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What does downshifting really look like?
Old 11-29-2013, 01:42 AM   #1
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What does downshifting really look like?

At my company, for a manager to downshift from full time to part time is unheard of. However, I'm thinking of proposing it as an alternative to retiring outright. I believe I can make a good case that it will work well and be mutually beneficial.

I'm having a harder time visualizing the particulars. What turned out to be best for others here who downsized in this way? Did you work, say, 4 hours for 5 days or 7 hours for 3 days? Did you work in the office or remotely, or both?

Also, were there any drawbacks to downshifting that caught you by surprise?

Thanks for sharing so others like me can benefit from your experience. A lot of this is new territory.
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Old 11-29-2013, 02:03 AM   #2
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People I know who downshifted, did so by changing from a management job to an individual contributor job, or by job sharing the management job. It's unusual to find a management job that doesn't require full-time coverage if the team is working full-time.
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Old 11-29-2013, 06:01 AM   #3
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The risk I see is that you'd end up still "doing the management job" at a lower pay. People might still view you in that role regardless of a change.
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Old 11-29-2013, 07:22 AM   #4
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Downshifting to me meant becoming a "coach" to the new manager, working 4 hours a day 3 days a week for about 30% of my former income. And, since they paid the new manager less than they paid me to start everyone did ok. You have to give up both authority and responsibility for decision making, however. As a part timer you coach,advise and then let the new manager do his job........making decisions.

I'm sure everyone did it different, but that is what worked for me.
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Old 11-29-2013, 07:59 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by growing_older View Post
People I know who downshifted, did so by changing from a management job to an individual contributor job, or by job sharing the management job. It's unusual to find a management job that doesn't require full-time coverage if the team is working full-time.
+1

A friend who is a manager took the "early retirement" option offered last year, working 3 days a week for 75% of pay through the end of this year. He moved to more of a project manager role, with no direct reports, but coordinating a couple of projects. He said that was the only way he could ensure he would truly stick to the reduced hours without pressure from others.
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Old 11-29-2013, 10:43 AM   #6
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I was a supervisor at my Megacorp job when I first switched from working full-time to part-time back in 2001. I went from 37-40 hours per week to 20 hours per week, making one trip per week to the office (working 6.5-7 hours) along with working ~13.5 hours per week from home. I did a lot of computer programs maintenance and other programming so it was better to do that from home during the off hours when staff was not in the office using the programs. Some of the other work I did I could not really do from home so that disappeared. I also was relieved of doing employee evaluations which was most welcome. Some computer work, however, I could not do from home because I could not gain access to it from home. That was awkward at times. Some of my telecommute work hours had to be during the regular work hours but some could be whenever I wanted. when things were slow, I would take some vacation time, as I did not want to just sitting around doing nothing while getting paid.

Over the next 7 years (2001-2008), I had other part-time work arrangements
after the telecommuting disappeared in 2003. I could still work 20 hours per week but I had to do them from the office, which I hated. The commute to the office was long and awful, so this was a big step backward. But when I was not in the office on those 3 days (each about 6.5-7 hours) I did not do any work from home, of course. I lost some of my bennies but most were intact.

After 3.5 years of that deal (in 2007), I asked to reduce my weekly hours worked from 20 to 12. This removed one day from my weekly commute and reduced my daily hours to 6 so I got home a little earlier. I also saw my workload get cut a bit more which was fine. Also, I ended up getting assigned to work on one large project which ate up most of my time at the office, leaving me with little else including supervisory duties, not that I cared. This was also fine, as it was a challenging but sometimes mentally exhausting project. To sweeten the deal for my bosses, I agreed to answer important emails on the days I was not in the office but would not do any programming work. This way, my coworkers would not have to wait 2 or 3 workdays to get a reply. I lost most of my remaining bennies incluidng eligibility for group health insurance (I went on COBRA) but remained in the company stock (ESOP) program, perhaps the most important bennie, even more than the health insurance.

