This article was written with baby boomers in mind—specifically, those without children at home. Parents of young children will do better considering other flexible work options.
What boomer hasn’t bordered on burn-out some time in their career? Including you, perhaps?
When quitting your job isn’t an option and there’s no short-term sabbatical on the horizon, what practical alternative do you have?
While there’s no quick fix, spending stretches of time on a relaxing interest outside of work creates a restorative mental shift. Let’s look at how that could work for you.
Do you have a languishing hobby that needs more time and attention? Are you wondering how to find “extra” hours for your interests without trading income or benefits to get it?
One approach is to redesign your job into a compressed workweek of four, 10-hour days. (I know, I know; you’re already working 10-hour days, so how can you slice off one day a week? I’ll get to that in a minute.)
Stella is the Senior Art Director for a medium-sized advertising firm whose true passion is oil painting. The demands of her job had her working a crazy schedule, leaving her love of painting neglected for years.
Stella couldn’t afford to cut her salary to return to her painting, so she first assessed and modified her job to shift some of the responsibilities to her two ambitious assistant art directors—a career development pay-off for them.
Then she negotiated to restructure her schedule into a compressed workweek, which gave her every Wednesday to devote to her long-lost hobby.
Stella’s redesigned workweek allows her to paint regularly for several uninterrupted hours, which she says has “restored” her; it is a relaxing expression of her creativity and it “cured” her burn-out.
Now, what if you’re a salaried employee working 45-50+ hours a week at the office as the expected norm? How do you justify taking off one day a week (up to 20% reduction in hours) without a cut in salary? Here are a few strategies to consider:
1. Ask for it. Sometimes it’s that straightforward, if you’re well-positioned to make such a request. You could adapt the strategy I used. (The hours I describe aren’t a match, but the 20% figure is).
2. Start reining in your hours to reach 40-45 a week. Use elimination (of low value tasks), delegation, boundary-setting and work redesign as a team to pare down duties. Once you have a handle on the “new norm” (but with work deliverables maintained), you’ll be in a better position to propose a compressed workweek.
3. Get approval to telecommute one day a week before requesting a compressed workweek. For most people, working remotely increases productivity by double-digits. This in turn fosters the goal of reigning in work hours (see #2, above). Then, when you’re ready to propose a compressed workweek, you can restate your case for telecommuting one day a week (fewer interruptions, increased productivity), and arrange to come into the office the remaining three days.
Tip: Choose your “off” day to match your energy levels and your rhythms of work and play. Wednesdays off allows you to handle shopping, a vet visit or a haircut so your weekends can truly be a time of rest from the workweek. Choosing Fridays as your “off” day extends your weekends.
Before you decide on a compressed workweek, assess its pros and cons as they relate to your lifestyle and work-life needs. If you decide to move forward, here’s the first page of your compressed workweek proposal.
After you’ve followed through on the above strategies, start planning your short-term sabbatical. Download a 53-page guide to getting management approval of six weeks off to travel.
Dear Pat: I love the idea of having Fridays off and I’m thinking of proposing a compressed work week. My job as an underwriter is adaptable to it, but I’m not sure that I am. In an occasional crunch, I work 9 to 10-hour days, but working four 10-hour days in a row every single week? That’s not something I can get used to. What should I do? ~ Fearing Fatigue
Dear Fearing Fatigue: A compressed workweek of four 10-hour days allows an employee to save on gasoline costs and have more time off, so it’s no wonder I see lots of interest in this work option.
But you highlight a crucial consideration when choosing a flexible work arrangement: decide on one that not only fits your job, but also fits you. When I posted about the pros and cons of a compressed work week as a flexible work choice, the fatigue factor was on the list of challenges. Here are a few other work options to consider instead:
You might be able to handle the four 10-hour workweek if you take Wednesdays as the off day. Having a midweek break from work allows you to pause your pace which can restore a sense of personal control over your home life.
It could be an activity-filled day—a child’s school field trip, shopping, health appointments, chores, and so on. Yet you may find that the shift in activities midstream in your workweek refreshes you for the week’s remaining two workdays.
Most of us are moving in and out of multiple roles in a hectic fashion throughout the week anyway. A calmer-paced rhythm of two days ‘on’ and one (Wednesday) or two days (weekends) ‘off’ can help you overcome fatigue and enhance both your work and personal lives.
If it’s Fridays off you’re after, try this modified compressed work week. One week, work Monday through Friday, 9 hours a day (45 hours); the next week, work Monday through Thursday, 9 hours a day (36 hours). This totals 81 hours, and allows you to take off every other Friday while you retain 100% of your salary.
Instead of a compressed work week, consider trading some money for time off. Work your usual 8 hours a day but take every other Friday off. This arrangement gives you 26 long weekends a year in exchange for a 10% salary cut, i.e., 72 hours every two weeks out of the 80-hour pay period retains 90% of your salary.
To get you started, I’m sending you a complimentary copy of the Compressed Workweek Proposal Package. Please let me know how it goes.
A hard-copy proposal makes a critical difference in getting your request for a compressed workweek approved. Do you have two minutes? You can start it now.
Highlight and copy the INTRODUCTION and PURPOSE sections below, excerpted from the Compressed Workweek Proposal Package. Then paste into a word processing document.
Customize the information inside the brackets and you’re already done with page one.
A PROPOSAL TO RESTRUCTURE
THE [JOB TITLE] POSITION HELD BY [YOUR NAME]
Submitted by [your name]
This proposal outlines a plan for restructuring my current full-time position as [job title] into a full-time and equally-productive compressed workweek arrangement.
