For all the benefits of a shorter workweek, the concept is still not getting traction in the USA; overwork continues to be the cultural norm in this nation.
So if you want to work part time (without having to move to Germany), don’t wait for your employer or public policy to change; initiate the move yourself.
But then there’s that pesky income trade-off—it’s simply not practical for many families to take the cut. Is there another option? Yes.
Cut Your Hours, Keep Your Pay
Rosalie, a hotel sales associate, was looking to scale back her hours as her family expanded.
She negotiated a 34-hour workweek, working Monday through Thursday, while keeping her current salary and full benefits.
Janelle has a mid-level corporate job at one of the major credit card companies. She made her case for a four-day, 32-hour workweek without a pay cut and it got approved.
Rosalie and Janelle each used the Part-time Proposal Package. It suggests a proration of salary when requesting part-time hours, yet both these women were bold enough to ask for fewer hours without prorating their pay—and got it.
I Did It, Too
Mid-way through my career years ago, I negotiated a custom deal to cut my hours by 20% yet retain 95% of my salary. In other words, I traded a mere 5% of my salary for a 32-hour, four-day workweek. Sweet.
Keep reading: You’ll learn how I did it and how you could pull it off, too.
My Shorter Workweek Success Story
In early 1998, I was working full-time as a salaried public health nutritionist at a Honolulu non-profit healthcare clinic for immigrants.
Having launched WorkOptions.com in 1997, I was itching for more time off to grow my new online venture.
My initial request to the Executive Director (ED) was for a four-day workweek without a cut in my compensation.
He was stridently opposed. (The ED was a strident guy all-around—a bully boss feared by many—so his response was consistent with his style.)
As in any negotiation conversation, you need to be ready with options or alternate positions. And I was.
Here’s what happened next…
During the same meeting—in which I made a solid case for the market value of my job role—I instead suggested a 5% reduction in pay to go along with my request for a 20% reduction in hours.
He agreed! Almost readily. Full benefits intact, besides. I was both stunned and stoked.
Later, I concluded that saving money—even 5% of my salary —is what appealed to him. Every dollar counts in a non-profit organization.
When figured on an hourly basis, this was essentially a double-digit raise. That, along with one weekday off each week, kicked up my job satisfaction several notches.
Could You Pull It Off? 5 Factors for Success
It sounds gutsy. And it is. When assessing whether or not you’d be able to reduce your hours at work without a corresponding pay cut, consider these five factors that foster success:
1. Timing — Can you time your negotiation with your regularly scheduled performance review and merit raise? (That allows you to negotiate for time off instead of money.) Or after successfully completing a major project with which your manager is well-pleased? Or before the start of an important project where your role is crucial to success?
2. Your perceived value — Is there a shortage of candidates in your job category or do you offer a unique combination of skills and experience that strengthens your negotiating leverage? I had these factors in my favor.
3. Which work responsibilities you will retain — A four-day workweek is favored over a three-day workweek for better retention of your key responsibilities, and will likely allow you to ask for more of what you want.
4. Your relationship with your manager — A supportive manager is a key success factor. My immediate supervisor fit the bill there but had virtually no decision-making power. The Executive Director with a combative management style was my biggest challenge. Nonetheless, I was able to nail the negotiation with him.
(And yes, I was really nervous as I sat across from him and made my case.)
5. Your negotiation strategy and ability — Set your outcome goal and your alternative options. Prepare for objections. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse your pitch by role-playing the meeting with a partner ahead of time.
A Positive Shorter Workweek Pitch Scenario
- You’ve been at your job for more than three years with the same manager with whom there is a high degree of mutual respect and good communication.
- There’s been formal (performance reviews, raises) and informal acknowledgment of your job achievements.
- You’re the only one (or one of few) in your job category.
Together, all that points to positive positioning for your proposal to cut your hours to fewer than 40 but with less than a 20% salary cut. Or some variation.
What’s Your Next Move?
Do a realistic assessment of your negotiating position. If it rates strong, present a solid case to reduce your hours at work while keeping close to full-time pay.
Expand Your Options
Working less is a viable option. It doesn’t equate to laziness; it equates to wanting a life. A shorter workweek is healthier for your body, your family, the community, even the environment.
With all that in mind, I encourage you to boldly go after your goal of a shorter workweek while retaining most or all of your current salary.