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I have sometimes considered trying to move from full-time to 80%-time (one day a week off). I don't mean changing jobs, becoming a contractor, or doing a 4/10 schedule; I mean negotiating this change with my current employer and otherwise continuing in my current position. I don't know anybody who's done this, and would like to know what effects I should anticipate in the workplace. This is not a question about how to negotiate such an arrangement, nor one about changes in benefits/compensation and other legal stuff. What I want to know is: in what ways would people treat me differently?

I'm an individual contributor, not a manager/lead, and I rarely interact with customers.

For example: would I find myself passed over for interesting projects because "she's not here enough"? Would I struggle to stay in the information loop, or would I be left out of important meetings, by being out one day a week? Would I find myself with just as much work but less time to do it in? Would I find myself being asked to come in on my day off for important events "just this once" (but not really just that once)? Are there any studies, documented case studies, or other sources of information on what tends to happen to people in this position?

I imagine that telecommuters might face some of these issues too, but working from home seems different in some ways from this.

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    I think it's likely you'd wind up working more like 85-90% of the time and getting paid for 85%, but that's just a gut feeling, so I'm not putting it as an answer. – Amy Blankenship Apr 26 '13 at 21:32
  • Do you think your employer would want to set the precedent with you? Heck, are you sure you want to set the precedent? The first to do anything usually make the mistakes, get experimented upon etc. Choose carefully – kolossus Apr 27 '13 at 22:39
  • @kolossus I don't know, but before even considering bringing it up with them, I would want to have more information about the probable consequences than I have now -- hence this question. – Monica Cellio Apr 28 '13 at 4:32
  • Actually, I suspect being onsite 80% of the time would have much less adverse impact than being entirely remote. Many companies already have folks working flextime; 4/10 is just one way of distributing that, and arguably better than complete flex (from the company's point of view) because it's easier to schedule around. Cutting to 80% is likely to be a much larger impact just because it will legitimately reduce your productivity and thus may affect scheduling of anything you're working on unless it fits comfortably into the hours available. – keshlam Dec 19 '14 at 23:45
  • I don't see how there is any answer that would apply to all situations. If you've been with your current company long enough you should know more about how to make it work than anyone else. – user8365 Mar 4 '15 at 17:38
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What I have observed of people moving to part time (even mostly full-time as you suggest) is that they are taken less seriously and are seen as less committed. This may translate into getting less interesting projects because they see you as having no promotion potential. The fewer hours worked, the less seriously you are taken. So working 80% of the time would have a lower impact on the quality of your assignments than half time, but I would still expect some unless you are the only person qualified to do the work which is another whole issue.

You will definitely miss some meetings (hey that could be a blessing!) because people will schedule them on your day off. You might come in on Monday to find that you have been assigned to some less than desirable tasks because you weren't at the meeting to defend yourself.

As to being called in on your day off, I would expect it to happen about as often as you are currently called in on a weekend. If you move from salaried to non-salaried in the move, you might get called in less than you do now because they would have to pay you. (I've certainly observed this the other way in moving from non-salaried to salaried and suddenly my overtime hours tripling.)

You might also be the recipient of some resentment from peers if no one else is allowed to move to part time (especially if others have been turned down in the past). You could be viewed as receiving special treatment. This is going to vary wildly depending on the particular colleagues you have and the reason you are moving to part time.

We have one colleague who recently went part time as he is getting ready to retire in a couple of years and he works on a client that the rest of us have no responsibility for and I have have seen no resentment. On the other hand I had a friend who could only work part time due to chronic fatigue and her co-workers gave her hell for years until she retired because they didn't believe chronic fatigue was a real disease. It also took her out of the pool of people available for out-of-town assignments making the rest have to be gone more frequently which didn't help the resentment.

A woman going part-time to care for children might face a lot of resentment from a mostly male workforce or from older women who didn't have that option when their children were young. Someone going part time to do chemotherapy on the days off would likely be given alot of support from co-workers. So the reasons can make a difference.

The best thing to do to make a move like this successful is to communicate. Try to make sure that they know how to find information they might need on your day off. You should have someone else available who knows where your stuff is and can look it up and answer questions. Remind people you won't be in until Monday when deadlines are getting close and ask them, on Thursday morning (or Wednesday night on a big critical project), what they might need from you before you leave.

Depending on why you are off (clearly not if you are having chemotherapy and feel sick), you might consider checking your emails a couple of times that day to see if anything critical is happening. Or provide your boss with a cell phone number to call in an emergency (if you can trust him to only call in a real emergency).

Try not to leave things hanging on Thursday that can be finished quickly. If you put in that extra half hour on Thursday so something doesn't sit until Monday, people will view you more favorably.

Be more aware of deadlines and how your work might impact others. For instance if you contribute to something that is going to need to be sent out on Monday, don't leave your part of the project until Monday when you get in or people will be stressing that you will not get done in time or not give them time to review your part if need be. This is particularly true if you have unmovable deadlines like those to submit project bids or to respond to regulatory requirements. The more you make sure your absence doesn't cause them problems, the more likely they are to start giving you better assignments as time goes by.