I also knew when I got this reduction in hours I might very well leave the company by the end of 2008. I was starting to put my ER plan into shape in 2007 and the pieces were beginning to fall into place. So if I did not like this 12-hours-per-week arrangement, I would be able to make it the coveted zero-hours-per-week deal I always wanted. And that is just what happened. By the summer of 2008, the final pieces fell into place and I ERed at the end of October. I cashed out the company stock at high prices (before it fell a little in the 4th quarter) and bought into a bond fund at rock bottom prices. That fund's monthly dividends are my main source of income in ER.
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Old 11-29-2013, 01:19 PM   #7
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My mega corp offered two options after I left. One was to come back as a full time contract manager for a specific project. The other was to work for a director part time and do just the extra type IT projects I did in my last position that didn't necessarily require a full time staff but were higher level than an admin assistant could do - develop training programs, coordinate department recruiting, preliminary evaluation of consulting companies, attend job fairs, develop quantifiable metrics to determine optimal staffing levels be department, lead cross department sigma six type teams and tasks along those lines.
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Old 11-29-2013, 02:25 PM   #8
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Thanks for the responses thus far. They're definitely assisting me in wrapping my mind around this possibility.

Quote:
Originally Posted by growing_older View Post
People I know who downshifted, did so by changing from a management job to an individual contributor job, or by job sharing the management job. It's unusual to find a management job that doesn't require full-time coverage if the team is working full-time.
Good point. My situation falls into that "unusual" category because I have a very small team with employees who have been in their jobs a long time. They're past the point where they need full-time supervision.

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Originally Posted by marko View Post
The risk I see is that you'd end up still "doing the management job" at a lower pay. People might still view you in that role regardless of a change.
You're right. This is a real concern I'll have to keep in mind.

Quote:
Originally Posted by scrabbler1 View Post
I was a supervisor at my Megacorp job when I first switched from working full-time to part-time back in 2001. I went from 37-40 hours per week to 20 hours per week, making one trip per week to the office (working 6.5-7 hours) along with working ~13.5 hours per week from home...
Thanks for taking the time to share your situation in detail. I found it very helpful, particularly since it seems pretty close to my own.
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Old 11-29-2013, 07:17 PM   #9
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I am an attorney so my situation is somewhat different than yours. In my case, I was not the ultimate boss in my practice group, but was the right hand person for the boss.

I'm still in the downshifted position, although it has changed over the last 3 1/2 years.

When I originally agreed to stay on in this role (I had planned to entirely retire and was offered the downshifted role), I made some stipulations:

1. Come into the office once a week (occasionally more often if an emergency). I would do some work from home on a more ad hoc basis.

2. I laid out very specifically the types of things I wanted to work on and those I didn't want to work on.

3. I spelled out very specifically what I wanted in terms of compensation. Most critically, I negotiated to be paid hourly. I never wanted any risk that I would set compensation for 10 hours a week and then be called upon to do 15 hours.


For the 1st year and a half or so, this went really well. I worked about 10 or 12 hours a week (one day at the office and then a few scattered hours from home). The work was fine - within the parameters of what I wanted.

Then, another employee left and I was asked to come in twice a week. The idea was that I wouldn't so much increase my number of hours as do them in the office on 2 days.

So for the next group of time I came in twice a week. Of course, stuff still came up while I was at home so it ended up averaging about 15 hours a week during 2012.

During that year we moved an a round trip commute of about an hour was now a 3 hour round trip commute. That got old really fast. It was also starting to be trying that some days I would come to the office and the person who I worked most closely with would get called away on something and I would end up setting around doing nothing (this was the negative of the hourly rate in that if I sat in the office doing nothing I made no money). That really bothered me with the long commute.

One negative is that the kind of work I do isn't the sort of thing where it is easy say I will only do work on Monday and Wednesday (or whatever). My input might be requested on any day of the week. That didn't really bother me when I was at home but it did bother me if I would come in Monday and do 2 hours of work (with 3 hours in the car) then something came up on Tuesday that took 6 hours. So I had a feeling that I was always on call and was spending 6 hours of every week in a car.

So by the middle of this year I was ready to call a halt to it all. I went in to resign (again). This time, I was told that I could do all my work from home and wouldn't have to go to the office. I was unsure what to do but felt that there was little downside in trying it. I haven't been to office now in 5 months. So far it has worked well. I am doing less work than before. When I was physically in the office I would tend to get asked input on things just because I was there. Since I'm not in the office someone has to affirmatively decide to email or call me for input and that results in less requests. That is actually fine with me though since I don't really care how much I work.

