An Independent Venture: Flexible Work Arrangements – Working Less

In the previous post I talked about working from home and keeping the approximate same hours. Below I’ll talk about the ways I looked into working different hours or less hours.

Flex Time

This a really popular option among tech and non-tech companies. The way it works is you work an extra hour for 8 days and you get the 9th day off so you keep your average of 80 hours per 2 week period. This doesn’t work in tech.

Flexible work arrangements typically require either hourly work or a fixed frame of time where you are working. In tech, full time employees are intentionally not hourly so they can be asked to work extra hours and the company pays the same salary either way. Similarly in tech, companies offer core hours and flexible start and end times otherwise. You can do 7 – 3 or 9 – 5 or 11 – 7. Due to this pressure to work long hours and a lack of consistent work time, flex-time tends not to work. Managers are happy to have you work an extra hour a day but you can’t have an extra vacation day.

Exception: The only exception to this is if you are on-call or supporting a customer product and you are asked to work nights or weekends. In these cases, I’ve been told to take the corresponding amount of time off that I worked.

Part Time

You’ve probably wondered if you could work 4 instead of 5 days a week and just get paid 20% less. Why not have a long weekend every weekend? This would be the thought process that lead me to ask about part-time arrangements.

I have seen part-time arrangements put in place at some of the old tech companies and some of the new ones, for young and old, for test and dev, for women and men. So what does it take to get in on this and what does it look like?

Here are some of the examples I’ve seen:

  • Highly valued software tester was going to quit to be a full time mother and she was convinced to work 3 days per week
  • Highly valued developer with PTSD was allowed to work 4 days per week and work from home 2 days of those 4 days per week
  • A full team was working part time to investigate the impact of offering this option: each member worked 4 days per week for 6 hours per day

When I asked about how I could get in on this, both the examples and the management gave the same response: you either need to be a superstar at this company for 5+ years or you need to be a lab rat. I was neither unfortunately so this wasn’t an option for me.

Being part-time outside of being a superstar or a lab rat means that you have to sacrifice benefits such as health care or other company programs like parking discounts or gym memberships. Health care is quite pricey and it does grind away at your self-esteem when you are treated as less than your peers even though you put in the same rate of effort, just for less time.

As a note, there are plenty of articles that explain why 8 hours per day is a recipe for stress, physical exhaustion, and just an unproductive worker. Example: work less hours

Related Articles:

Shared Worked

This is a really unusual option that I haven’t seen in play before. I’ve only seen reports of it.

The way this works is you have two people who can work a particular position. They will together do 1 person’s worth of work for 1 person’s pay. Typically these two people need to apply for the position together as if they were a single person and then work with the hiring manager to outline how they can split their responsibilities. I’ve only seen this proposed for managerial positions where 1 person would do a lot of coaching and career development and the other would do project management.

In order for this to be successful, you need to first find a person that has complementary skills to your and who you can work with closely. Next you’ll need to do the hard part of applying for jobs together and convincing your prospective employers why two people are better than one. Given how people are happier and more productive when they work fewer hours, you might actually be able to do this fairly effectively. Similarly, if you have a managerial position that involves a lot of travel, you might be able to make a good case for it.

As far as engineering positions go, I have never seen this before. I suspect this might have a lot to do with engineers having too many responsibilities or too few. If you manage code, deploy, test, debug, devops, design, planning, interviewing, and mentoring, it becomes hard to group those into equal parts without creating two separate roles. Similarly, if you only code and test, you will become too narrowly scoped if you only do one or the other. That’s my theory anyway.

Unfortunately, it looks like the “work less” options are all bust. Next up are ways you can take time off.

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