5 Tips for Asking to Work Fewer Hours

work fewer hours
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There are many reasons why you might want, or even need, to reduce your working hours. You might have caregiving responsibilities that need to take priority, for example. Or, you might just prefer to work four days a week instead of five. But regardless of your reasons, don’t think you’ll need to quit your current gig in order to make it work. You might be able to reduce your schedule and keep your job.

Here’s how:

  1. Make sure you’re in great standing ahead of time.

It’s not easy to ask for any kind of outside-the-box arrangement if you’re not already in excellent standing at work. Hopefully, you’ve worked hard and earned a reputation for being a reliable, trustworthy, and talented employee. If you have, your boss will be much more eager to work something out with you. If you don’t have a good reputation, or if you’re new to the company or your position, the conversation is less likely to go your way. So, make sure you’re OK with the boss before you even think about heading into a conversation about changing up your working arrangement.

  1. Know your worth.

If you do have a solid professional reputation to stand on, appreciate the value of that. Know that you are a tremendous asset to your employer and they aren’t going to want to lose out on the benefit of your contribution. Have confidence, and approach the conversation from that confident place.

Do some research in advance. You can use PayScale’s Salary Survey to find out what you should be earning. It might turn out that you’re underpaid for your full-time work, so taking a huge pay cut shouldn’t be on the table. Also, it never hurts to be armed with as much information as possible when heading into negotiations. Taking inventory of your responsibilities and contributions to the company will help you prepare for your meeting.

  1. Present a few different options.

Before you set up a meeting with the powers that be, make sure you’re fully prepared to do some serious negotiating. (Check out PayScale’s Salary Negotiation Guide for some tips.) Also, you should come up with a couple different options for how your schedule could be arranged that would work for you. Perhaps some of your job responsibilities could be shifted or rearranged. Maybe you could work from home two days a week and be in the office the rest of the time. Or, maybe you could work four slightly longer days instead of five. Be prepared to discuss a few different options that would work for you. And be sure not to mention anything about a pay-reduction when presenting your various scenarios. Focus instead on presenting different options for meeting the demands of your job in a slightly different way.

  1. Propose the arrangement happen on a trial basis.

A lot of bosses will hesitate to fulfill a request to change an employment arrangement so drastically. It could be particularly hard if flexible work setups like this are relatively new to the company. For that reason, suggest trying this out for a couple of months and then having another conversation. Make sure to let your boss know that this job means a lot to you and that you wouldn’t want to do anything that would negatively impact the quality of your work. Add that you’re convinced this is going to be an even better arrangement for everyone and you’d like to have the opportunity to give it a try.

  1. Offer solutions to potential problems, even when they’re not, technically, your problem anymore.

If you do end up changing your work arrangement, you’ll have to make other adjustments as well. Maybe someone else will have to pick up some of your old responsibilities. Whatever the case may be, you should anticipate these problems and offer solutions to them in advance. Maybe you know someone who could replace you on a certain project, or you have an idea for how a client’s needs could be met. Whether the problem is technically yours or not, offer solutions to difficulties that might arise as a result of this change. This will help you continue to show your boss that you’ve thought this out from every angle, and that you’re still very much engaged and working to minimize any potential difficulties.

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