While most of us spend time each week flexing our muscles to reach our health and wellness goals, many of us shy away from committing the same effort to achieving our work/life balance goals. If a more flexible work arrangement is at the top of your bucket list, it’s time to flex your flexibility muscle. And just as you need discipline and a plan in the gym, you need the same structured approach when it comes to pursuing your flexibility goals at work.
The reality is there is tremendous value within flexible work environments. Flexible employees can adapt to change, proactively offer solutions and wear many hats in the office. It’s a plus for those paying the bills too--employers that offer flexible working environments have a better chance of attracting and retaining talent because today’s professional often juggles a myriad of family and personal commitments around work and commuting schedules.
Many proponents of the traditional office workday/environment dread flexible working arrangements because they fear productivity loss. However, a two-year study led by Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom suggests the exact opposite—the work-from-home employees were actually more productive than the control group of commuters working a standard 9 to 5 day. How much more productive? The time they saved commuting, leaving for lunch, taking coffee breaks, etc. was equivalent to a full day’s work. In addition, employee attrition decreased by 50% among the telecommuters and the company saved nearly $2,000 per employee on office space.
So how do you convince your employer that working remotely or integrating a more flexible work schedule is to their benefit? Here are some strategies to help you advocate for yourself and your team:
1. INTEL: Research who within your organization has any kind of flexible schedule. Gather information about how that arrangement is perceived, the benefits and challenges, and the seniority of those employees. Find out how they made it happen and how their direct supervisors feel about it. If you would be setting the precedent and no one in your company currently has flexibility, use Glassdoor to research if similar companies or your competitors offer flexible work schedules to help build your case.
2. SET THE SCENE: Unless you need to have an immediate conversation given a personal emergency (sick parent, spouse or child), time your ask after you’ve received positive feedback or a big win. Have the conversation in a private setting and in person, at the beginning or middle of the day. Don’t schedule it for a Friday afternoon when everyone is focused on wrapping things up and gearing up for the weekend.
3. OFFER OPTIONS: In other words, be flexible with your own potential solutions of what would work for you AND what could work for your employer. One important rule of negotiation--it’s always easier to find common ground when there are a number of variables on the table and you don’t back the other party into a corner.
4. ANTICIPATE AND ADDRESS OBJECTIONS: Think through what your supervisor might object to and ease his/her mind by proactively addressing concerns and demonstrating why those concerns would not be real issues. Take those potential objections off the proverbial table before they even surface by approaching it like this: “You might have been concerned about [insert objection here], but that won’t be an issue for [reasons a/b/c].”
5. STATE: Clearly communicate the benefits of how and why this will help you and the company. If the efforts above don’t deliver your desired outcome, consider what you’ve learned from the experience and how it felt to advocate for yourself. Don't give up! First, ask for your supervisor’s commitment to re-visit the issue in time and if there is anything you can do to help him/her reconsider it in the future. Return to step 1 above, continue to gather intelligence and build your case for the next discussion. Good luck!
Have you pursued a flexible work arrangement and had success? Please share in the comments your approach so you can help your sisters! And if your requests have been denied, please share why here—we can tap into our collective wisdom to help you brainstorm new approaches.