One of the things I hear from many of my colleagues is a desire to get out of the 9-to-5 race and work on their own schedules. They cite reasons from increased free time, to being paid for their output rather than their hours, to scheduling flexibility.
The truth of the matter is that in the U.S., businesses are still set up on a pay-for-the-hours paradigm rather than being about production. As we shift more to knowledge work, where it isn’t important for us to be in a physical location, many knowledge workers want to find a different way.
Enter alternative work situations.
There are many articles out there on how to be a freelancer, making money online and other topics, so I’m not going to cover that. What I want to do is give you an in-the-trenches look at my situation in an alternative work situation, both pros and cons.
History of My Alternative Work Situation
The year my daughter was to enter kindergarten, I thought back to the days when I would return home from school and my mother would be at home. It was a relaxed time, where I did my homework and went out to play. I wanted to give that to my daughter.
At the beginning of 2007, I was employed by a computer consulting firm and had been at the same client for one and a half years. With my client’s support and influence, I was able to negotiate a part-time arrangement.
My client was great about the switch. As they pointed out, with my productivity rate, 75% of my time was worth more than 100% of some of the other programmers around.
The change was still difficult, since my company didn’t want to lose the 60% hourly markup they were making on me; I had figured out what my time was worth hourly, including vacations and sick time, and asked for that rate. My company was still making a hefty 25% profit on me, but it took a very to-the-point phone call from my client to get things done. I lost no annual money by making the switch, but I lost paid time off and all other benefits.
Pros of Part Time Work
More free time. My working hours were such that I had two extra hours a day. That may not seem like much, but it was enough for me to keep up with the house, cook healthy meals, and work with my daughter both in homework and piano. I would have done these things without the extra time, but I would have been much more stressed.
Less stress. I found that those extra two hours a day gave me a lot of breathing room. I was no longer waiting to start on my personal hobbies and interests until 11:00. I was able to work on them after my daughter went to bed.
Less stress on my husband. My husband felt the stress level in the house go down, and he responded with less stress of his own. This was a side-effect we hadn’t looked for.
More focus at work. Because I knew I had less time to work, I concentrated and worked harder to make sure I got my work done.
More productivity. I was very conscious that the reason I was granted this privilege was because I had a high productivity level. I consciously worked hard to make sure I kept the level up.
Cons of Part Time Work
Loss of benefits. If my husband did not have health care benefits, we never would have been able to do this. The cost of health care would have eaten up my wages.
First to go. When my client laid off all consultants, my company didn’t even make a pretense of finding me work, choosing instead to lay me off via email within hours.
No unemployment. I found out after I was laid off that part time workers are not eligible for unemployment benefits in my state unless I was willing to go back to work full time.
Difficulty finding a job. I had many calls of people interested in hiring me, but with every one, the part-time stopped the talks. The mindset of business is still about having a body in a chair rather than results.
Co-worker resentment. Even though I do not advertise my working hours, some people who have found out about them have been resentful. One manager had me transferred off his project because he felt my reduced hours made him look bad.
All in all, moving to part time was an excellent move for me. But I do wish that I had known more about the downside before I had done it. I would have been more prepared to deal with the fallout.
Photo by star5112