This is an updated and expanded version of a post from January 2013. This piece was also published in the Georgetown Alumni Career Newsletter.
It’s a new year. Are you thinking about improving your work/life balance? These days there are a lot of options when it comes to flexible work arrangements. Before you propose anything to your employer, you need to have a clear picture of what you want and how you propose to maintain productivity and high performance. The key is not to focus solely on you. Attempt not to use the words “I” and “me” during these conversations. You want to convince your boss that it’s in their best interest and that you’ve considered how it will work for them. “We” is the mindset you need to have and term to use as you have these discussions. They won’t be as interested in the “why I want to do this” as the “how I plan to maximize my time.” The most important question to keep in mind as you develop your strategy is: “how will it benefit the company?”
There are different ways a flexible arrangement may benefit the company. Perhaps the organization has space constraints and this would help alleviate the problem. Are there others who work part-time or from home with whom you could propose sharing a workspace?
If your company expects you to be on conference calls early in the morning or late in the afternoon, maybe eliminating your long commute makes sense. You will have more time to prepare and will not risk being late due to traffic or issues with public transportation. This equals higher productivity.
The company may be looking to expand or short-staffed. You can offer to take on an additional responsibility. However, you must convince your manager that the role matches the flexible schedule you propose. For example, if you want to work from home, don’t volunteer to be the social activity coordinator. However, you could volunteer to draft new business proposals with your additional time at home versus on the road commuting to and from work.
Before you start planning your strategy, talk to any co-workers with a flexible work schedule and ask about the advantages and disadvantages of their schedules. Also, how did they obtain agreement from your employer?
Here are some options to consider and how to prepare to present them to your employer:
- Working from home. It’s more than likely that your company will not approve working from home full-time if your job requires you to be in the office for meetings and face-to-face interaction. However, you may consider asking to work from home one day per week or one day every other week. Provide your boss with specific information about your office at home to assure him/her that you will be available whenever necessary despite being in a different location.
- Part-time. If you want to scale down your hours, you should have a feasible written proposal prepared to present to your boss. It should include your desired schedule and how you will fulfill your tasks without compromising work quality or creating more work for others. I recommend stating that you will be available for important meetings, even outside of your timeframe proposed as long as that is true.
Before you ask the question of your employer, decide what your ideal situation is. Is it working 40 hours from Monday to Thursday or working from home one or two days a week? Ask for more than what you want as a starting point. This way you can work down from there. For example, say your ideal situation is working from home one day a week. Suggest working from home two days a week. If your employer says no, suggest one day a week. In each case, explain how it benefits the company. If they say no to working from home, you could suggest working Monday to Friday one week and Monday to Thursday the next in a compressed work schedule.
If they are disagreeable to your suggestions, perhaps it's time to look for a more flexible job. These days many companies, big and small, are amenable to such arrangements. Best of luck!