Flexible Schedules

In case you didn’t get the memo, we live in a technology-filled work environment with so many more options of how we can get work done. I can’t even remember how I worked before my crackberry addiction (a.k.a. Blackberry, smartphone, etc.) – being constantly available and in touch is an expectation for many in today’s work environment. The quest for finding the “perfect work/life balance” is forever ongoing, and luckily, there are now many different ways to create your own balance.

What about Flexible Schedules?

About five years ago, the idea of flexible schedules was emerging at larger companies but the opportunities were limited and usually reserved for a specific demographic – working mothers. In fact, there are several annual reports out there that rank how “friendly” different companies are to mothers who return to the workforce post-delivery. Something companies forgot: people who aren’t mothers want flexible options too, and now they are finally available.

Flexible schedules can include a variety of different options and give and take. You can work part-time, remotely, work a 90/10 schedule, half-day Friday, combination, and so on. The beauty is that flexible means that you can create the best schedule for you – and if you have enough knowledge going into the conversation, it will be difficult for your manager to turn you down!

I’m not going to lie and say that it can happen everywhere, it can’t. Or tell you that it will be easy, because it won’t. However, it is possible and my tips below will help you do just that.

Four Things to Consider:

  • Do you have a position that can truly be done on a flexible schedule? Take a moment to really think about this; the answer may not be as clear-cut as you hope it is. This is not about want, but execution. If you manage people, that can make it a bit harder unless your team is based in other offices. If you have to interact face-to-face to deliver bad news daily, that can be a deal-breaker. Think of all of the activities that you do in the office that include interaction with others – can these activities be done at the same level of effectiveness over the phone, video conference, chat, email, etc. as they are currently being delivered? The biggest concern managers have about approving any type of “abnormal” schedule is if the work will still get done appropriately. If you feel you can meet this concern head-on, then you are ahead of the game.
  • Don’t let history be a stopping point for you. Just because no one in your role/department/company has had a flexible schedule, does not mean that it is not an option. Sometimes there needs to be a person to break through – and that can be you. And do not let someone else’s previous attempts stop you from pursuing this. Each situation is different, and you will never know, if you do not ask for yourself.
  • Be prepared when having the conversation. I mean be over-prepared, people. I remember one of my employees coming to me as their HR contact, and asking for my help in creating a plan for them to move forward with a flexible option. Together, we created a few scenarios that fit the needs of the company and the employee. She was the first person in that department to be approved for a flexible schedule, and I know from the meetings that it was mainly because she had addressed every single objection in her pitch. You will most likely have to sell this to your management team and to HR. So having all of the angles covered, will make the sales process easier.
  • Understand the impact to your teammates. I cannot tell you how many times I have been at the short-end of the stick when my teammates have been approved for various flex schedules and I was left in the office picking up the pieces. I am not saying this is always the case, but it can happen. If you are the one going on a flex schedule, you need to work through and understand the impact to your colleagues. Are there things that they will need to take over from you? Will you be working just as hard as when you were in the office? Will you be available for questions? Will the workload be consistent? And after reviewing all of those questions, the way you discuss and refer to your new schedule is going to be critically important for the overall cohesiveness of your team. Your manager should help with this, but you are the key component. From personal experience, there is nothing more grating than hearing about “why you need” a flexible schedule – we all need one!!! And another sticking point will be around using these words: work/life balance, my family, my kids, and so on. We all have personal lives, so be super-careful when describing the situation. In fact, I would recommend that you leave it as vague as possible – I’ll be on alternative hours; We need coverage differently; My clients have requested XX, and so on. Don’t lie, just massage the truth a little – these are the people who will have to cover for you, so make sure that you understand that piece of the equation before making the request.

Interested in creating your own Flexible Schedule? Look for an upcoming post about how to ask for one and get results!