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I’m a software developer working 5 days a week and I’d like to reduce that to 3 or 4 days a week so that I have more time to work on starting my own business. I’d like to stay at my current employer (an early stage startup) because I enjoy working there and switching jobs too soon would not look good on my CV (obviously it doesn’t matter if you’re starting your own business but I want to have something to fall back on if needs be).

We will be raising more money and then hiring one or more developers soon so I want ask to switch to part time work before that happens so that my reduction in hours can be factored into hiring decisions. I think my request is more likely to be accepted that way.

However I can’t think of a compelling reason for them to let me reduce my hours. I’m happy to take a decrease in salary and benefits in proportion to my reduction in hours but the fact that that would save them money seems like a bad argument because I wouldn’t be employed if my time wasn’t more valuable to them than my salary. Also the company is keen to have much more developer resource than it currently does anyway.

The best argument I can think of is that they would retain my skills and knowledge of the product for longer compared to if I started working part-time elsewhere. I feel uneasy about this argument though as it seems somewhat like a threat and I probably wouldn’t follow through on it (not for a long time at least). Answers to similar questions on this site give this advice but I don’t think that’s workable here.

Also I’m concerned that my request to work less hours might potentially be seen as a sign that I’m not focused or dedicated enough to growing the company and I would be seen less favourably as a result (for context I have declined requests in the past to work weekends in the run up to deadlines although there were no repercussions from this so perhaps I’m being paranoid?).

When I discuss with my manager that I want to switch to part time work what arguments and accommodations could I make to convince them allow it? And how do I approach asking in a way that won’t make members of the team feel that I’m not dedicated or “pulling in the same direction”?

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    And how do I approach asking in a way that won’t make members of the team feel that I’m not dedicated or “pulling in the same direction”?.... but you aren't.... you want to pretend you are somehow? – Kilisi Nov 1 '18 at 21:40
  • As far as I'm aware (but not sure), European employment regulations (Part-time Work Directive 97/81/EC) require employers to accommodate (or at least 'consider') reasonable request for reduction of employment hours (or increases up to fulltime). – Mark Rotteveel Nov 2 '18 at 16:53
  • "an early stage startup" means that they are at the stage of investing in building the team. If you come in with less commitment request -> you going home, because you showing that your focus is already away from the company – Strader Nov 4 '18 at 16:57
  • Possible duplicate of How can I approach my boss about switching to part time? – gnat Sep 2 at 11:22
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I recently did exactly what you're hoping to do: I went from full-time to 3 days a week, and I've been using the other 2 to explore a new career.

Your assessment of the situation seems broadly correct. Your employer won't want to lose any of your time, if they're hoping to expand, so may resist; but if you quit they'd lose all of your time... and you'd lose all your income.

I suggest your first approach is simply to ask them: would they be open to this arrangement? If they're an enlightened employer they might be OK with it, and framed as a question, it ought not be too confrontational. If the answer is yes - great.

If the answer is no, then the conversation does get more difficult, and the "...or else I'll leave" part comes into play (you can put it politely, but that will be the clear implication). It's risky. Working part time:

  • You will do less work for them, at a time when they need more.
  • You will find it harder to know what's going on in the team; even arranging team meetings becomes awkward.
  • You won't be as dedicated or committed - that's simple fact (if you were dedicated, you wouldn't be planning an exit).

Your only real argument is that something is better than nothing: it's better for them to have you part-time than not at all. It might be enough, or might not, but only your employer can say for sure.

If you're not prepared to take that risk, you may consider continuing full time (plus paid overtime?), and save up, until you can afford to quit entirely. It will delay starting your new business, and when you do it will be time-limited (you'll have until your savings run out to make it work!); but it might actually make you more likely to succeed (because you'll be giving it your full attention).

Finally: if you do go part time, be aware that you will probably never get a pay rise or promotion at this company again - you can't have it both ways. And although you'll no doubt want to show willing to make it work, be careful how much you promise.

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I question whether you can honestly commit in a serious way to starting a new business on the small number of hours you are thinking about cutting back from your current job, unless you are figuring on working lots of overtime. Your new business would, in effect be more like a hobby.

Examine your motives for wanting to start the business. Consider the costs you will have to pay, even if you could switch to part-time. Consider the possible return. If it is that worth it, maybe you should take the plunge and go full-time on it.

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    +1 - as your own new boss at your own startup, you should have the same concerns about you half-assing it as your existing boss at your old job does in this scheme. – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Nov 3 '18 at 14:06
  • +100 there is no half-turns on the new business unless its an unstable hobby – Strader Nov 4 '18 at 16:58

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