and she balanced it with more students in the morning. We worked that out before she even approached the higher-ups. B/c of our job there were multiple people who had to agree, which was annoying, but luckily most of them were so disinterested they didn't care what we did as long as it didn't create more work for them.

There was some concern that others would want a similar schedule, but I don't know why - it would only make employees happier! Plus, I don't know anyone else who proposed a schedule like hers.

I'd go to your employer with a plan for how it will minimize disruption in the office. Any objections you can foresee, such as it creating more work for others, try to work out yourself (if possible).  Basically, make it easy for them to say yes and hard to say no.  Good luck!

less4success

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Re: Downshifting from full-time to part-time work -- employer concerns?
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2017, 02:52:29 PM »
B/c of our job there were multiple people who had to agree, which was annoying, but luckily most of them were so disinterested they didn't care what we did as long as it didn't create more work for them.

Thanks for chiming in! Sadly, I suspect the potential for additional (paper) hassle will end up being one of the first concerns that gets raised.

I had a coworker who requested additional unpaid vacation recently and the main concerns from higher-ups he observed were: there's no precedent for this (i.e. my boss might yell at me if he found out), if we say "yes" to you everyone will want it (i.e. I'm jealous), and we'd need to have someone else handle your work while you're out.

less4success

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Re: Downshifting from full-time to part-time work -- employer concerns?
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2017, 08:39:08 PM »
I'd love to hear additional anecdotes, but in the meantime, I did some more thinking about this and here is the most exhaustive list I could think of of potential employer concerns with downshifting:

Cost
  • Employer pays same fixed, per-employee costs for less output
  • People management overhead (also mostly fixed) increases relative to full-time employees
  • Employer needs to hire more people to complete the same amount of work (and hiring is expensive!)

Flexibility
  • Part-time employees aren't available every workday to handle sudden, urgent requests
  • Part-time employees may not be available to put in extra hours during crunch time
  • Managers may need to assign/maintain "backups" for all part-time employee's projects

Turnover
  • Employee desire to downshift may indicate decreased engagement, leading to turnover
  • Part-time employees may use extra free time to find better/different jobs elsewhere (or to start a competing business)

Morale
  • Other employees may be jealous of employees going part-time (and may want to follow suit)
  • Part-time aspirants are not conforming to full-time work expectations (i.e. they're troublemakers)
  • Part-time employees interact with teammates less, leading to decreased team cohesion

I'm still thinking of how to mitigate each of these concerns :)

Freedomin5

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Re: Downshifting from full-time to part-time work -- employer concerns?
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2017, 10:03:41 PM »
I went from more than full-time (50+ hours per week) to part-time (30 hours)  because I wanted to volunteer part-time, working in a market with potential but where the company currently has little presence.

My reasoning was that I could complete the same amount of work in less time, thereby earning my employer just as much money and making it unnecessary for them to hire anyone else. That hits all of the cost points.

My volunteer work would increase their visibility and provide good marketing for them. I check and respond to email daily even though I'm not physically at work, and they can reach me via phone for true emergencies. I've yet to have a true emergency where I had to go to the office to take care of a situation. In my field, a 24-hour email response time is pretty decent. I am flexible enough that I am willing to come in and work extra during crunch times. I get paid extra for the extra hours worked.

I signed a non-compete clause preventing me from working elsewhere or starting a competing business. I also signed a contract that guarantees me employment at the company for a certain number of years (and prevents me from jumping ship too early). Besides, the company shouldn't care what you do in your free time as long as it doesn't provide competition and isn't illegal. For example, if I enjoy using my free time to make and sell jewellery on etsy, my employer could care less.

The company culture doesn't discourage flexibility, and several other employees also are part-time. Or sort of part-time. Some make up hours by working longer days. Pretty much all employees respond within 24 hours to emails. We interact via instant messaging. My company has several sites throughout the city, so team cohesion isn't built through physical presence of employees.

Syonyk

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Re: Downshifting from full-time to part-time work -- employer concerns?
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2017, 10:05:30 PM »
I work remote and part time for an employer I used to work for.  They knew I did good work, so weren't concerned about remote, and they pay me less proportionally, without me only taking an office part of the week.

It's a pretty good deal for both of us.

less4success

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Re: Downshifting from full-time to part-time work -- employer concerns?
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2017, 10:22:26 PM »
Thanks, guys!

Freedomin5, I think you did a good job heading off their concerns, which is what I intend to do. I'm a bit curious as to how you managed to finish your 50 hours of work in 30, though.

I would expect to be more productive per hour worked, but maybe not enough to match my current output (although I guess I shouldn't rule it out).

Freedomin5

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Re: Downshifting from full-time to part-time work -- employer concerns?
« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2017, 01:24:17 AM »
I basically eliminated all unnecessary meetings or teleconferenced in if there was a meeting I had to attend. That allowed me to put myself on mute and work while the meeting was in progress. I also developed systems (templates, etc.) that make my work faster and easier. I don't go out for lunch with co-workers (it works for me because I'm introverted).  Basically. I have tasks that are billable and tasks that are non-billable. I try to optimize/minimize non-billable tasks as much as possible.

But it's not all systems, I suppose. I do a lot of writing in my work, and I'm a fast writer. So I do have that going for me that makes me efficient at my job.

slb59

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Re: Downshifting from full-time to part-time work -- employer concerns?
« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2017, 05:21:02 AM »
Keep in mind, if you have experience or knowledge no one else does and if you're known to be a solid performer, you have a lot more leverage than you think. A couple of years ago, we moved and I wanted to keep my current job. I spent days coming up with pros and cons and arguments and counterarguments. Turns out it was a 30-second conversation. My boss was nervous I was about to quit, and was actually very pleased when I asked to stay on remotely. I had been involved in our project from the beginning when it was only 3 people (is now about 20+), and had worked for the company long enough that they knew they could trust me to get the job done from anywhere.

I have run into a lot of the morale issues on your list - I've heard some people are jealous or think it isn't fair; I miss out on a lot of face-to-face interaction and even though I travel up there occasionally, the new people from after I moved tend to forget about me; I've missed out on some of the juicier tasks because I wasn't in the right place at the right time. I think the combination cost me a promotion, but it's a trade-off I was willing to make. My employer doesn't seem to bothered by any of these, my boss knows I work hard and she doesn't really care if there is grumbling, and they just gave the better tasks to people who were present and promoted them instead...

MayDay

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Re: Downshifting from full-time to part-time work -- employer concerns?
« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2017, 06:49:13 AM »
My husband's company has a huge number of people retiring. Any of those people then once back as part time consultants, which cost the company more.

They are currently creating a PT system to address that. They want people to be able to semi retired, which will actually save them money.

H isn't close to retirement but he'll probably ask for an 80% schedule if they ever get the program up and running. 

If your company has a lot of baby boomers nearing retirement you might be able to spin it that way- you'll be the guinea pig to try to come up with a system so that institutional knowledge isn't lost and a long transition to retirement can be made, which is better for the company as a whole.