It aligns with [your employer’s name]’s objectives to [insert your employer’s published statements of objectives for employee satisfaction or for being an “employer of choice.” Refer to Proposal Preparation Step 1 in the Compressed Workweek Proposal Package to custom-tailor this paragraph.]
[If not too lengthy, insert a few quotes from online or printed company literature that support what you’ve just stated above. If your employer has no published statements to draw upon, use the following:]
The proposed plan also aligns with the progressive workplace practices in companies [or organizations] throughout the US, Canada and Europe, including DuPont, Fannie Mae, IBM and MetLife, resulting in measurable employer advantages. See Bottom-Line Benefits of Flexible Work Arrangements at the end of this proposal.
(Note: “Bottom-Line Benefits of Flexible Work Arrangements” is included in the Compressed Workweek Proposal Package. This section alone will save you hours of research time.)
The plan outlined below is a mutually-beneficial approach to retaining my training and experience that will also lead to an increase in on-the-job [select: productivity; concentration; energy; loyalty; efficiency; creativity]. End of Page 1
You completed page one; now get the rest done—today. What’s next? The lengthier PLAN section is the core of your proposal. Yet it’s relatively quick to customize it to match your job.
You’ll find the PLAN section’s custom-insert places are framed with persuasive words and compelling phrases (a distinct advantage of a Proposal Package from WorkOptions over a generic one), which position you, the person, on your merits as an employee.
“I received many positive comments on the overall organization of my proposal…It was helpful to have someone present ways to word things and give structure and flow…[your proposal] gave me confidence that I would not have had otherwise.” Mary Beth McCarthy, Head of Corporate Communications, Attorneys’ Title Guaranty Fund, Inc., Champaign and Chicago, Illinois
If you like to read success stories, here’s a long page of testimonials.
If you want to work four days a week instead of five, a compressed work week is one way to get it. It’s a popular choice; Fridays off is a common way they’re configured.
But is it a fit for you? Here’s a quick look at the personal (not employer) pros and cons.
If you discover it’s a no-go for you, follow the link to 5 Ways to Get Fridays Off (without slashing your salary).
If the pros outshine the downside, it’s time to move forward:
If the cons outweigh the plus side, let me suggest a few other creative twists to the work week:
Work options come in a variety of flavors. Pick the Fridays Off arrangement that works for you.
“Many thanks for the research and structure you provide to create a winning proposal; my compressed workweek schedule has been approved. I was able to communicate my needs while providing my employer with a plan to get the work done. It’s a win-win.” Diana Mezick, Administrative Assistant, Greek Orthodox Church of St. George, Bethesda, MD
…before I left on maternity leave, I requested a compressed workweek. I was told no and that it wouldn’t work. While on leave, I came across your proposal blueprint. I hesitated…[and] was somewhat skeptical. [Then], I decided it was worth the risk. I…emailed it to my boss yesterday morning. By 3pm, she called me to tell me I have her approval to work 4 days per week when I return from maternity leave. I want people to know that it is well worth the [price]. Thank you…Angie McDonald, Wichita, KS
Years before the Great Recession shattered the country’s economy, I worked part-time in three different professional roles. (Not at the same time.)
It was a close-to-perfect blend of career challenge and family life flexibility, even with the hit in income. (It helps that I’m the frugal type.)
In a perfect flexible work world, my dream is this: that every professional who wants more time for life has the option to work a part-time schedule.
I’m not alone in this, of course, but the financial realities of today have most people cranking full-time hours.
With the money squeeze the way it is, do you see any options for going part-time?
Here are a few ideas for you that will create some flexibility and free time without a heavy hit on your salary.
The “new normal” of the post-recession era has crept into the world of flexible work options. With that, we need to start by redefining part-time: working no fewer than four days a week.
This contrasts with proposing part-time arrangements of 20 to 32 hours per workweek with salary adjustments of 20 to 50%. Still options, of course, if you can swing it financially.
Even so, having a full workday off regularly can mean a world of difference in work-life management. For example, when you can get a few more things done during the week, the weekends won’t be jammed with chores and errands, crowding out fun with your family.
Besides that, my three ways for going part-time without going broke each trim no more than 10% of your salary.
Take a look and see if one will work for you.
Do you like the sound of 26 long weekends a year? Working the math, that’s 72 hours every two weeks, or 72 out of 80 hours, which retains 90% of your salary.
With only 10% fewer work hours, this arrangement should meet little resistance from your manager. Label it a “reduced workweek” every other week instead of “part-time.”
This is a twist on the more typical compressed workweek of four, 10-hour days, which is a full-time arrangement. If your job and child care arrangements can conform to it, consider working a compressed workweek of four, 9-hour days.
At 36 hours a week, your proposed arrangement retains 90% of your salary, yet you get one full day off per week. While Fridays off might have the most appeal, think about taking Wednesdays off as a mid-week break.
You might even be able to alternate Wednesdays and Fridays off. Take Wednesdays for school excursions with your child or for your personal appointments. Save the Fridays off for weekends that hook to a Monday holiday. Sweet, yes?
Propose a reduced workweek of four days (32 hours), but negotiate to keep your salary at 90 to 100% instead of pro-rating it to 80%.
Radical? Yes. Impossible? No.
From my experience, both personally and with clients, pulling off such an arrangement can depend on:
Almost anything is negotiable and possible. See how it’s been done before and assess whether it could work for you.
There are countless creative approaches to apply to flexible work arrangements. Now you’re equipped with three ways to work fewer hours without wrecking your budget.
Do you think you’ll do it? Do you have a couple of friends who are pining to go part-time? Do them a favor and tell them that today you found three reasonable ways to swing it. It could make all the difference in their quality of life.
This article was originally published as a guest post on Working Moms Against Guilt.