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Going part time

Mr. Astaire

I’m curious if anyone has experience shifting from working full time to working part time (less than 32hrs/week).

I’m licensed with 12 years experience and have been at the same firm for the past 10 years. I feel like I’m well valued at my current firm but I’m also burnt out and I’d like to downshift my workload to 24-32hrs/week. I’ve expressed my concern with work-life balance during past yearly reviews and suggested a number of office wide policies that could help with this (additional PTO, paid overtime, comp time for overtime, Fridays off during the summer) which were not implemented.

My yearly review is in Feb and I’d like to discuss reducing my hours to 32hrs/week. I was going to propose that we try this out during the summer. I can be given less projects and use a combination of vacation and personal time to take Fridays off during the summer until I run out of PTO. At that time, I can take unpaid time off. 

If this goes well, I would ultimately like to work 24-32 hrs all year long at a reduced salary (60-80%) within the next 5 years. Has anyone made a shift from full time to part time work and do you have any suggestions on the best way to propose this to my bosses?

 
Dec 23, 22 4:11 am
archanonymous

I am doing it now. I have 12 years of experience also, and when I made this change I was super burned out.

I don't think it would have been possible at my previous firm to shift from full-time (actually an average of 60hrs/ week for me) to part time. A few mothers tried going to 4-day weeks there pre-pandemic and they just ended up working from home on Friday or cramming 40+ hours into the other days of the week. Real shitty.


Initially I hadn't planned on working at all - I quit my job with no plan other than to chill out like a frog on a log. I was so burned out and disillusioned with the profession. In some ways I still am (disillusioned). Once people in my network heard I was free I started getting all kinds of random job offers. I eventually negotiated something @ 24 hours a week, design only (no production, no management, very little responsibility) that actually pays 10% more than I was making as a full time employee at the starchitecture firm. It's pretty chill. 

I don't know that I'll do this forever - as stressful as being a PA was, I do miss being that intimately involved in projects. That said, I also don't know when I will stop doing this - it's a pretty chill gig. Some weeks I don't work at all, some weeks I work more than 24, but as a whole it's not bad. 


Best way to propose it to your bosses? "I can quit and you get nothing, or I can shift to 24 hour weeks and more of an oversight role and you get to retain all my institutional knowledge and experience. Your choice." I hope you have 6 - 12 months of "fuck you" money saved up also because they may very well call your bluff. But if not, it works out great!

Dec 23, 22 6:18 am  · 
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bowling_ball

That's just about the only way something like that is possible - your involvement is limited to early schematic, maybe graphics, research, etc. For most offices, it's not realistic to employ somebody for 24 hours of CD drawing or CA a week, because things change way too fast to not be involved daily. FWIW, I would likely let 90% of employees go if they approached me that way. It tells me you already have a foot out the door and unless others have similar complaints, it sounds like you might just benefit from a total break to get your stuff together.

Dec 23, 22 7:04 pm  · 
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archanonymous

Depending on the firm and your level of competence and experience, that early-schematic, graphics, research, and oversight can be extremely useful. 

The problem I've perceived at every other place I have worked is that the principals all want to be in charge of that stuff despite 1) not having nearly enough time to devote to it among all their other duties and 2) being pretty shitty designers, all things considered 3) Being stuck in outdated mindsets

Dec 24, 22 5:21 am  · 
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Mr. Astaire

Thanks for the feedback! I was leaning towards working 32 hrs per week because I think that would be more palatable for my bosses and I’d be making more money.

I’d prefer not to quit but also understand that needs to be on the table. I manage multiple projects and I’m able to work fairly autonomously with staff under me so I’m hoping that they allow me to stay on in the same role but with less projects to manage.

Dec 27, 22 9:29 am  · 
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Mr. Astaire

Thanks for the feedback! I was leaning towards working 32 hrs per week because I think that would be more palatable for my bosses and I’d be making more money.

Dec 27, 22 9:29 am  · 
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msparchitect

well said. I was in the same head space you were with being burnt out and disillusioned with the profession before I ultimately quit and made my own path/firm. I've found myself ultimately working less and making more. 

 The constant grind is for the worker bee. I'm done being someone else's worker bee. 

Jan 2, 23 11:05 am  · 
1  · 

A couple of thoughts:

Jan 5, 23 8:16 pm  · 
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A couple of thoughts:

Jan 5, 23 8:16 pm  · 
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A couple of thoughts:

Jan 5, 23 8:16 pm  · 
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Okay I swear I’m not going to hit enter prematurely again. A couple of thoughts: unless you’re going in with an ultimatum that you’re either going to reduce to 32 hours or quit, there’s no reason to believe that leadership “calling your bluff” would mean you’re fired. So, approach the conversation as “hey, I’m wondering if this is a possibility. I think this would help me be a better person and ultimately a better employee, so I thought it would be worth discussing.” Second, I don’t think the jump from 40 to 32 hours necessarily means you can only do some types of work and not others. Firms sometimes farm out graphics; sometimes they farm out CDs or spec writing.

Jan 5, 23 8:23 pm  · 
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And often people are working in two or three or more projects at a time. So there’s no reason firms can’t break up work into smaller chunks. I led the design, coordination, documentation etc. of an $8 million project while at 30 hours, working under a client and studio leader who was also at reduced hours.

Jan 5, 23 8:26 pm  · 
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kjpn

yes it’s very possible. I think there is generally a constraint around the provision of benefits like healthcare relative to ur work hours. Less than 30 hours may prevent your office from providing benefits, for example. So something to ask about. 



Dec 23, 22 11:36 am  · 
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natematt

No experience with this but just a thought.

Ask to be kept as full time but just reduced pay commiserate with hours worked. Being officially "part time" could impact perks/etc? Some companies (including the firm I work for) allow people to work less hours at full time. In my case it's 32, they just (presumably) pay you less. 

