80% Time

I was recently approved to work 80% time at my current employer, Redbubble, in return for a 20% pay cut. What this means is that I no longer work on Fridays for reduced pay. All other benefits stayed the same.

While I was negotiating (more like asking) for 80% time, I ended up writing a four-page document with my reasoning for wanting 80% time. I thought some readers (including my future self) might be interested in seeing this document, so here it is...

80% Time

I am asking for 80% Time from Redbubble (4-day, 8-hour workweeks) for a number of reasons and I was asked to put together a document to expand on my justifications and to address any concerns.

Part One: Justification

1. Passion for The Craft

I really enjoy software development, but when I do it for 40 hours every week, on projects that were predetermined, with technologies that were predetermined, it is not always conducive to feeling passionate.

I want to create space for myself to pursue side projects, learn new technologies, or cement knowledge that I have started to gain. We do the occasional “Learning Day” on my team, but I have found that it is not quite enough time to fill these needs.

Current ideas in this area that I want to accomplish:

  • Learning & Mastering GraphQL
  • Refresh CSS knowledge (Grid)
  • Learn & Master Web accessibility
  • Learn Kubernetes
  • Spending more time working on a side project (soundoftext.com)
  • Starting a new side project

2. Community Engagement

I really love the Redbubble community, but since I commit 40 hours per week here, it does not feel like there is much room left to engage with any other community. I want to create space for myself to find and be part of other initiatives as well. I take variety very seriously, as I always learn something each time I try something new.

I would like to be able to carve out more time to work on things that are important to me, and to meet people already doing great things. Whether that is in the space of poverty relief, the local housing crisis, or veganism. This might not be software or career related, but that is perfectly fine with me.

I do not currently have concrete ideas in this space, but my next action item is to come up with some. I already give money to several organizations, and I want to see if I can give my time to them. This could be anything from teaching/mentoring software engineers to handing out tents to the homeless.

3. Leadership and Career Exploration

It has pretty much always been my dream to run my own company or “be my own boss”. My attitude on this has matured over the years, but the desire is still there. I am currently a generalist programmer, but I would like to be a specialist someday.

I spent some time doing freelance just over a year ago, and it was incredibly fulfilling, but it was not exactly what I wanted. I ran out of steam (and money), and decided to re-enter the workforce. I would like more time to explore what opportunities I have if I tried working for myself again, with the comfort of stable income behind me.

Current ideas in this area that I want to accomplish:

  • Deciding on a specialization area (Web Dev -> Accessibility?)
  • Finding people or businesses with specialist needs
  • Contributing to Open Source
  • Picking up new skills (Technical writing? Technical advocacy?)

4. Personal Growth

I have so many things I want to do that involve personal growth and I would love to spend even more time on these things.

Current ideas in this area that I want to accomplish:

  • Become fluent in Spanish
  • Travel to another country
  • Take a Gender Studies course
  • Many, many, many books to read in my book list (http://books.nick.exposed)

I already do some of these things in my free time, but I always have to balance these goals and there is just never enough time. If I try to take on too much, I risk burning out, which I think I have already begun to do. Having an extra day every week would help provide me a structured time to pursue these goals.

Part Two: Concerns

Why can’t you do X at Redbubble?

This probably only relates to (1) and (3).

We do have learning days on my team, but like I mentioned earlier, it is not enough time. Furthermore, it is hard to justify learning a technology that we do not use at Redbubble. These constraints limit my freedom to learn and creatively explore.

With respect to leadership and being a specialist: maybe I could do that here, but it is not currently happening. I would be happy to explore these possibilities, but given that they are not happening already, I would not want to block this effort. Why not both? 😊

Also, I should mention again that I think variety is generally a huge learning opportunity for me. I would not want to limit my personal growth for the sake of sticking only to Redbubble. I know this particular point does not benefit Redbubble, but I hope it sheds light on my thinking.

What about money?

I am at peace with taking the 20% cut in salary. I would like to talk about benefits if they will be affected.

The reason I am at peace is because I honestly have an abundance of money at the moment. I know this is something I should never tell my employer, but it is true. I do not need as much as I am making. I have started putting more money into savings, and it is not bringing me joy nor additional security.

How will you fit this in one day?

I definitely will not be able to accomplish all of this with one extra day. I will probably not even be able to accomplish more than one Theme at a time. As I already have been doing, I will continue prioritizing these ideas based on what I think is most valuable and what I am most excited about.

However, some of my goals simply require attendance to meetups. Since these happen regularly over time, my engagement will be distributed across time, leaving plenty of room to pursue other goals.

Is this permanent? Are you flexible?

It does not have to be permanent and I am flexible. If something really important for my team or for Redbubble is going to land on a Friday, I would really love to have the flexibility to come in on that day and get paid for it or trade it for another day in the next week.

My focus is on finding a mutual goal, not just getting my way.

Of course, I would also take the option of one day every other week, as well (9/10 days), but I do not find this option nearly as exciting and I think I would find myself dreaming for more. If it turns out that 4-day weeks leaves me with too much time (or not enough money) I would love to have the option to restructure my work schedule again.

Apologies if this is lengthy! Thanks for being a workplace where I can express these things and be listened to. I am happy to expand on any of these at length.

– Nick Pierson