I have presented “Part-timers…The New Professional Superheroes” to two audiences and have shared the story numerous times in the past few months. If you don’t have time for the video (link below, it’s only 5 minutes) or haven’t heard the story, here is the gist of it: a top performer wanted to return to work at 50% after having a child; she was initially told “no” and then negotiated a one-year trial; they re-organized her work and she is now almost as productive in 2.5 days as she previously was in 5.

EVERY time I share the story, someone else shares theirs with me. Thank you. I love having these discussions and learning about what’s working and what isn’t for other professionals. Unfortunately, I far too often hear stories of professionals who tried to negotiate a part-time arrangement, were not successful and then either left their employer or the workforce entirely. I must admit, it makes me a bit crazy! It also moves me to action.

This post shares some ideas for how to negotiate part-time work arrangements.

Be specific in your request

Before you approach your manager, put some thought into what you mean by “part-time”. Do you want to reduce the number of hours you work each day? Or days that you work each week? Or both? Do you want your other work arrangements to stay the same, or are you looking for other flexibility, such as the ability to work from home? Is this a permanent change or a temporary one? Will the arrangement be constant or change over time?

Know your value

Make a list of all of the reasons that you are great at your job. Do you have special relationships with customers? Are you long-serving and well-connected within your organization? Do you have a special or unique skill? Do you have historical knowledge that would be difficult to replace?

Next, identify ways to quantify your value. This could include the amount of sales you generate, the savings your organization has realized as a result of your work, your customer satisfaction rating, etc. Anything that can be measured. You should also find the ratings you’ve received in your most recent performance feedback sessions.

Anticipate points of resistance

Part of preparing for a negotiation is anticipating how the other side will respond. One of the most common points of resistance is “if I do it for you, I’ll have to do it for everyone”. Hidden in that statement is a manager’s fear that it will lead to more work for him/her. Other points of resistance could include concern about how all of the work will get done or a worry that this will be another failed attempt at workplace accommodation.

Once you have identified the points of resistance, identify the counter-argument(s) for each.

Have knowledge of the facts

Some organizations have flexible work policies in place where employees can request a change from full-time to part-time. The policy may include a process for making the request, which you should follow. In addition, if you are part of a bargaining unit, your collective agreement may allow for part-time work. Read the agreement or talk to a union representative to learn more.

What’s in it for me?

There is a reason that you want to change from full-time employment to part-time. That’s what’s in it for you. It is usually more time available so that you can do other things: look after a young family, spend time volunteering, provide support to an elderly family member, transition to retirement, etc.

The other “me” that needs to be considered is the organization. What’s in it for the organization or your manager? Part of this could include the value that you provide (see above). The other part could include industry data such as the costs of employee turnover (6-9 months salary, according to SHRM).

Provide reassurance

There are two things that will help reassure a reluctant manager: 1) the ability to quantify or measure your performance/productivity, and 2) discussions about expectations. If appropriate, set performance targets that relate to your role and be prepared to measure/monitor these over time. Although counter-intuitive, you can expect that your performance will not be directly related to your capacity. For example, a person selling $100M/year will more than likely sell more than $50M/year at 50% capacity. It is difficult to know the exact numbers until you try it, but generally, productivity and focus will increase.

Regarding setting expectations, work with your leader to ask and answer important questions. When will department meetings be held? Who should catch you up if something happens while you’re away? What happens if (when) someone needs something and you’re not in the office? Are you expected to keep an eye on your emails when you’re not in the office but it’s still business hours for everyone else? How will your work be divvied up? How will the change be communicated to others? Will you be able to scale up your hours for project deadlines?

Trial period

Consider asking for the part-time arrangements on a trial-basis of three to six months. This should allow enough time to work out some of the wrinkles in logistics so that the arrangements can be appraised fairly.

Know your audience

Give some thought to your manager. What motivates him/her? How is s/he measured by their leader? How does s/he make decisions – data? Emotion? Both? Will s/he be motivated from a personal- or organizational-perspective. This will give you some insight about whether you want the discussion to be factual or emotional.

Begin the discussion

Once you have completed your research and planning, get ready for the discussion. Considering things like your manager’s preference and organization’s culture and addressing potential concerns up front can go a long way toward success. You should expect that the discussion will take some time and should not expect a firm yes/no answer the first time that you raise the subject.

Good luck!


Part-timers…The New Professional Superheroes Video

Watch the video – it’s only 5 minutes long!


Are you interested in learning more about how your organization can implement flexible work programs? Connect with us today!