If a full-time job is too much but you still want a career, find out how to switch to part time -- from a working mom who pioneered part-time at her job.

It was the summer of 2005. I had just returned back to work after having my second child Zoe. Of course, like many moms, I wasn’t exactly ecstatic about going back to work. I liked my job. I liked getting out of the house and interacting with adults again. But now with two kids at home, it meant double the juggle and mostly—double the daycare cost.

It made me absolutely sick to see that about 55% of my net pay was going toward daycare.

I couldn’t afford to quit my job completely. The second income was desperately needed to help pay the bills. One thing was for sure—working full-time just wasn’t working. I knew I had to find a better option. We started crunching the numbers. My husband and I figured the best option was for me to stay home at least two days a week.

In order to convince my employer of a part-time schedule, I knew I would need to present a detailed plan. Right away I began searching the internet to figure out how to switch to part time. What I came across was a website called WorkOptions.com—a great resource for negotiating part-time, flextime, job sharing, or telecommuting. The website also offered a proposal template. I was wary at first, but then thought… what’s to lose? So I bought it.

After much preparation, I had a meeting with my two immediate supervisors, the head of my department, and the head of HR. I nervously went through my proposal, detailing:

  • My proposed new schedule—a work week totaling 30 hours (working in the office on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, Thursday working from home, and off on Friday)
  • How my job responsibilities would be affected under the proposed schedule
  • How my salary would be adjusted—prorated to 75% of my full-time pay
  • A request to keep my benefits package—according to our employee handbook, an employee must work 30 hours a week to be eligible
  • Employer savings—an estimated number how much the cut of my salary and reduced 401K contributions would save them per year
  • A proposed three-month trial of this new schedule. After the trial period we would evaluate my schedule and determine whether to continue or modify my arrangement.
  • A list of positive feedback from managers and coworkers from past reviews
  • And lastly, two-pages of quotes from articles, reports, and studies detailing the benefits of offering flexible schedules for employers. (The WorkOptions proposal template was very helpful in this area—it comes with a wealth of resources.)

The first comment was the company had never offered part-time schedules before. HR would have to develop an official policy in case someone else came to them and said, “Hey, I want to go part-time, too.”

Another comment was concerning work-load. At the time work was slow, but they were forecasting a big jump in business. How would my part-time schedule affect the team? Because I was proposing a flexible schedule, I realized I would have to be flexible in return. If a week required more hours, or if I absolutely had to attend a meeting on one of my off days, I would do it. Full-time employees sometimes have to work overtime during those busy humps—and I would have to, too. Plus, with the three-month trial, we would be able to put my schedule to the test against busier times.

Eventually I was granted the three-month trial, which was extended to a six-month trial, and then was officially approved. An official policy was put in place. Now if an employee meets certain requirements, gets approval from immediate supervisors, and completes the application process they can be eligible for flexible schedules as well. I’m happy to say at least four other employees are now working part-time schedules and two are working remotely full-time.

I do realize I had two major factors in my favor.

First, I have a very supportive immediate supervisor—the very awesome WMAG pioneer, Susan. I felt very comfortable talking to her about my situation and she was a huge, HUGE ally in pushing for flexible schedules within our company.

Secondly, I work for an innovative, progressive ad agency who wants to retain talented, quality employees. They realize it’s the people who define the success of the agency. In order to attract top talent, they know they need to offer benefits like flexible scheduling. It was a goal to become “a best place to work.” Now our agency is recognized nationally as “One of the 25 Best Places to Work” by the Great Place to Work Institute®.

I hope my story inspires you to make your job work for you.

I encourage you to do your homework and check out WorkOptions.com as well as other resources on the web. I just discovered this U.S. Office of Personnel Management Part-Time Employment and Job Sharing Guide. Although this is targeted to federal government employees, the website has a lot of beneficial information you can pull from to help write a proposal, like why the use of part-time employment is beneficial to employers.

Lastly, remember it’s your career and your life. It’s up to you to make it work, whether it’s with your current employer or with a new opportunity. The working mom can achieve anything she puts her heart, soul, and mind to. I know it.