Five ways to work 35 hours (or less!) a week
You’re tired of working yourself to death. You’ve had enough of the pressure of long hours, and you want not more money but more time: you want a shorter workweek. You want to work 35 hours a week, or 32, or even less.
But in an industry where some companies brag about their 70-hour workweeks, can you find a programming job with a short workweek?
The short answer is that yes, you can work 35 hours or less. I’ve done it at multiple jobs, and I know other programmers who do so as well.
The longer answer is that you have multiple different options, different ways of achieving this goal. Let’s see what they are.
Option #1: Find a job that offers shorter hours
While they are few and far between, some organizations do offer shorter workweeks. For example, over on the excellent Key Values job board you can learn about Monograph, a company that provides a 32-hour workweek by default.
Option #2: Negotiate a custom deal
Just like you can negotiate a higher salary, you can also negotiate a shorter workweek. The best place to do it is at your current job, because you’ve likely got expensive-to-replace knowledge of business logic, organizational procedures, local tech stack, and so on. But you can also negotiate for a shorter workweek at a new job, if you do it right.
If you’re interested in seeing how this is done, read my interview with a programmer who has been working part-time for 15 years.
Option #3: Become a consultant (the right way)
If you’re a consultant and you do it right, you can raise your rates high enough that you don’t need to work full time to make a living. Doing it right is important, though: if your hourly rate is low enough you’re going to have to work long hours.
To learn about some of what it takes, Jonathan Stark’s Value Pricing Bootcamp is one place to start.
Option #4: Start a product business (the right way)
If you’re selling a product that you’ve created, the hours you work don’t map one-to-one to your income. You have the upfront time for creating the product, and ongoing time for marketing and maintaining the product, but at that point you can sell the same product over and over with much smaller investment of time.
Consider for example Amy Hoy’s explanation of how bootstrapping a business allowed her to make a living even with a chronic illness.
Option #5: Early retirement
Living below your means is a good idea in general: the more money you have in the bank the easier it’ll be for you to find a better job, for example. But if you don’t want to work at all, over the long term cutting your expenses can help you stop working altogether.
Liberate yourself from the office
One of the pernicious side-effects of the culture of long hours in tech is that even a 40-hour workweek seems impossible. But long hours aren’t necessary: they’re a crutch for bad management. Working shorter hours can actually make you more productive, productive enough that your total output goes up even with shorter hours.
In the short run, if you want to work fewer hours you have to do something about it.
In the long run, there’s no reason why a 32-hour workweek couldn’t be the standard—if we all push for it hard enough.
If you want to get your time back for yourself, the time to start is now. And if you want some extra guidance on how to do it, check out The Programmer’s Guide to a Sane Workweek.