While my colleagues are stressed out sitting at their desks, I prepare my breakfast, read an article and think about what I could do today. I can do that, because I do not work on Fridays. Ever.
In Germany, approximately every fourth person is employed part-time – and I’m one of them. But otherwise I’m a little different: The typical part-timer is female, works 20 hours a week, provides for children and other dependents or has not found a full time job. None of this applies to me: I am male, don’t take care of anyone and have decided voluntarily to work less. While most of my colleagues are working five days a week and at least eight hours a day, for me there are only four. And I think: you’re doing something wrong.
Before I became a part-time-working-revolutionary, I had a classic resume: I went to school, graduated from my high school and started college. With an internship I came to my current employer. One day was set aside for my studies. But since I wanted to work no more than four days a week, also after finishing my degree, I prevailed against the wishes of my employer.
I always get the same reaction: envy
Working in a scene in which founders work twelve hours a day and overtime is on the agenda, according to “Work hard, play hard” – in that order, and if necessary only the former – my working hours are pretty special. For everything else there’s the kicker in the office and the Mate in the refrigerator. But when I tell friends and acquaintances that my free Friday is actually their Saturday, I always get the same reaction: envy. Everyone wants more freedom. And with more leisure time, you can get that almost automatically.
What many do not know and employers conceal: it is legal. Almost every employee has a right to shorten their working week. They do not even have to give reasons. But why is there such a gap between the desire for less work and the real situation?
In my experience, many simply do not dare tell their boss or their colleagues that they want to work less. This is usually for two reasons: First, in this context you often hear the word Kollegenschwein or “colleague pig”: Whoever works less leaves his colleagues in the lurch. Secondly presenting the desire for less work seems supposedly weak: Others have grown used to constant pressure apparently, except me. Nobody wants to be weak. And especially not stand out for that.
Rested for stressful times
Both are nonsense: Although work is not leisure, the pressure is inevitable sometimes it should never be a permanent condition. Only those who are rested and relaxed can bring long-term performance. Those who sit for 40 hours or more in the office do not automatically put this time into effective work. Secondly, one doesn’t put more work on their colleagues just because of his or her shorter working week. It just means that the rigid structures of work needs are organized differently – for example, through flexible working hours, changing workplaces or hiring more than one person for the same duties. This can mean more organizational and sometimes more financial effort for the employer but also long-term profits.
Nevertheless, I have to explain myself again and again. But mostly I’m fighting against my own conscience. I know that I don’t let anyone down, and yet it does not feel good, particularly in more stressful times, if my colleagues are under pressure. In addition, other questions arise: Am I missing something important, both personally and professionally, if I’m not there? Am I less a part of the team than the others? And of course there is also a big disadvantage: I earn less.
But then again I can use my spare time to learn new things, to laze, read, play, and I am more rested and more motivated at work. Sometimes I am even looking forwards to Mondays. In general, I love my job, especially with the knowledge that I can compensate stressful times by relaxing regularly. I’m very grounded and can sometimes even help my colleagues when they’re stressed. And I think: you should follow me.
This article was originally published on Gründerszene.