From Full Time to Flextime: How to negotiate an alternative work arrangement
Until he was old enough to go to preschool, I was a stay-at-home mom to my first son, Shawn.
That’s when I took a clerical position that allowed me to work my way up to my dream job: promotions manager for a world-famous tourist attraction. I was in charge of creating and implementing a variety of attendance-generating events.
About three years later, I gave birth to my second son, Jacob.
It wasn’t long before I discovered that the mixture of a challenging career and parenting two children was tougher than I had imagined. When Jake turned 6 months old, I realized that my roles as superemployee and supermom were about to collide.
My career had me out the door by 7:30 a.m. and by the time I got home, homework was waiting and dinner needed to be made. Just getting basic life errands done left me with little time to play with Jake before he was ready for bed. I cherished our 30 minutes of awake time before we began our nightly routine of bath and bedtime story.
I knew that I didn’t want to miss his baby years, but I also knew that our household relied on my paycheck. My only solution was to arrange for a reduced work schedule. I needed to convince my boss, Melanie, that my job would be effectively accomplished outside the traditional eight-to-five workday.
Luckily, I had a few things that lined up in my favor before I pitched my idea of a more flexible workweek.
First, I had a forward-thinking, open-minded boss who focused on performance and results.
Secondly, I had a track record of coming through. My sales figures had consistently risen during my pregnancy as well as during my maternity leave. My organizational skills had served me well.
Third, the culture of the organization was to embrace employee needs whenever the opportunity presented itself. I knew I had a shot at being awarded a flexible schedule. I just needed to present the circumstances in a positive way.
If the advantages of a flexible work schedule appeal to you, but you’re not sure how to get the ball rolling, consider these points before you start.
What is Flextime?
Many companies offer a flexible work schedule that allows an employee to select the hours she will work. There are usually specified limits set by the employer. Employees on a flexible schedule may work a condensed workweek or may work a regular workweek.
Those working a condensed week may work four 10-hour days, rather than five 8-hour days. Those who work a five-day week may work hours other than the typical “nine to five.”
In my case, I wanted to leave around 3 p.m. each day. My proposal included the agreement that I would be in the office for core hours (10 to 2) so that I was available for meetings or if co-workers needed me. I also agreed to be available after 3 p.m. if needed.
Is Your Job Flextime-Friendly?
“Make an honest assessment about the job and whether it is really a position that can tolerate it,” says Barry Lawrence, a career expert from Jobfox. “Some jobs, frankly, just aren’t very work-life friendly. My wife, Heather, was a full-time marketer at a large company. We have twin daughters who are 7.
“She ultimately decided that she would feel better about her professional contributions as a consultant rather than a full-time employee,” says Lawrence. “This gives her the freedom to work more flexible hours without paying a political price of being seen as an ‘undedicated’ full-time worker.”
What’s In It for the Company?
For an employer to institute flextime, the company wants to know how their business will benefit as well.
“Lead with what your employer wants first,” says Julie Moore Rapacki, founder and president of Polish Your Star, a firm providing career coaching for women. “Make sure you understand the results the business is trying to achieve and how you contribute.
“The obvious benefit to an employer is the ability to attract, motivate, and retain quality employees,” says Rapacki.
In order to keep employees who seek a work-life balance, it’s in the company’s best interests to allow their staff to have a flexible schedule.
“Be prepared to remind your boss, in detail, of the value you bring to the business and what your ideal schedule would be,” adds Rapacki. “Make it a dialogue about how both needs, the business’s and yours, can be met.”
“My company has an established flextime policy,” says Christine Benton, mother of 4-year-old Aiden and 9-month-old Luke. “To apply for it, you must demonstrate a history of good performance. Before I proposed a flexible schedule, I took into account how the change would impact my co-workers and our clients.
“I was prepared to show how my job could be performed without negatively impacting our clients,” says the manager for a global public relations agency.
Her 24-hour workweek runs Monday to Wednesday.
“Working three days in a row allows for continuity, and that was an important element to offer in my negotiation,” she adds.
It’s important to take some time to formulate your proposal, but the results will be worth your effort.
“Your plan should reflect a respect for both sides and still leave room for tweaking,” says Benton. “In my case, my weekend starts on Thursday and by the time Monday rolls around, I’m also happy, because I’m able to work with great people. I feel more balanced. I’m able to have time for my career, my family, and even find some time left over for me.”
In the proposal to my boss, I included an escape clause. I suggested a three-month trial period for both of us to assess the impact of the change. This gave us a “no-fault” way out if the new work arrangement didn’t meet the company’s needs or my expectations.
At the end of our meeting, Melanie said that she was open to the proposal, but that she would talk to the HR director. She’d give me an answer by the end of the week.
Putting together a plan that was quantifiable, reasonable, and realistic was rewarded the next day when she called me in her office to say that we’d give it a try. I could begin the alternative work schedule at the beginning of the month.
Melanie and I met three months later to discuss my flextime schedule. Neither of us felt compelled to change the arrangement, and I continued on for the next several years in this capacity. I was happy to be a test case for other working moms in our company who could point to my flexible schedule as an example of how it can work when both sides are in agreement.
Balancing work and home life is no easy task. There’s no quick fix. But with a bit of flexibility, an insightful employer, and a committed employee, it can be accomplished. BW
- Tell your employer how important this scheduling change is for you.
- Share your conviction that a flexible schedule would make you a more productive employee.
- Suggest a meeting after a trial period to discuss what’s working and what could be adjusted.
- Offer to take work-related calls on your cell phone during the traditional workday.
- Offer to attend any important meetings, even if they are during your non-work time.
- Don’t agree to a pay cut if you’re not reducing your responsibilities. If your employer suggests one, offer a three-month period to evaluate the new arrangement and whether you are achieving the same results. Chances are that you will be even more productive, and your results will stay the same or improve.
- Don’t hold on to an all-or-nothing attitude. Be willing to meet your employer halfway.
Claire Yezbak Fadden is an award-winning freelance writer and mother of three sons. Follow her on Twitter @claireflaire.