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More and more employers are recognising the benefits of flexible working.  In fact, some employers are actively moving towards a four-day work week.  Whatever the implications of a four-day work week or flexible working, it can be extremely valuable to negotiate to reduce the number of days a week you work for your current employer.  If you can move to a four-day commitment to your employer, this will free up significant head space for you to start developing your Portfolio Executive workstyle.

The penalty will be limited to just a 20% drop in your salary all though you may recover this with bonuses or new fee earning elsewhere.  Let’s look at some of the options as you seek to negotiate the transition: 

1) Full work week in less days

Agree with your employer that you’re going to do a full work week, your contracted hours, but in four days rather than five.  So if you’re contracted hours are 40 hours per week and you do that in four days, you deliver all your contracted hours at the rate of 10 hours a day for four days.

2) Negotiate more annual leave

You are already entitled to 30 days a year of annual leave, for some employers long standing members of staff can accrue additional days of annual leave.  To be able to take one day a week off you only need to negotiate 52 days a year of annual leave, not a big amount in addition to the 30 you’ve already got.  So, buying additional annual leave pro-rata can be much cheaper, less intrusive and easier to negotiate with an employer than saying you want to move to a 0.8 FTE.

3) Explicitly negotiate to be a 0.8 FTE 

This will obviously change all of your benefits pro-rata.  But you will make some potential cost savings such as not going into the office one day a week, which could reduce your travel costs and the costs of lunches etc.  Working from home for an additional day a week will give you valuable experience of the workstyle you are looking forward to.  

4) The four-day-a-week concept

There is a final thing that more and more companies are looking at.  They are saying, we believe that employees can achieve the same productivity by reducing their 37.5 hour week over five days to a 30 hour week over four days.  You stay on full pay, but work more effectively in less time.  There’s some very interesting pilots and academic research on the four-day week approach.  If you’re a senior professional in your business, you might explore with your executive team whether you can pilot this in the scope of the responsibility that you’ve got.  The evidence is that with careful preparation, you can establish the equivalent level of productivity with only 80% of the hours, and drive a whole culture of productivity and focus into the business.  Employees become more engaged, happier, less stressed, collaboration increases and creativity grows.  Check out to start with.

Why would you want to have a four-day week to start your Portfolio Executive workstyle? 

In my view, there are three reasons.  

1 – Life is too busy to start something new

It’s actually very difficult to build a whole new way of working in your spare time, if you’ve got a demanding senior executive role.  Many people want to move to a Portfolio Executive workstyle because their existing corporate role is demanding 60 to 80 hours a week out of their lives.  Trying to squeeze in something else for even five hours a week is very hard.  Setting aside some dedicated time to do the work to prepare for your Portfolio Executive workstyle makes a lot of sense.  When you finally resign from your full-time permanent role, you have already lined up your first two or three clients, and perhaps even working for one of them before you leave.  

2 – This is a prelude to a slow exit

As your employer starts to realise how much value you can give with four days a week, you may be able to negotiate a slow exit. Over time, the number of days a week you work for them reduces from four to three to two to one.  You can pace the reduction against the development of your Portfolio of part-time Executive roles.  Now you can transition with no significant loss of income.  You may also be able to retain your current employer, as a long-term client, by mentoring or supporting key leaders in the function that you previously ran or even become a non-executive director of the business you used to work for.

3 – You maintain and build your network while maintaining most of your income

Your current employer provides you access to a rich network of colleagues, suppliers, clients and professional communities.  You can continue to use all the network and relationships you have in corporate life, to help to build your Portfolio Executive business.  This can also mean that your partner at home will be supportive of the transition because they will see the financial risks as lower.  


There are lots of good reasons to negotiate a four day week with your employer as you prepare your Portfolio Executive workstyle.  Employers are under legal obligation to discuss flexible working arrangements with you, even though they don’t have to grant them.  Finally, the refusal of an employer to give you a four day a week option, may just further incentivise you to step out of the toil and slavery that your corporate life represents, and you’ll realise how much a four day a week relationship will free up a different kind of future.


Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.