There are all sorts of reasons you might want to go from being a full-time to a part-time employee. Maybe you have growing family needs, a complicated schedule, health concerns, or a commute that’s simply too long or irritating to manage five days a week.
But when you have a conversation with your manager about going part-time, it’s best to keep the focus on the company’s needs, not your own. You’ll need to make a case for why the company will benefit from you going part-time—even though you’ll be less available and working fewer hours.
Your excellence as an employee can be a big part of your case, because finding and training a new employee, and getting them up to speed, are a hassle, and your institutional knowledge and skills are likely hard to replicate.
During the conversation, you’ll also want to be prepared to address some of the potential concerns your manager might have about this schedule change.
Here are tips and advice on how to make a case for going from full-time to part-time with your manager.
Check on Company Policy
Take time to check the company’s policy on flexible schedules, telecommuting, and other non-full-time options. A few minutes' research on the company website or intranet might reveal information that will help you feel confident in your decision and prepared for the conversation with your manager.
It’s possible that transitioning to part-time will mean losing certain benefits, such as health insurance or a retirement savings plan.
If there are people at the office who are part-time—and especially if there is anyone who has moved from full-time to part-time—reach out to them for advice on how best to present your case.
Prepare Your Case
This is a time when being prepared will be hugely beneficial. This is not a casual ask, so you’ll want to think through beforehand how this will work. You may also want to create some kind of written proposal. Things you may want to include (and that your manager will probably be eager to discuss) are:
- Hours: How many hours do you want to work? And how do you want your schedule to look? Perhaps you want to work a half-day Monday through Friday, or maybe you want to work just three days a week. Know what you want and where you’re willing to compromise if one option is preferable to the company. Note that there are no legal guidelines for who is considered a part-time employee. It’s up to employers to decide.
- Availability: How will you handle important meetings that take place when you’re not available or urgent situations that happen during your day off? Think through what makes sense for you and what will work best for the company.
- Projects and work: Even a super-person can’t do 40 hours' work in 20 hours. No amount of efficiency makes that doable. So think through any projects that might wind up on someone else’s plate. Try to keep the needs of your manager and the company in mind here. If a task requires a person’s daily attention, it’s likely not a good fit for a part-time employee.
You’ll want to go into this conversation with an idea of how your transition and reduced role could work. Of course, this is a conversation: in the end, your manager might want things to work differently.
Review a Sample Proposal
Here’s a sample proposal requesting to work part-time. It includes a rationale for why a shift in employment status makes sense, and how the employee’s workload would be handled if the request is approved.
Subject line: Proposed Transition to Part-Time
Dear Manager First Name:
It's been delightful returning to work after maternity leave—I missed being around my co-workers and, more than that, I missed the satisfaction of doing my job. In the three months since I've been back from my leave, I've been able to launch XYZ project successfully and also create a strategy deck for the next fiscal year, which we'll be sharing in front of the board later next week.
This is work I love doing, and want to continue; however, due to childcare and family needs, I would like to move to a part-time schedule beginning February 1.
I'm sure you have a lot of questions and concerns about how this would work. Here's what I propose:
A Trial Period
As you know, our company does have a history of allowing employees to transition from full-time to part-time. There's no formal HR policy (I checked), but Christopher Johnson in the marketing department worked for three years as a part-time employee. Still, I think it's wise to have a two-month trial period, to help us work out the kinks.
That way, both you and I can have a meeting on our calendars to review how the part-time schedule is affecting the team, as well as the two of us. This would be a moment to reassess and make tweaks to ensure that there are no negative implications to this schedule change.
Schedule and Hours
My ideal schedule would be 28 hours a week for the next year. During this year, I would work full-time Monday through Wednesday, and be available by email and Slack on Thursday and Friday as needed. This schedule will allow me to attend our weekly team meeting. Also, we can discuss my availability for urgent and unexpected projects on a case-by-case basis.
If that schedule doesn't seem suitable to you, I'm flexible. For instance, I could also work a full day on Mondays, and then half days for the remainder of the week.
