Many people may fantasize about the idea of a 3 day work week, with lots of leftover time to spend with family, pursuing hobbies, or simply taking life at a much more natural pace. However, finding a flexible job that still pays all of the bills can be a challenge at times. You can make a 3 day work week actually happen and here's what it takes to get to this enviable position.
A large percentage of those who achieve a 3 day work week are self-employed, choosing to consult and only taking on enough work to fill their 24 hours a week. This can feel like a challenge, but in most cases, the work you've put in over the years has prepared you for a potential life as a contractor. More and more companies are open to the idea of contract workers, and if you renegotiate your employment terms with your boss, you may be able to own your own time as well.
Once you are working for yourself, you get to set the times that you work; a good work ethic can help you to stay on top of the work you need to get done. If you are a responsive communicator, your clients may not even know that you are working a 3 day work week, since working MWF would mean you never go more than 36 hours without checking and responding to email. As a self-employed individual, you'd set the standard for how you help your clients, and by consistently improving and reducing wasted time, you can bill for large projects without breaking your 3 day work week.
Negotiate With Your Employer
If you prefer not to become self-employed, you may be able to convince your manager that a 3 day work week is actually a better deal for everyone. One example is for workers who are in the second half of their careers, having developed a depth of knowledge and expertise. Most of us get better and faster at our work over the years, and if you can demonstrated through your production, output, or customer satisfaction that this is so, you can use that information to your advantage.
One way to do it is to sit down with your boss and discuss some key statistics: showcase how your work is quantifiably stronger than it was 5 or 10 years ago, but discuss how you'd like to work fewer hours per week. With some savvy negotiation, you can make the case that you should be allowed to keep your company health insurance and a handsome hourly rate, but also allowed to work for fewer hours a week.
A smart strategy for this question is to offer a pilot project; offer to switch to a 3 day work week and showcase your ability to stay focused and get an unusually high amount of work done in that time. Showcase how being well-rested and motivated can create benefits for both you and for your company. Show your boss how letting you go to three days a week can actually solve problems for him or her, and you are much more likely to find success.
Budget Your Time and Finances
One of the key elements of switching to a 3 day work week is to determine what your "number" is, how much money you need to survive and thrive. For most people, it is a lower number than they think; by choosing not to waste money on things you don't actually need or want, you can live on much less money and have much more time for what you care about. Figure out if, in your field, you are better off requesting a project rate for the whole package of work or an hourly rate for the work you do. Whether you are a contractor or an employee, you'll need to find a way that your part-time investment still can pay your bills and provide you with expensive services like health insurance. Make sure you've thought through a pricing scheme that will work before you transition to a 3 day work week.
3 day work weeks allow pretty much no room for time wasting, so you'll need to cut a few things from your schedule. You know, deep down, whether the meetings you've been having with various team members are actually benefiting you and the team or whether they are actually just a chance to blow off steam. While you may be able to condense your typical 40 hours into this mythical 3 day work week, you are unlikely to be able to keep pointless meetings on the agenda. Work on batching tasks, cutting out web surfing, streamlining how you respond to email and phone calls, and avoiding meetings whenever possible. Don't allow these choices to negatively impact the quality of work - obviously, some communication must happen - but don't let excessive or inefficient communication slow you down either.
While your customers or clients may be prepared to pay the amount that you need in order to live, they may have turnaround requests that don't take into account your schedule as a 3 day work week employee or business owner. If they think they can get service with 24 hour notice, you may need to make it a condition of your business relationship that they give you more notice. Negotiate during the onboarding process to get plenty of time to complete your work, rather than playing hardball to get the most money possible. If you've chosen to value a 3 day work week, you know that protecting that time is difficult and precious. Trust that, long-term, the right clients will pay you well, but no client expecting instant results will allow you to preserve the work-life balance that you desire.
Achieving a 3 day work week may require some sacrifices: it is unlikely that you'll get a 3 day work week while earning more money. Instead, this work-life balance can be achieved through leveraging your skills, compromising on what matters less to you, and becoming ruthlessly efficient. If you are prepared for those challenges, you'll reap the excellent rewards.