Four Tips for Negotiating a Flexible Work Schedule
The U.S. is potentially on the verge of a mental health crisis with nearly half of Americans reporting the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health. And as recently reported, a federal emergency hotline for people in emotional distress registered a more than 1,000 percent increase in April compared with the same time last year. Stress levels are rising. And this coming Fall presents a new set of challenges for working moms.
We’re juggling more hats than ever before and doing it all during an incredibly stressful and unprecedented time. Whether you are juggling childcare while working from home, managing virtual schooling, embarking upon a new life change or are just plain overloaded – whichever your unique circumstance – there are numerous scenarios that could present a need for a shift in your work schedule in order to maintain your emotional and physical well-being. The urgency level, to advocate for ourselves and our needs, has never been higher.
The truth is, a lot of times, we don’t ask. Women are known to be less likely to self-promote or advocate for themselves at work. This discomfort can run deep and can result in being hesitant or afraid to ask for help at work. But as we know, if we don’t ask, we don’t get. It’s a lot harder for your manager to help you if they don’t know what it is you want or need.
This Fall, it will be mission critical for us to take care of ourselves while we’re taking care of others. So here are four steps to incorporate into your request when negotiating a flexible work schedule:
Figure out what you need:
Sit down and really think, what is it that I need? Decide what is important to you. What do you need to take care of yourself? What is the schedule that would help accomplish those things? Employers are beginning to realize that the 9-5 shift is becoming less and less a necessity (and reality).
When you approach your boss, come to them with the solution fully baked out. Outline exactly the hours that you want to work, the parameters and how and when you will be available. For example, do you want to continue working full-time, working Monday – Thursday at 10-hour days? Or do you want to work 5 days a week, but from 8 am – 3 pm and then making up the remainder hours in the evening or on weekends? Perhaps you want to reduce your hours by a certain percentage which will require more approvals and possibly a salary adjustment. Whatever it is, be prepared, as detailed and specific as possible. Lay it all out and make it as easy as possible on your manager to turn around and request approval.
Make people feel good:
This is oftentimes the unspoken part about advocating for yourself. You have to create a scenario that everyone, including you, feels good about. Create a proposal that ensures your manager and your team will feel confident that the work and the quality of the work will be the same, it’s just the format and schedule in which you will do that work will be different. This may involve reviewing your goals and metrics with your managers and mapping out a plan of how you will still achieve these benchmarks. i.e. Explaining that in a pinch you could still be available for something urgent during off hours. Think about the unique needs of your organization and how you can still meet them.
Say you are approved to go ahead and try out your flexible work schedule. It’s important that you let your manager know that you will continue to check in with them and your team about how the new schedule is working. Think of it as a progress report – every few months (or an agreed upon schedule) assess what is working and what’s not working, for you, for your manager and your team. Check in and ask for feedback. This is a process and you reserve the right to tweak things based on how it’s going. Test and tweak – and improve as you go.
At the end of the day, it’s about knowing what your goals are, being clear about those goals – and communicating those goals with your manager – and setting up a system that allows you to achieve those goals. This is a scenario that I’m fortunate enough to experience at my employer. And even though the challenges of being a working parent are readily apparent, I have always been grateful that I have found an approach that continues my career while also awarding me time to be the best possible parent I can be (some days better than others).
Worst case scenario, if your manager says no to your request, at least you’ll know where you stand and what sort of flexibility your employer offers. Best case scenario, you get the flexible work schedule you want.