After weeks of deliberation, you’ve decided to ask your manager for a flexible work arrangement, and you’re confident she will support your request.
It’s excellent that you’re taking this step, and it’s likely to prove beneficial for you, your family, and the company. But don’t rush into your supervisor’s office just yet.
Before you make your request, you need to decide exactly what kind (or kinds) of flexibility you want. Different options will work better for different situations, and it’s important to be specific when you’re making a proposal.
To help you decide what will fit best for you, here are a few common forms of flexibility and ideas on who might want to pursue them.
Also referred to as remote work or working from home. With a telecommuting job, you’ll be working either full- or part-time from your home office, the coffee shop on the corner, or maybe even a faraway country. As long as you have a good laptop and a dependable Internet connection, the possibilities are endless. This is a great option for people who are trying to avoid a stressful daily commute, or who want to be able travel and work at the same time.
If you’d like to work, but you don’t want or need to put in 40 hours a week, a part-time job could be a good option. Such positions can be remote or in an office, and they tend to offer lots of flexibility. Typically, a job is considered part-time if it’s less than 30 hours per week. If you love your job but are finding that scaling back your hours would enable you to better address other important parts of your life (caring for a child or an aging parent, for example), it’s worth talking with your employer about the possibility of reducing your schedule.
Freelance or contract jobs
When it comes to controlling your own schedule, you can’t beat freelance or contract work, because they allow you to choose your clients and your commitments. Freelancers usually have more than one job in progress at any given time, so you need to be good at juggling different tasks and managing your time. You can make a great salary as a freelancer, too, but you can’t be afraid to market yourself. You’ll always be looking for your next gig.
If you’re already working 10 hours or more every day, maybe it’s time to talk to your manager about a compressed workweek. For example, some people do four, 10-hour shifts every week, taking each Friday off. Others work a seven-days-on, seven-days-off schedule. Most jobs that allow for these kinds of schedules will keep you in the office, but if you need three-day weekends to help with care of a family member or maybe just for fun, this is an option to consider.
According to a Workplace Flexibility 2010 factsheet from the Georgetown University Law Center, this kind of arrangement can work well if you need a specific block of time off each year. For example, perhaps you’re a professional who would like summers off to spend time with your children when they’re out of school. Another example, according to the factsheet, might be “a semi-retired accountant (who) works for an accounting firm during its busy season from January through May. He takes the remainder of the year off to travel.”
If both you and a co-worker need to reduce your hours, a job-sharing option might be the right ticket. In this kind of flexible arrangement, two part-time employees work together to perform the duties and tasks of one full-time position. Of course, you have to be able to work together extremely well to make this arrangement successful.
If you like working in the office, but you’d rather avoid the worst of the traffic on your daily commute, the right flex for you might be a schedule with shifted hours. For example, you could start work at 6 a.m., arriving long before the heaviest commuting hours, and leave at 3 p.m., before the afternoon rush hour heats up. You’ll need to make sure you can still collaborate with your colleagues and attend important meetings, but it’s usually possible to arrange your schedule to allow for that.
Phased retirement can be a good option if you’re just about ready to retire but don’t want to quit cold turkey. Maybe you still need to earn a little money, or you have a big project you’d like to complete. Phased retirement programs are also beneficial to employers because they offer more opportunity for mentorships and knowledge transfer from experienced talent.
Clearly, there are as many flexible work options available as there are people who need them. But once you’ve looked over this list and chosen the flex that will be the best fit for you, you’ll be ready to approach your manager and state your case with confidence.
What flexible work arrangement has worked best for you during your career? How has that changed as you have moved through different jobs or stages of life? What other options would you add to this list? Please share your ideas in the comments section.
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