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My company paid me to start my own business

Dear J.T. & Dale: During quarantine I started a side hustle. It’s an online business that’s starting to do pretty well. In the next couple of months, my employer is planning to bring us back into the office. To be honest, I’ve only been doing my current job about 20 hours a week, but they would never know that because I’ve been performing well and they seem very happy. I’ve been using the other time to build up my business. They’ve essentially been paying me to start my new business. If I have to go back into the office 40 hours a week, I won’t be able to do that. Do you think there’s a way that I could approach my company about working 20 hours a week without them figuring out what’s been going on? – Reuben

DALE: Congratulations on the new business. You aren’t alone: New business applications were up over 20% in 2020. The pandemic set free a lot of entrepreneurial energy, and we’re glad you didn’t have to lose your job/income to find the time to build your business.

J.T.: Going forward, if you go to your company right now and say you only want to work 20 hours a week, they’re going to automatically assume your output is going to be cut in half because they think you’ve been working 40 hours a week. So how are you going to convince them that you can get the same amount of work done in 20 hours? I see two options. One, continue to work really hard and when it’s time to go back to work, you put in your notice and go full time into your new business. Or, two, have a conversation with your boss right now asking if you can go to 20 hours a week now so that when it’s time to go back to the office there’s no need to have the conversation.

DALE: The problem may solve itself. We’ve heard from countless individuals who don’t want to return to the office after the pandemic, and so we can foresee that there is going to be a new movement for work-at-home options. If working at home full-time isn’t going to be an option, you might ask for a flex-schedule, where you’re at home half-time. The old notions of the workplace and the workweek are shifting, and you may just shift with them.


Dear J.T. & Dale: My company announced that we could work remotely permanently if we wanted to. I decided to move across the country to fulfill a lifelong dream of living in a big city. When I sent in my information for my address change and I got my first paycheck, I realized how much more income tax they take out in this state. It’s really hurting me. How do I go to my employer and ask them for more money to cover the cost of the additional income tax? – Kari

J.T.: Honestly, you don’t. It was up to you to do that research before you relocated. Just because you moved doesn’t mean they should pay you more money to cover the cost.

DALE: Speaking of research, if you want to consider other financial variables, there’s a first-rate tool on the website for CNN Money – just Google “CNN cost of living” and you’ll find it. You put in your old and new cities and your current salary and it not only tells you the difference in overall cost of living, but it breaks out housing, groceries, utilities, transportation and health care. There may be offsetting savings that help you do a new budget.

J.T.: Then you focus on your next raise. I would meet with your manager and ask what it would take in terms of productivity and additional responsibilities to earn the money you need. This is one way of letting them know that the income tax is impacting your income without seeming to blame them. Many people don’t understand that moving will impact them financially, and I’m sure this is a lesson you’ll never forget going forward.

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab and author of a novel about H.R., “The Weary Optimist.” Please visit them at, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2021 by King Features Syndicate Inc.