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    Someday I might write a short answer. Hey it could happen. – HLGEM Apr 26 '13 at 21:50
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    Why would you want to do that? Your long answers are informative, not rambly. – Monica Cellio Apr 26 '13 at 21:56
  • @HLGEM if you seriously think its a problem, you could always throw some formatting at it, some nice headers on each section, bolded parts etc, helps to break up the long texts and capture those with short attention spans, but honestly, your answers have always been informative! – Rhys Apr 29 '13 at 8:08
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    +1 for "Try to make sure that they know how to find information they might need on your day off. You should have someone else available who knows where your stuff is and can look it up and answer questions." – Carolyn Apr 30 '13 at 19:13
  • One thing I found was in the past when I considered moving to part time or "less than fulltime" was being very ambitious as well made kept me from seriously considering it as not being taken seriously would ultimately work against my ambitions. The good news is when you hit that point that advancing title wise isn't as driving a factor (you settle into your work) it's far easier to consider such a change. The company still gets the same basic ROI (since you'd lose some benefits but also likely lose the free overtime) shrugs long as your profitable. – RualStorge Dec 19 '14 at 20:59
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I guess this is different in USA, but anyway.

In Sweden, all parents with kids up to 8 years have legal right to work part time (99%-75%). That means a lot of people are doing what you are talking about in almost every workplace - stay at home say every friday or so for a period of time.

So far, I have not seen any trouble or odd feelings about this behaviour. It's becomes a rather natural part in the workplace "Oh, you need help with that, check with Monica, but don't wait until tomorrow since she's out of office fridays".

I've also seen a pattern in how to handle "just this once" things - and I stress that these are my personal observations, not any case study. People do avoid calling in people at thier day off like the plauge. If they are key-people and there is something that needs to be solved right away, a phone call with "yes or no", "a or b", 'where can I find document X?' questions seems to considered fair enough by most parties.

I can't even remeber anyone beeing cut of from interesting projects because of a one day a week leave. But I realise there are likely managers thinking like that - especially if you are a manager yourself (which I read you are not) and are expected to help your team every day with decisions.

  • Sadly here in the US the view is (Time in the office = commitment = consideration for raise or promotion) It's become a serious problem. Many companies hire people on as salary fulltime (traditionally 40 hour weeks here), then effectively force these people to work 50+ hour weeks. We actually have a local employer of well over 2000 people who's known to fire people who don't put in 50+ hour weeks and those who do inevitably burn out and are fired/quit. (no overtime pay or bonuses) And zero hope of advancement as anyone not putting in 60+ hours is "not committed". Things are improving though. – RualStorge Dec 19 '14 at 21:16
  • Let's hope things turn around. At the end of the day, long term, happy, productive employees that can put in extra hours during exceptional occasions are probably the best for most organisations. Around here people would probably just quit and move on if a 50-60h expectation is enforced (unless the work is something really special). – Petter Nordlander Dec 21 '14 at 13:49
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    @It's the same here Petter. Usually when people start they are at like 45ish which isn't totally unreasonable as it's exciting as a new job. Then you slowly attrition into the absurd grind. Quickly people burn out and quit, but there's tons of people out of work so as fast as they burn people out they replace them. (Which is likely WAY less efficient than if they just worked normal hours and retained people) – RualStorge Dec 22 '14 at 14:51
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I've worked part-time (60%) for half a year, on parental leave. Also, a colleague of mine switched to part time in order to attend to his farm for a few years before becoming a freelancer.

A few things I learned:

  • I definitely missed out on interesting projects during that time.
  • I scheduled my part time so that I could take in part in our regular departmental meetings; apart from that I hardly have to attend any. My colleague was not so lucky - when he didn't personally schedule the meeting it would often end up being on his off day.
  • My colleagues didn't say anything, except things like "Hey, that's a good idea, I should have done that when my kids were born." Then again, I don't know what people said when I was not present. But that's parental leave.
  • Whenever there was a tight spot and my colleague was not there, someone would say "this does not work" or "this has to end."

ETA, I'm on part time again and learn a few more things.

  • Should be a no brainer, but still: I often have tasks that take a a few workdays to a few workweeks. With the part time, it's sometimes difficult to meet deadlines - since the tasks like to pop up at a short time before the deadline. This should not be a big issue if you have smaller 'chunks' to work on or if you can plan further ahead.
  • I know less about what's happening at the company, because I miss two days worth of gossip each weak, or my boss tells something to my collegue on my off-day and forgets to tell me also. How big an issue this is depends on how your workplace communicates.
  • Just out of interest, what are you using 'ETA' to mean? – AakashM Mar 4 '15 at 16:10
  • Edit to add. Never seen it outside of SE sites with this meaning. – mart Mar 4 '15 at 20:53
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First, there is the question of how are your off days handled. As an individual contributor, are there not some parts of the business where someone may say, "Oh, Monica handles that," which then means that a decision has to be made. Does this wait for you to be back in the office or does someone jump into your work to now do this as well? Some places I've worked had some things that while they would normally be handled by one person, if that person was out then it caused issues with getting some things done. In small companies there may be only 1 network administrator or one person that handles ordering the office supplies. For managers of projects or people this could be a bit more complex but the idea is the same. If someone has to deal with your stuff while you are out, how do you see this being handled?

Second, there is how your fellow teammates are to see this part of how things work for you that is different than what others have. You'd be missing a day of what happens in the office that could be an issue at times. "Remember that time when Bob did that dance?" that happened on a day where you were out could be an issue if most of the staff are in Monday-Friday and you are only in Monday-Thursday. This is where your co-workers could see you as being there some of the time but not all the time.

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