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Is it a good idea to propose on my own initiative a temporary decrease (20% less for 6 months) of my work hours and therefore my salary to work on a side project?

The side project concerns the creation of an application for a (low and long-term) profit on a completely unrelated field. My contract does not state anything about that, as far as I have seen. But if necessary, I would try to get a signed approval from my supervisor, stating that I own the rights to this thing and that I can work on it during my time off

I suppose it would not hurt the company if the costs for my salary were reduced, given the financial difficulties caused by COVID-19. However, I am concerned that I run the risk of being the first to get fired if things go really south in the coming months? The company is quite large and is located in Germany.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Jun 15 at 12:43

10 Answers 10

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You would run several risks, a lot depends on your relationship with the company/manager. The three major ones I see are as follows:

You might get stuck on the 80% if you deliver all the work they need from you when the 6 months is up, remember it wasn't their idea.

You may be replaced if they feel you're more committed to personal projects, especially since you deem it necessary to do so during contracted working hours rather than in your spare time. 6 months is not a short period so obviously a heavy commitment during which time they will be financing your living for realistically a fairly insignificant gain for a large company.

You would be bringing yourself to the hierarchies notice at a time when most people are keeping their heads down and happy to be employed. This could go either way.

So analyse the risks against the gains and factor in how valuable you are to the company and individuals concerned before you make this request.

Personally I would work on my project in my own time so that I don't risk my bread and butter, but I have a wife and kids so while I'll still take risks for large gains, they are very calculated risks. Small gains I would not.

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    +1 and only one thing to add - I would see this as an employee who is hoping to move on to that project full time after 6 months, why else make such massive commitment to the point of sacrificing income if not for a hope of big return at the end? – Tymoteusz Paul Jun 8 at 11:59
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    +100, asking for reduced hours for personal project may put you on a short list for layoffs. IMHO it displays focus shift and signals that if project goes well you will leave on your own. Perhaps better idea is to schedule a side project on your own time, even if it takes longer than 6 months to implement – Strader Jun 8 at 17:12
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    Do any of you have experience in German labor law? There are no "short lists" for layoffs, they follow a specific pattern or it's illegal. You cannot pick and chose who to layoff in Germany. If you want to pick and chose, you have to try and fire people (and yes, that is a legal difference here). – nvoigt Jun 8 at 17:14
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    @seg Sure. A bad company can bully and unlawfully terminate contracts, that's the same worldwide and in any situation. It's so universal, you could probably put that as a disclaimer in any answer anybody ever writes here. If there is anything in this question that makes it more likely than the global standard of "there could be bad people anywhere, any time", then that would be interesting. – nvoigt Jun 9 at 7:55
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    "to do so during contracted working hours" -- it... won't be during contracted work hours if he makes a deal to have his work hours reduced. Working on side projects during contracted (paid) work hours sounds much worse to me. – ilkkachu Jun 9 at 8:56
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In Germany since January 2019 you can request a temporary reduction of your work time (Br├╝ckenteilzeit). This has to be at least a year though. They have to grant your request unless they can bring up a valid reason that speaks against it. You have to hand it in 3 months in advance though and you need to have been with your company for at least 6 months.

You can read more about that here [German]: https://www.bmas.de/DE/Themen/Arbeitsrecht/Teilzeit/brueckenteilzeit-artikel.html

You also have a right to permanent work reduction (Teilzeit).

This is your legal right and here in Germany it is almost impossible to fire somebody without proper cause. Provided the financial situation of your company is healthy and you have a non limited work contract. However we all know there are still plenty of ways to make life miserable for employees. And they might stop promoting you etc. So how they will react to a request like that depends a lot on the culture of your workplace and the relationships between you and your managers.

From my personal experience I can tell you that reducing my hours and spending more time on personal projects has been one of the best decision in my life. I switched to 50% permanently though. In the remaining time I work more efficiently and happily. I think too many people focus on career and money than on quality of life. So if your financial situation and your work culture allows it, I would say go for it.

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    One thing to keep in mind that if you reduce the number of days worked, that usually also means the number of vacation days will also be reduced accordingly. In total, you'll have more days off, but the number of paid days off will be lower than before. – Llewellyn Jun 8 at 17:05
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    @Lieweilyn or in my case I have 30 half days of vacation instead of 30 full days. I usually only work on 2.5 days in the week, but I still need to take 5 of my vacation days, to take a full week off. Also there are different models for dealing with public holidays and sick days. – seg Jun 8 at 17:10
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    +1. I also work in a large German company and have been working 80% for 11 years now, and quite a lot of my colleagues do so, too (maybe 20% of the people I deal with on a daily basis). Most people reduce their hours when the kids are small, but often don't go back to a full 100% even when the kids are bigger. – Stephan Kolassa Jun 9 at 7:29
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    @Llewellyn: It's common to keep the same number of vacation weeks. So if you work 4 days/week, you keep 5 weeks of vacation, but that's now only 20 days instead of 25. You no longer need vacation days for Fridays, like you never needed vacation days for Saturdays or Sundays. – MSalters Jun 9 at 14:56
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    @Lieweilyn That seems very weird to me. Why should you have less vacation percentage wise of your yearly worked hours when working 20 hours than when working 40 hours? Certainly not how it's done in Germany or Austria in my experience. Actually checking the laws about it, this seems to be required by law - not sure whether that's EU mandated or not. – Voo Jun 10 at 19:51
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I will go against the flow of reason here and say: you might regret it... if you don't do it.

