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Over 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:
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:
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.”