Changes to Responsibilities
With fewer hours in the office per week, I'll have a smaller capacity. In a way, some of the junior employees, who I know are eager to learn new skills, may benefit as a result. Here is a list of my current major projects:
- Hiring and overseeing summer interns
- ABC and XYZ projects
- Creating decks for team-wide meetings and to present in front of the board
- Developing fiscal year strategy
Additionally, I have responsibilities that go beyond the scope of my position, such as X, Y, and Z.
We can talk in person about what makes the most sense, but to me, having Aaron Rodgers manage the intern seems like a good fit. And perhaps Sarah Jones and I could develop the FY strategy as a joint project—I know she's eager to learn more about budgeting, so this could be a good opportunity for her.
I know I've given you much to mull over. Ultimately, I think this will be a win for all of us, although I'm sure there will be some kinks to work out. I hope we can set up some time to chat about this transition later this week.
Be Ready to Address Potential Pain Points
There are potential benefits to the company of an employee switching to part-time: maybe it’ll be able to save money on wages and benefits, for instance. But it’s possible that your manager or the company may find your request challenging to approve.
Managers may feel concerned that others will also want to go part-time, that there will be too much work for other staffers as a result, productivity will be reduced, or that you won’t be available when you’re needed.
Do your best to anticipate concerns, and think through potential solutions. For instance, do you have a junior employee who’s eager for more responsibility? That person might be thrilled to be your out-of-office contact, and you can present this to your manager as a good training opportunity.
Or maybe the company already has work-from-home Fridays, when everyone catches up on big projects and big meetings aren't scheduled. This would be ideal as a day off for a part-time employee.
Don’t Surprise Your Manager
You’ll want to have an in-person conversation with your manager about going part-time. A good option is to schedule a meeting and give your manager a heads-up about what you’d like to discuss.
Being surprised with a big request may make your manager feel on guard, and cause them to respond poorly. Plus, you’ll likely have a more thoughtful conversation if your manager is prepared in advance.
Briefly Explain Why You Want to Go Part-Time
You don’t need to share all the specifics of why you’d like to work part-time. It may feel too personal, or you might not have that kind of relationship with your manager. Sharing a bit of information, however, might build rapport and help your manager feel sympathetic toward you.
If you do share some details, keep it simple and brief.
You can either say directly, “I’d like to meet with you later this week to discuss the possibility of me working part-time,” or you can be a bit vaguer, and say, “I’d like to discuss my schedule with XX Company” or “I’m interested in talking to you about flexible work options.” Here’s an example of an email asking to work from home part-time.
If you are planning to prepare some sort of document with your proposed plan, you can consider sharing it in advance of your in-person conversation.
Suggest a Trial Period
A trial period can be helpful for both you and the company. Hiccups are natural as you move from working 40+ hours a week to far fewer. You may find that working three days a week isn’t sufficient. Or, you may find that you need to set stronger ground rules about when it’s permissible to reach out to you in your off time.
Setting a trial period, with a check-in scheduled on the calendar, will allow you and your manager to have a frank and open conversation.
Another option is to suggest ramping down hours slowly— moving first to 35 hours a week, then 30, and finally down to 25 hours (or whatever amount you and your manager agree on).
Be Prepared to Negotiate
In an ideal world, you’ll prepare a proposal, and your manager will get on board with your plan. It’s possible, however, that your manager will require major adjustments to your proposal. And your manager—or the company—may not agree at all. No matter what the response, maintain your professionalism.
You might find it helpful to talk through other options, too. If part-time isn’t doable, what about working from home two days a week? Or reducing responsibilities? As you walk into the conversation with your manager, you’ll want to be prepared for a wide range of potential outcomes.
Consider the Pros and Cons. Before you ask to work part-time, check on how it would impact your salary, vacation time, and other company benefits.
Have a Plan. It will be an easier sell if you have a plan in place with options for transitioning to part-time employment.
Ask for a Meeting. Schedule a meeting to ask your boss in person when you’re requesting a change in employment status.
Be Flexible. Be prepared to negotiate an arrangement that works for both you and your employer.