Life is too short. In no time you will find yourself much older, forever working on other people's crap projects you don't care. It will mean a whole world of difference if you made something for yourself. Even if it failed, who cares, you at least tried.

Whether you tell details to your current employer it depends on the business type. It is expected of developers to have small side projects to stay in touch with ne tech. Reasonable employer might still be happy as you will perfect yourself to current technologies which you cannot implement in present workspace, you will be motivated as you still need that paycheck. In big corporation however it might be frown upon so you might leave details out. Coming from small caring company to big bank I just cannot comprehend how there is no sense of greater benefit but instead prevails inefficient, petty, shortsighted quickest result mindset.

I am working in the bank sector and situation of Covid has actually increased the demand for developers because it has show that lot of processes (surprise, surprise) can be done and should be done through the intranet/Internet. If things go south on your current job, you should find next one without that much trouble.

And think about the future. You will get old, and developer hierarchy is usually flat. It's hard to get into lower management, and it might not be your cup of tea. You can follow trends when young, but sooner or later you will not be able to keep up. Ceramist, carpenter and plummer will have their name proved across the decades of hard work, their phone number will be ringing and they can send their apprentices to make work and collect money.. you however, won't have any. Having small trickle from side job might be great thing.

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  • +1 for trying. Also, being in a large German company means the chances of being laid off due to this are remote. Getting a written agreement that this work is done in the spare time is essential to protect the author from IP claims the company might have in the future. – Peter Kämpf Jun 11 at 9:06
  • +1 for the mention of personal development and the pursuit of happiness. However, I want to add it may depend heavily on the company culture and nature of the side-project. I work 32 hours (four days a week). It is considered normal at my place of work, so the decision was not tough. It looks like it heightens employee morals and the boost in productivity is in line with the increased costs. Colleagues with kids or expensive lifestyles rather chose 40 hours a week. I can recommend reducing hours. Go for it and enjoy your project. However, if your project is stressful, you should think twice. – Hermann Jun 11 at 18:57
  • Also, you are allowed to demand reduced hours by law (conditions apply): "Ein Arbeitnehmer, dessen Arbeitsverhältnis länger als sechs Monate bestanden hat, kann verlangen, dass seine vertraglich vereinbarte Arbeitszeit verringert wird." says gesetze-im-internet.de/tzbfg/__8.html – Hermann Jun 11 at 20:52
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So by 80% of the hours I assume you work full time 5 days a week and that you would work 4 days a week having say every Friday off.

It's not an unheard of idea.

I wouldn't mention at all that you are working on a side project to your current employer and that you are going to spend that day working on your side project. That's a recipe for having them not only say no but also to start investigating your side projects.

I'd also work it as if you are helping the company by reducing the amount of money they need to pay out to you in these hard financial times.

Is it a good idea? There's very little detail on your specific circumstances such that it's impossible to be objective so the following is just my opinion:

I'd say no. I think that that extra day will just turn into an extra long weekend so I don't think that you'll work a straight 8 hours on your side project on that day. You might be all up for it now but after working for 4 days you'll be less likely to want to smash out your side project. Why? The company will be wanting you to keep up with your current workload on 80% they won't want to only get 80% of the work done that's for sure. They'll love only paying you 80% but nothing will change when it comes to workload I can pretty much guarantee that. That means cramming you current workload into 4 days which will burn you out more and mean you're less likely to work on this side project.

I also think taking a pay cut right now is very short sighted we are all going to need money in the coming months and weeks. This pandemic has caused / is causing serious financial harm to many many industries which will eventually trickle back into your own circumstances.

I would try to ramp up the work you are doing on the side project by 8 hours a week and keep an actually diary and see if you can make if. I suspect you'll find that amount of work very hard.

Don't mention any of this to your work even in the passing. Generally businesses don't like their employees working on anything that the company hasn't specifically authorised even if this is legal or not they'll tell you to stop your current work until they get it approved which will likely be a no. If you don't mention it then if the company finds out and starts asking questions then you can plead ignorance about the rules or hit them with what's legal.

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    Excellent analysis. Recently I was not working and 'went thru a book in 3 days'. Now I am full-time again, I "intended" to keep my side project (study in my case) up but guess what happens? Too mentally tired, unable to focus, not interested. Before I realize it 3 weeks has gone by and I'm still trying to complete my latest book. That all said, 3 weeks will be ok if u keep it up but it is really hard and requires great sacrifice in your personal life that is not even an option for many – Michael Durrant Jun 10 at 11:33
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    @MichaelDurrant Thanks for the positive comment. I also have side projects and I'm very much the same I struggle to do work on them when I'm at work full time. – Dave3of5 Jun 10 at 15:23
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This strongly depends on options not mentioned in the question.

