How to Score a Flexible Work Arrangement

Do you ever fantasize about having more flexibility in your workday? And what about those occasions when you actually ask for some added flexibility at work – do you feel guilty about using it?

One of the greatest joys of being a negotiation trainer is witnessing countless professionals get up the courage to negotiate for jobs that better fit their lives. And I’m not talking about leaving early one day as an exception to the rule. I’m talking about rebuilding a role so that it’s flexible by design.

Whether reducing your hours, moving to a remote or partially remote arrangement, or compressing your days, research shows employees in flexibility programs are happier at work and less prone to burnout and psychological stress than their colleagues not in programs.

What’s funny is that I’d estimate that 80% of succeeding in these discussions happens before you ever get to the negotiation table. Does that surprise you? See, requesting a more flexible arrangement (over say a promotion or raise) tends to kick up a unique set of doubts in lots of people:

• Why do I deserve an exception to the rule? Everyone else seems fine working full-time hours in the office; isn’t it a personal weakness if I can’t/don’t want to?

• Shouldn’t I have a dire reason (sick loved one, medical issue) to reduce my hours?

• Will people think I’m less ambitious or committed if I work fewer hours or spend less time at the office?

Despite fears like these, those who succeed at negotiating for ‘flex’ have some clear things in common. They don’t make a spontaneous ask. They consider their ask from perspectives other than their own. They frame their proposals within a process. Recently, I had the chance to sit down with Erin Jay at Care.com to weigh in – both as a negotiating expert – and as someone who negotiated part-time employment myself years ago while getting my MBA.

Have a read, learn the process for building your own proposal, and get ready to become more of a designer in your work life! While you’re at it, chime in with your success stories of what worked well with your ask.

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Selena Rezvani

Selena Rezvani is a recognized consultant, speaker and author on women and leadership.  A seasoned human capital consultant, Selena uses workplace culture assessments to help corporate clients be more inclusive and welcoming to women.  She’s also the author of two leadership books targeted at professional women – Pushback: How Smart Women Ask—and Stand Up—for What They Want (Jossey-Bass, 2012) and The Next Generation of Women Leaders (Praeger, 2009). Selena has been featured in the LA Times, Oprah.com, Todayshow.com, Forbes, and wrote an award-winning column on women for The Washington Post.

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