A four-day work week is the dream of many – it represents the ultimate work-life balance and flexible work arrangements. While many companies promote flexible work arrangements and work-life balance for their existing employees, not many new hires would request a four-day work week when they start a new job, let alone making it a criterion when looking for a job. Particularly in Finance, where month-ends and budget cycles could make a four-day work week impossible. There is also the myth associated with asking for a four-day work week, that you’d have to take a massive pay cut or a backward step in your career. This is not necessarily true. There are things you can do to get a four-day work week, without compromising on pay or career progression.
If you’re looking for a job that gives you the flexibility of a four-day work week, then be sure to follow these tips.
- The number one question most employers have on their mind is how you’d be able to perform the role with one less workday. They’re concerned that other team members will have to pick up where you leave off. Calm their fears by showing them plans on how you’d be able to do everything in four days. Perhaps it’d be four 10-hour days, or you might be willing to take critical phone calls and attend meetings via Skype on your days off. Include the employers in your planning, e.g., ask them if there is a particular day of the week that would be better than others for you to take off. For a finance or accounting job, it’d be critical to ask about weekly, monthly, quarterly, half-yearly and yearly planning and reporting requirements, to make sure you factor these dates into your plan.
- Demonstrate your key skills that will enable you to complete the job in four days. For example, you may wish to say that you’re exceptionally efficient – be prepared to give a few examples to demonstrate this. One of our clients had previously worked for a company renowned for excessive workloads. Our client gave the example that they’d routinely write eight business cases per week for the C-suite executives. This example gave the new employers confidence that our client could work fast and still deliver top quality work. Other skills may include exceptional time management skills, in-depth experience with a particular system or process (i.e. you’d done this before so you could do it much faster second time around), and high learning agility – you’re proven to be able to learn on the fly and hit the ground running.
- Understand your must-haves and nice-to-haves. Remember that you can’t have everything, so be sure to know your priorities, i.e., the must-haves, as well as your nice-to-haves. If you want to work four days a week, you may have to be prepared to compromise on a few other things, potentially being remuneration or location of work. A lot of companies will pro-rata your salary based on the number of days that you work, so make sure you’re ok with the post pro-rata pay. You could very well present an argument that you’d still be producing the same amount of work in the four days, so be prepared to negotiate on this.
- Be confident with what you want and make no apologies for them. The key is to treat it as a problem-solving exercise. Every role and every company will have their requirements; the key is to get what you want while still delivering on these requirements. Involve the employers in coming up with the right solution that is a win-win for both, and stand your ground that you want to work four days a week.
- Be strategic about the type of roles and companies that you approach. Let’s face it, not every employer would be a fan of a four-day week, so be sure to do your research. Read up on company review sites, like glassdoor.com on corporate culture. Contact people on LinkedIn who’d previously worked for the company to get an insider view. Typically companies that offer existing employees flexible work arrangements are more open to the concept of the four-day work week. In the broader finance function, some teams may be better placed to offer four-day work week than others due to the structure of their work. So it may be a good idea to apply for roles on these teams if you want a four-day work week.
- Have a Plan B. If four days a week isn’t possible with the company you’re going for, would you consider working from home on that 5th day? Or would you consider nine workdays a fortnight? Have a little flexibility up your sleeve but let the employer make the suggestion. Assess if this is a critical issue; maybe they want you to start on a full-time basis and gradually work your way to four days once you’ve established some trust and credibility, so be open about this. However, you’d want the arrangements to be documented and put together a plan with your employer to get your days down to four in, say 2-3 months.
- Leverage your recruitment agent, if you’re using one. Get them excited about putting you forward by including them in your strategy, and helping them see how you could uncompromisingly do the job on your terms. This may take a little foresight on their part to see your arguments, but it’s well worth it. Once they’re on your side, you can leverage their relationship with the employer companies to get your ask in front of them and have the agent arguing the case on your behalf. Often the agent would know the employer well to assess the likelihood of them offering you four days, so use that as a gauge.
From experience, we know that some companies love a four-day work week for their new hires! For example:
- Companies that may be on a tight budget. They may want calibre A candidates but could only afford to pay calibre B rates. By bringing in someone who is a part-timer, they could bring in a calibre A candidate without breaking the bank.
- The hiring manager may be short on time. Some hiring managers may prefer a candidate to work four days a week to give themselves a break from new-starter training. On-boarding a newbie is a lot of work! So if the hiring manager is already under the pump, the last thing they’d want is for a newbie to be shadowing them the whole time. So it may be a good idea for that person to be working four days a week, to give the hiring manager and the team a bit of breathing space.
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Try to strategically use these two arguments, to help the employers or recruiters see the benefits that a four-day work week could bring, without compromising on the deliverables. The key is to approach this conversation as a problem-solving exercise, as opposed to you being demanding. Work with the employer to come up with a mutually agreeable solution. If you follow these tips, having the conversation of a four-day work week becomes much less daunting, and you are also more likely to get a four-day work week!
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