The upside to the downshifting:

1. I've been able to largely do the parts of my job that I like the best. I don't have to do the things I didn't like.

2. I know I can walk anytime I want to. So, there isn't a lot of stress.

3. I always liked the people I work with so being able to continue has that upside.

4. The money has smoothed over some rough edges over the last few years. For example, early in this period (when I downshifted, DH completely retired) we were selling our house and it took almost a year and then we had to sell it at a loss. Certainly the fact that I was working reduced hours during this time made that a lot more palatable.

5. Early on especially, the working reduced anxiety. I was repeatedly told that I could come back full time any time I wanted to. So if the economy had gone south or there had been some significant need, it was nice to know that I had that option.

The negatives:

1. I do always feel on call. The office is really respectful of my time and doesn't make outrageous demands. But, I have always been very conscientious so I check email frequently and it is always in my mind on weekdays that I might get called upon.

2. The commuting when I was doing it was a real drag. When I was working full-time I didn't mind commuting (but my commute was never more than 2 hours round trip), but I was making a full-time nice salary then. Commuting when going in to work only a few hours was challenging.

3. At times there has been a little creep in what was wanted on me (like when I moved to coming in twice a week). It was always somewhat reasonable and it was easy to agree to, but at some point I realized I was doing more than I had really set out to do.

4. When I was working full-time other people in the group would listen to me when I would suggest doing X (they knew that the boss expected them to listen to me). With my newer status, there wasn't as much...deference. That was something that I had to get used to.
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Old 11-29-2013, 08:10 PM   #10
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I work 16 to 20 hours a week. Generally 2 - 6-8 hr days with an hr or 2 on each other weekday answering emails, etc. About half in the office, half remotely. All project mgmt, no personnel mgmt. this works fine for me because I delegate tasks that would otherwise take more than 20 hrs a week.
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Old 11-29-2013, 08:16 PM   #11
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I was fortunate to be able to downshift from a Corporate management job in IT back to engineering working on projects on a production site for the last 2 years before retiring.
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Old 11-29-2013, 09:16 PM   #12
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I am fortunate to be working for a smaller firm (70pp) and am in my 17th year with them. Since the last child left for college (August), my wife and I decided we would "change lanes" and choose where we wanted to live first and then look for employment (DW is a CPA specializing in Tax, me - Hospitality).

The Company offered to let me work till the end of the year with a reduced group of assets for a reduced salary from my new home office. I gave up a 1 1/2 hour a day commute and now get up and read the paper in the morning with my coffee. I can't overstate what a luxury this feels like after 17 years of that dreadful commute. I am connected by VPN to the company network and can do most of my work between the computer and occasional phone calls. I have a once a week department conference call and occasionally have to make a 5 hour trip to the office for meetings.

It is possible that I will be retained for special projects after the first of the year, likely on a contract employee basis.

My DW found new employment that is well below what she was making in prior locale and what she was hoping for but it is in line for the market and provides reasonable healthcare which was our biggest concern (DW - 50, me - 53).

We live in the same city as DW's folks and less than an hour from 2 of the kiddos in college. The quality of life we have now beats anything I have experienced since early in my work career. It's amazing how loving where we live and being near family makes everything else secondary. We really feel like our priorities are correctly ordered.

We planned for one of us to be out of work for up to a year before things got tight and feel we are well within this window.

It was great having the option to not just end things with my company but to downshift as you call it so we could experience our newfound freedom with minimal risk and emotional disruption.

Good luck and hope it works for you.
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Old 11-30-2013, 10:25 AM   #13
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When I went from a full time position to a 4 days per week 32 hours position, I found my time at work dropped by half. Once it was known that I was working part-time, people seemed much more cognizant of the 32 hours target and tended to not give me surprise extra projects that typically go to full time staff, which they end up working on nights and weekends. My hours at work dropped from a typical 60+ (one of the biggest reasons for going parttime) to a fairly well observed 32. Bliss.
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Old 11-30-2013, 10:45 AM   #14
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The risk I see is that you'd end up still "doing the management job" at a lower pay. People might still view you in that role regardless of a change.
Another other risk is that you become marginalized and "downshifting" (or even proposing it) becomes a reason for your de facto early termination. Must be fully prepared to retire both emotionally and financially. Personally I would not advise anyone trying to "downshift" until they have already fully vested in corp retirement benefits (pension, insurances, etc.) and have a solid plan for ER.
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Old 11-30-2013, 11:19 AM   #15
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I actually didn't go back to my last company. I made more money working somewhere else as a contractor and then started my own little business where all the employees (me + DH) are required to not work on sunny days.
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