New Year, New Schedule

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!

New year, new schedule

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.” Here are some options 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.

In all cases, you should have an alternative option that would also work for you and your employer.

Dealing with an unhealthy job

Do you return home at night and talk for hours about work with your friends, family and/or significant other? Or do you dream about work when you go to sleep? Do you wake up early anxious about what you have to do at work that day?

This has happened to me. Looking back on it now, I understand how unhealthy this was not only for me personally but also for those around me. My colleagues and I would spend a good chunk of our day complaining, which ate into valuable work time. Then I’d go home and talk about how annoyed I was. I felt like I was thinking about work 24 hours a day.

I knew I had to convince myself that there was more beyond my job. I began reading a book at first and that gave me an escape. Then I started to think about what I really wanted to do next in my career – a different job entirely or a degree? I couldn’t answer all this on my own because it was too overwhelming. So I began searching my network and alumni databases and found people with jobs that looked of interest to me. I sent emails and made phone calls to those who offered to talk in more detail. All of this made me feel like I was not stuck in a bad job forever.

Generally I don’t like to advise people not to live in the moment. But sometimes it’s not possible and we must look at what could lie ahead. If you’re stuck in a work situation that is stressing you out to this extent, it may be time to think of your next step and starting taking action to move toward it.