Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Project Work/Life Balance: Working a Shorter Week

When we last saw our heroine, she'd established that an 80-hour workweek was NOT SUSTAINABLE.

After crunching the numbers, it looked like my best bet was to graduate in May as planned. And I had to take those courses to graduate. So it came down to decreasing my working hours. And that required meeting with my employer to negotiate whether and how that would happen.

First, I brainstormed options:

Could I work 4 10-hour days and accomplish the same objective?
No, not really. I absolutely needed to have more free hours as well as a longer "weekend", not just move some of the free hours together into a free day.

What about working from home? Because that is OSSM.

Can I take a vacation day every week? Maybe. The 4 comp days I earned by working during the holiday break would cover a month. At the very least, I could see if those could be redeemed for high-work periods like finals (only I don't think these courses will have exams). I also have some vacation hours stored up, and I know it's preferred that we use them instead of stockpiling. Spacing them out over several months would mean that I couldn't take an "actual vacation" for a while, but would make my weekly schedule much more livable.

What if I run out of vacation hours? That gets into the area of unpaid leave, which I'm not too sure about. Aside from just meaning I get paid less in each paycheck, it would have to be approved at several levels, and my benefits might be affected negatively. It's really a different and more intensive discussion with management and HR. Still an option AFTER the vacation hours are all used, but it should be addressed then.

What if they say no? This was a tough consideration. After all, I'd already filed my candidacy paperwork, and it would add bureaucratic hassle -- and not inconsiderable expense -- to spread my work out over another semester. Possible, but undesirable. Was I willing to walk away from the job -- at a company I've been with for more than 5 years -- if my request to work a reduced schedule for a limited time was turned down?

Working from home WITH a reduced workweek would be the ideal scenario for me. A 4-day/32-hour workweek in the office would achieve my immediate objective of being able to complete my semester; however, just cutting out my commute by working from home would not be sufficient. I decided that I would be willing to take a proportional pay cut, if necessary, so long as my health insurance benefits weren't reduced. (We can live on 80% of my paycheck, but I really NEED that extra 20% of time.) I also decided, after discussion with my wife, that it would be possible to quit my job and live on her paychecks, our emergency fund, and my accrued vacation pay for a while -- either until I found part-time work that could accommodate my school schedule, or until I graduated and could start full-time work elsewhere. Not preferred, and not entirely pleasant, but manageable if it came to that. So that was my trump card.

More developments to come!

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