Getting A Flexible Schedule

Making work work for you with a flexible schedule

9911425_sOver the last two decades, alternative work arrangements have become part of the American workplace. Growing numbers of dual-career couples and the employers’ need to retain good employees have contributed to the increase in flexible work options. A Catalyst study, Two Careers, One Marriage: Making It Work In the Workplace, found flexible work arrangements are important to men and women. Both took advantage of alternative options when their employers offered them.

Having it All

For most of us having it all means maintaining a balance between our personal and professional lives. This may translate to reducing work hours while raising small children. Or cutting back to care for an aging parent or return to school.

Whatever the reason, moving from full-time to part-time used to mean falling out of the professional loop, missing opportunities and promotions. But over the past decade, things have changed.

According to Flexible Work Arrangements III, another Catalyst report, it is possible for women to reduce their work hours and still maintain career momentum. Tracking 24 women, over a ten-year period, the study found that working part-time, even for several years, does not have to mean ruining a promising career.

However, when you’re not in the office daily, face time becomes more important. “It’s critical to stay connected, even when you’re on a part-time schedule, ” advises Tracey Robert, principal, Tracey Robert Associates, Career Development Specialists, Fairfield, CT. “It’s important to let your employer know that you will be available when you are needed.”

A less dramatic way to cut back on your office hours is telecommuting. Even though you’ll remain on a full time schedule, you’ll probably save a couple of hours every day you work from home. Not to mention that you can actually take time out for lunch in the park.

Talking to Your Boss

So, what should you do if you’re in this position? Find out what options, if any, are offered at your company. And be prepared to address your boss’s concerns.

Before speaking with your supervisor, talk to someone in human resources. “Find out what the precedent is at your company, if there is a written organization policy,” advises Robert. “Once you know your options, you will be better prepared to speak with your manager. ”

Colleen Hurley, Manager, Human Resources, Grey Global Group, New York, agrees. “Someone in human resources can help you define what type of alternative schedule will work best for you and give you some advice on how to talk to your supervisor.”

If your company doesn’t have a formal policy be prepared with examples, and a detailed description of how you want your schedule will work. Here are some of the common alternative arrangements:

  • Flextime – Full-time employees are allowed to choose their starting and quitting hours within a specified time frame
  • Compressed Work Week – The most common option is four days, 10 hours each day. May be offered on a seasonal basis, for example, Summer Hours.
  • Telecommuting – Full-time employment, an employee works at least part of the week from another location, generally from home.
  • V-Time (Voluntary Reduced Work Time) – Employees switch to a part-time schedule or take time off without pay for a specified time period.
  • Part-time – A reduced work schedule, generally 20 hours per week.

Even if your company has a formal policy, expect your boss to have some reservations. Try to anticipate her concerns and be prepared to address them. Here are a few “before you talk to the boss” suggestions:

  • Know what you want, but be prepared to negotiate. You may want to telecommute on Fridays. But mid-week may be better for your department.
  • Have a clear definition of what you’re proposing. If you’re cutting back on your hours, have a schedule, for example three days a week, from 9 to 3.
  • If you’ll be working from home, be sure to have childcare in place and make your supervisor aware of your arrangements.
  • Be honest about what you can, and cannot do, from home. If you see clients daily, telecommuting might not be the answer.
  • Give your proposal a positive spin; explain how you will be better able to focus on projects without office distractions.
  • Plan to meet with your boss in three months to review how your new schedule is working. Be prepared to make any necessary adjustments.
  • Understand that it’s your responsibility to stay in touch. But, make sure your supervisor knows how she can reach you. Let her know if you have a second phone line, cell phone and/or fax machine at home.

Today’s alternative work arrangements make it easier to have a personal and a professional life. “When people have their lives balanced, they are happier and more energized on the job. They are more productive,” says Hurley. “But, it has to be a two way street. Flexibility is the key to making an alternative schedule work.”

About Annette Richmond, MA

Annette Richmond, MA, CARW, CCELW, is a Certified Resume Writer, Certified LinkedIn Profile Writer, and former recruiter. Her career advice has been featured by Huffington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Business Insider, Monster, Vault, and WSJ. She helps motivated, senior level professionals tell their unique career story. She also serves as executive editor of career-intelligence.com.

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