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The 4 Pros and Cons of Being a Part-Time CEO The idea of a part-time CEO is gaining traction. But before you make the switch, here are some pros and cons to consider.

By Artis Rozentals

Key Takeaways

  • As the business landscape evolves, part-time CEOs may become more prevalent.
  • If unsure where to start, start by reducing your workweek to 35 or 32 hours.
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Traditionally, chief executive officers (CEOs) must devote long hours to steering their organizations. Being a CEO is almost synonymous with overworking, so it's no surprise that 82% of senior leaders admit to having experienced burnout and exhaustion.

That said, 80-hour work weeks are no longer seen as the badge of honor they once were. And with that, the concept of a part-time CEO is gaining traction.

In 2023, I transitioned to a part-time CEO position at my company, DeskTime. I quickly learned that high-responsibility roles in fast-growing companies can make it challenging to step back and fully embrace this work format.

Your success depends on how reliable your team is, as well as on your personal flexibility. In my case, I fully trust my team, but I'm also ready to dedicate full-time hours to support them whenever necessary. During quieter periods, my part-time role allows me to focus on developing new business ideas or dedicate extra time to my family and hobbies.

Now, if you're contemplating this work format, too, here are some pros and cons to consider before you make the switch.

Related: 3 Lessons in Embracing Discomfort From a First-Time CEO

Pros of being a part-time CEO

1. Less exhaustion = more energy. According to U.S. government data, 21.8 million people chose to work part-time in 2023, which is up 5% from a year ago and 15% from a decade ago. This means people have realized the value of prioritizing their welfare over professional and monetary factors. A part-time job keeps the brain stimulated while avoiding exhaustion and stress.

As most part-time workers will attest, your work-life balance will thrive in a three or 4-day workweek. No burnout and less exhaustion mean you can always tackle anything feeling 100%.

2. No time for micromanagement. Being part-time necessitates full trust in your team. You won't have time for micromanagement, even if you're prone to it.

Instead, you'll have time to focus on the most value-added activities — if you're smart about your time. Clear your priorities to your team so everyone knows where you allocate your time and which concerns to bring you.

3. A cost-effective choice for your company. Employing a part-time CEO can be cost-effective for companies, particularly startups or small and medium businesses with limited resources. This arrangement allows organizations to access experienced leadership without incurring the full financial burden of a full-time executive.

4. Broadening your skills and flexibility. By not being tethered to a single organization full-time, part-time CEOs can diversify their activities and become more flexible and adaptable. They can remain deeply committed to the business while bringing a fresh perspective from outside the bubble of full-time employment.

Related: Making the Transition from Entrepreneur to CEO

Cons of being a part-time CEO

1. Falling out of the loop. When your organization keeps running while you're away, you may feel like losing touch with daily operations and company events. In a dynamic business environment, things happen daily, and you might find that full-time employees need to update you about them constantly.

To avoid falling behind, schedule weekly or bi-weekly team huddles where everyone shares what they're working on. Also, accept that you don't need to be informed about every process happening within every project — focus on the big picture and information that influences the path to it.

2. Challenging to build strong relationships. Part-time CEOs may face challenges establishing and maintaining strong relationships with employees, clients, and partners, as their limited presence may hinder effective communication and rapport-building.

Part-time CEOs may also face distrust from employees and stakeholders regarding their commitment to the organization. Let's face it — the phrase "I've done my hours this week" sounds strange coming from a CEO. Thus, demonstrating leadership in front of full-time employees becomes more important.

Consider prioritizing human interaction over admin and screen time during office hours. To develop and maintain a strong company culture, strive to be available and helpful to the whole team, acting as a touchstone and mentor. For example, my top priorities are one-on-one sessions with team leads during work hours.

3. Less time for strategic planning. The role of a CEO is inherently strategic, requiring a keen focus on long-term goals and organizational vision. Part-time CEOs may find it challenging to allocate sufficient time, which may impede the company's ability to chart a sustainable future course.

To remain strategic and focused, avoid being dragged into too much deep detail. Your task is to build a robust business plan and lead the delivery of it. While your full-time staff handles the day-to-day, stay focused on the big picture and oversee things to ensure everything is on track.

4. Limited availability in crises. Some organizations may struggle with the limited availability of their CEO in intense and critical times. As a part-time CEO, you may struggle to provide the level of responsiveness and decisive leadership needed during such critical periods.

Make sure your company has a clear chain of responsibility to be able to navigate turbulent times effectively. Assemble a power team that can operate well even if you take a 2-week vacation or when a crisis situation hits.

My team has a COO who keeps a close eye on daily operations. In addition, we have developed monthly, quarterly, and yearly KPIs and a clear roadmap for supporting them. Having a clear structure in place helps to avoid crises and tackle them if they do arise.

Related: How to Successfully Implement a 4-Day Workweek Even if You're a Fast-Growing Startup

Is being a part-time CEO a good idea?

It can be if you have a strong team and a clear vision of where you should allocate your limited work hours. If you're unsure, start by reducing your workweek to 35 or 32 hours instead of jumping straight to 20 or 24 hours. I'd suggest starting by taking Fridays (or any other day) off.

As the business landscape evolves, part-time CEOs may become more prevalent. However, their effectiveness will depend on carefully balancing the leader's ability to manage time and commitments and the organization's ability to accept a non-traditional leadership model.

Artis Rozentals

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO of DeskTime

Artis Rozentals is the CEO of DeskTime, an automatic productivity monitoring platform. He's also an amateur athlete and a father of two.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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