Offering this can backfire to your face when the company needs workforce, because one hour of your work must generate enough money to pay your wage, taxes and all the people above you in hierarchy. In other words your offer of help is not help at all.

On the other hand if the company is short on demand, such offer shows your loyalty to the company because you are offering them not to pay you for time you would not be working. What you are doing in the spare time is not their bussiness, unles it is in a conflict of interests.

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As a manager, I have almost always approve such requests without much doubt.

I expect to support my team with part time requests. A team member taking such an initiative is a team member learning a range of things on their own money. Sounds good to me. Additionally, a positive attitude from me will usually result in the same in return.

Obviously for some roles some effort is required to make it work; I have never found this much of a problem, with the caveat that the employee understands their responsibility here.

I only give pause in the case where the employee is already struggling; such a request then becomes more complex.

Additionally, when it comes to layoffs permanent part time may not be top of the list. Savings for the business are lower but other aspects of the pain remain the same. However, rationales vary a lot depending on the business.

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  • You seem to talk only about yourself, not about a typical company in Germany. – guest Jun 11 at 11:58
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There can be a couple of issues when you propose something like this.

  • Can you do this outside work? Make sure the work you are doing doesn't clash with what you employer is doing. They may have made you sign paperwork that gives them rights to what you do outside of work. They may have rules about working for competitors. Remember they are a large company and their list of competitors may be larger than you imagine.

    Even if you are sure there is no conflict, be upfront about it with them to reduce problems later.

  • Will you receive all your current benefits> You are viewed as a part-time worker. Will you be expected to pay for a grater share of your benefits. How do holidays, sick-leave, and vacation work?

However, I am concerned that I run the risk of being the first to get fired if things go really south in the coming months?

This concern is real. Even ignoring COVID-19 when you switch to part-time you are taking a risk. In a budget crisis you are seen as a easy cut. In the 2nd bullet I mentioned benefits. If you get all the benefits while working 80% of the hours that is great for you, but that also means you may be viewed as more expensive.

You are also telling them your loyalties may be shifting, and they can start to move in a direction lat minimizes your future contributions. They may decide not to put you on that shiny new project because you are only a part-time worker.

Many years ago I was in a similar situation. Another project wanted help, it was an exciting project that needed me 25% of my time, with occasional weeks where I would be needed 100%. The project was with the same employer. When the customer had a budget issue a few months later and wanted to reduce the contractor headcount by 25%, I was in the first group cut. They said it was because I wasn't on the main project 100%.

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  • "How do holidays, sick-leave and vacation work?" Is this answer based on your Germany experience? If so, I think it should be clear how they work. – guest Jun 10 at 20:10
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Just a thought. If your company doesn't do too well right now, you can propose working short (Kurzarbeit) right now, doing onl your preferred 80%. A company not doing well is reason enough to make this legally ok, maybe you even really don't have enough workload to work 100% right now. You can even "sell" this to your boss as "better for the company", as you reduce its costs. Oh and anyways, I'd like to follow my pet project meanwhile, so I'd like to work short for the coming 6 months... Depending on your type of boss, this might even be beneficial to spare the company costs right now, as you're sacrificing salary for the sake of the company.

Working short could mean you're even eligible for compensation from the job center. One thing to consider is if you're getting any profit while working short. Having a paid side job during short work has been made legal due to Corona in Germany, so as to get short workers to the asparagus plantations. If you're not getting immediate profit you should still ask a tax accountant if it's legal to run your own for-later-profit side-project while getting compensation from the job center.

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Is it a good idea to propose on my own initiative a temporary decrease (20% less for 6 months) of my work hours and therefore my salary to work on a side project?

As always, it depends.

Depending on your locale, in many companies, demonstrating that you aren't really needed in a full-time role could lead to your dismissal and replacement with a full-timer. In some locales, that may be illegal.

In other companies, part-time roles are more common, and more tolerated.

I suppose it would not hurt the company if the costs for my salary were reduced, given the financial difficulties caused by COVID-19. However, I am concerned that I run the risk of being the first to get fired if things go really south in the coming months?

It's a real risk. In companies where I have worked (in the US), you would become tops on the list.

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  • You might want to add that all those things you describe are illegal in Germany. – guest Jun 10 at 20:08
  • Yes, of course. See @nvoigt 's comments under the top answer. – guest Jun 11 at 9:11
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It is risky and depend on the company culture. Discuss the idea with your direct manager first. May be you will be in trouble and they start wondering how can you do the same work in 80% of the time?

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    Who said they can do the same work in less time? They want to reduce their time and their base salary to make up for the fact that obviously someone working 80% will only accomplish 80%. – nvoigt Jun 8 at 15:25
  • So they need to hire another employee to do 20% the rest of his tasks? or may be assign the tasks to his colleagues. It is not familiar here in Egypt. – Monia Shakshak Jun 8 at 20:16
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    Generally speaking, yes. It's called part-time. People don't work full time for various reasons, taking care of family members like kids or the elderly probably being the most common reason. – nvoigt Jun 8 at 21:04

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