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.
That means if you want to work part-time hours (without moving to Germany), don’t wait for your employer or public policy to change; initiate the move yourself.
Making the switch to part-time hours usually means trading a chunk of income for more time off. And that’s simply not practical for many families.
Is there another option? Yes.
Shorter Workweek, Same Salary
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 were Part-time Proposal Package customers. The Package 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. They each emailed me later about their successful outcome.)
Another example of requesting a shorter workweek yet keeping (close to) the same full-time salary is my own:
Mid-way through my career years ago, I negotiated to cut my hours by 20% to have a four-day workweek, but retained 95% of my salary.
How Is All This Possible?
Keep in mind that everything is negotiable. So with a keen strategy and skillful negotiation, anything’s possible.
Unusual, yes. But possible.
Let me tell you how my pitch played out. Then I’ll give you guidance for 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 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.
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 Do Pull It Off?
It sounds gutsy. And it is. When assessing whether or not you’d be able to pull it off, consider these five factors that foster success:
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?
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.
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.
The quality of your relationship with your manager — A supportive and appreciative manager is a key factor. In my case, my immediate supervisor was supportive but had virtually no power to decide. The real decision-maker—the Executive Director with whom I had to cut the deal—had a combative management style. Nonetheless, I was able to swing the deal.
(And in case you’re wondering, yes, I was really nervous as I sat across from him and made my case.)
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.
Example of a Favorable 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 high-level responsibilities and achievements.
That’s a favorable environment for proposing a shorter workweek of under 40 hours with less than a 20% salary cut. Or some variation.
Especially if you are the only one in your job category and if you restructure your job to continue to maintain key responsibilities.
What’s Your Next Move?
Do a realistic assessment of your negotiating position. If it rates strong, present a solid case for reduced hours while keeping close to full-time pay.
If you want me to help you build your case and your confidence to make this bold request, book a coaching session.
Expand Your Options
One of the goals of the WorkOptions website is to expand your thinking about what’s possible—your options—as you create your flexible work life of more time freedom.
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.