Shifting down to 24 would be a big jump.... Good luck either way! 

Dec 24, 22 3:26 am  · 
1  · 

OP - one thing to follow up on if that's a plan: the IRS defines "full time" as a certain number of hours per week (30 i believe - might need to double check that). what it will affect is items like health insurance, withholding, 401k matching, etc. for items like health and 401k, most will not offer it to the company to offer to someone who is only part time. meaning, i can't even arrange to get insurance for someone who is PT. 

if all of that is important or vital to you, make sure you're on the right side of the ledger to keep your status as 'full time'.

Dec 26, 22 9:02 pm  · 
1  · 
bowling_ball

Or just negotiate what you want to keep. If they're willing to keep you as part time, they'll likely accommodate other minor requests like that to keep you.

Dec 26, 22 10:28 pm  · 
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bb - it's not up to us (i should make that clear). meaning, our health insurer does not offer an option for 'part time' workers and they set that definition. same for the 401k. it's not really about whether we would offer it or not - it's what the other company will do.

Dec 30, 22 4:07 pm  · 
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bowling_ball

Gotcha, thanks. Wasn't sure about the health insurance (that makes sense, it's mostly the same here) but the 401k, isn't that just a number to negotiate with the firm? The Canadian equivalent (RRSP) only requires you to report any employment income at all (though yourr allowable contribution would be more limited).

Dec 30, 22 6:31 pm  · 
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Mr. Astaire

Great point about those other benefits, I can join my wife’s insurance if needed but it’s still something to keep in mind.

Dec 27, 22 9:33 am  · 
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archanonymous

Per the health insurance/ benefits discussion above - you can also turn that into a major advantage. Like for me, since I work less than 30 hours/ week I don't get health insurance, life insurance, or any of that other stuff. Therefore, I can't work more than 30 hours a week (per HR) because then they would have to start offering me those things, which would trigger a complete re-negotiation of my employment. What I've seen with a lot of people who drop to 4 days/ 32 hours a week is that they just end up working "overtime" up through 40 or more hours per week.

Dec 31, 22 11:24 am  · 
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Kinsbergen

@Archanonymous, your work situation doesn't seem ideal. You hinted at my professional capability, but ironically I have better contract arrangements than you. Quick tip for you would be to fix your attitude before you fix your career.

Dec 31, 22 10:15 pm  · 
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Non-ASD - I wouldn't throw any stones. Based on your posts here you have a horrible attitude and below average professional capability. That's not a winning combination.

Jan 4, 23 10:55 am  · 
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value engineer

I have this arrangement with my employer, 24 hours per week. Granted I left landscape architecture and am now a civil eng (which I now have close to 10 years of experience). I find that I do work closer to 30 hours per week. I have clients that continue to return to my firm, for me specifically. So no negative feedback from above. If I had more energy for administration, I could start my own firm. My advice  is DO IT, let your mind open to the possibilities of less hours. Other opportunities will present (professionally and personally), life is too short. You can always go back to full time.


Others Pros: Only have to do the work I like, get conferences and license cost covered, have a broad network of professionals at my firm in case I want an expert, get full benefits, get to pick up and drop off kids everyday, have more time for side hobby of ceramics, feel like a full human.

Jan 2, 23 12:09 pm  · 
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archanonymous

Re: Opportunities will present, life is too short. That is so true. Since I went part time and started living in my van down by the river, I've gotten more opportunities than I did in my 12 years of flogging myself for the starchitect grind.

Jan 2, 23 12:36 pm  · 
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x-jla

I think there is a strong case to be made that you would have a better chance going part time as a subcontractor.   Offer design services on a contract basis to DB and architectural firms.  If you don’t get the benefits of a full time employee, what’s the benefit of being an employee?

Jan 4, 23 11:47 am  · 
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Non Sequitur

Our office is currently going through a transition phase with the OG partners looking at retirement. Not quite ready to quit cold-turkey yet so they are staying on part-time and only with certain clients.

Jan 4, 23 12:25 pm  · 
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reallynotmyname

Part time employment gives you a predictable and regular arrangement that may be preferable to being a true freelancer. A freelance situation is going to be a lot more fluid as you work for different firms and the gigs come and go. Marketing yourself to get the gigs and the tax situation for a freelancer with a stack of 1099s at the end of each year can also become a burden. It can almost become like you are a 1 person firm.

Jan 4, 23 2:54 pm  · 
2  · 

I’ve gone down to 30 or sometimes 20 hours for a couple reasons: having a kiddo I provide childcare for part-time, teaching a design studio at the university, or a combination of both. I’m at my second firm where they’ve worked with me on this.  


Like previously suggested, check out the impact to your benefits. At my last firm, I still got health insurance, retirement matching, etc. all the way down to 20 hours, but I’m sure it’s different elsewhere. Also, consider any impacts reduced hours might have on promotions to leadership, if that’s something you’re interested in pursuing, or other opportunities for advancement. I was burned a little bit in the past re: promotions because not all leadership was as on board with my reduced hours as they seemed to be.


Which leads to what I think is most important to consider: how valued and valuable you feel like you are to your current firm. If you’re an integral part of the team, they really like you, or your firm is just heavy on work and light on staff, you have  a stronger hand. But, even if you have a weak hand, it’s still worth asking! Especially post-covid, it seems like firms are more flexible on arrangements. 


For me, reduced hours have meant a little more life balance, more time with my kiddo and more ability to support my wife when she’s busy with work. I’ve still been able to work on projects that I enjoy. I feel more productive with my time.  Once my kids are in full time daycare or school, I’ll most likely return to the normal 40. 

Jan 5, 23 8:15 pm  · 
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