Would you work less if you could handle it financially? According to the latest State of Engagement Survey from Gallup, 70% of workers don’t like their job. I’d guess that more than 70% of us wouldn’t mind spending less time at the office. However, middle income households usually do not have this option because they need all of their paychecks to pay the bills. If you asked me 10 years ago, I would never have considered working fewer hours for less money. I like money and I thought I liked to keep busy with a job. However, things changed and I decided that life would be better off if I worked less.
It’s been over a year since I left my engineering career and we are doing OK financially. I became a stay at home dad/blogger and my productivity is through the roof. Taking care of a little kid is quite time intensive, but it’s very satisfying. Sure, we have some rough times at home too, but I still much prefer it 1,000 times more than going to the office.
Being a blogger is not that easy, either. It takes a lot of time to write, to maintain the website, and to network. It’s still a lot more fun than my old job and I’m much more engaged with the process. Blogging is equivalent to a half time job and I really enjoy it. The online income is also more than I imagined. It’s still only about a quarter of what I was getting paid though (not counting benefits.)
At first glance, you probably think this guy is terrible at math. Why would anyone work 50% less and get paid only 25% of their previous job? Well, life isn’t all about money. There are a lot of reasons why I quit my stressful engineering career. Basically, I hated it and it was hastening my demise. There are a lot of intangible benefits that come from going it alone, too. Let’s look at the pros and cons of my experience.
Pros of reducing working hours
Less Stress – I made a pretty big career change as well as reducing my hours. I went from a stressful job I didn’t like to doing something fun that takes less time. I was stressed out and unhappy all the time when I was an engineer. Now, I’m rarely stressed and our family is much better off that way. For most people, I imagine that working less would help reduce stress even if you work in the same job.
More Free Time – We all have limited time and should we really spend so much of it at work? Working less enabled me to be a stay at home dad and I’m very thankful for the opportunity. Raising a kid is the experience of a lifetime. It’s not fun and games all the time, but even the tough times will be memorable. We’ll laugh at all this craziness when Jr. is an adult.
Self Employment – I love self employment. I know it’s not for everyone, but it’s perfect for me. I can set my own priorities, go at my own pace, and don’t have to answer to anyone. That’s Freedom, Baby! I felt like Andy from The Shawshank Redemption when I finally left my old job.
Doing Something I Like – Life is really crappy when you’re doing something you don’t like for 8-10 hours a day. Now I can do something I like and life is much better. I’d probably settle for doing 50% less of something I don’t like if I had the option. Most employers don’t like that, though.
The downside of working less
Less money – Generally, if you work less hours, you’ll make less money. As mentioned above, I’m only making about 25% of what I was making at my old job. I really only planned for 10% though, so 25% was quite a bonus. Here is a survey. What is the lowest level of pay would you accept for working 50% less?
Fewer Benefits – My old corporate employer provided quite a nice benefit package. I do miss the 401(k) matching, health insurance, life insurance, sick days, workout room, yoga, and free fruit in the cafeteria. That’s the price of self employment, though. I think most corporations would also cut a lot of their benefits if an employee transitions to half time. Please comment if you have any experience here.
Less Socialization – The work environment gives us a lot of opportunities to socialize. My social life is pretty slow now, but I’m quite fine with that. If all your friends are at work, it probably would be difficult to transition to self employment or cut back your hours. For those of us who are introverts, it’s probably not a big deal.
Promotions might be tough to come by – If you’re looking for promotions or a big pay raise, then it’s probably best to stick with full time employment. Your boss would rather promote someone who’s available at all hours. It will also be tough to get good high profile assignments if you’re not working full time. All in all, going to half time probably isn’t a good career move if you intend to stay in the same industry.
The hours creep up – Many engineers at my old company, spent way more than 40 hours/week at work. I know one mom who went to part time and she still worked more than she signed up for. It’s tough to keep to half time with a demanding employer. To be honest, I spend way more than 20 hours/week on my laptop. I just don’t count all that time I spend goofing off as work anymore.
Working less is great if you can pull it off
At this point in my life, working less is the best choice for me. I’m not ready to stop working completely yet, but I don’t want to work full time anymore. Luckily, we can handle it financially even with a big 75% pay cut. Our net worth is still slowly growing and we can make ends meet every month. Of course, more money would be better, but the benefits outweigh any downsides for me.
How about you? Would you work less if you could?
photo credit: flickr Josef Grunig