Flexible Work Arrangements for achieving Work-Life Balance

What is Flexibility?
The ability to define how, where, and when work gets done, as well as how careers are organized and crafted. Flexibility goes beyond telecommuting or flextime and encompasses many flexible work arrangements.

BOTH you and your employer, including your supervisor and project team(s), should benefit from the flexible work arrangement.
Flexible work arrangements traditionally were and sometime are still seen as a benefit for the employee but not a benefit for the employer. Current research shows that there is mutual benefit for everyone.

Common Flexible Work Arrangements:
FlexTime / Flexible Scheduling
Work day starts and ends at times different than the established standard, but you still work the same number of hours per day.
·         Daily flex (e.g., 10 am to 6 pm instead of 9 am to 5 pm)
·         Short-notice schedule changes
·         Summer hours
Compressed Work Weeks
Working some longer days in exchange for a full or partial day off each week.
·         4/10 workweek:
four 10-hour days
·         4 ½ day workweek:
9-hour days Mon-Thurs with Friday afternoons off
Telecommuting / Telework
Working from home or other designated remote location for specified times each week; employees are connected to the central office and colleagues via technology.
·         Work from home full time
·         Telework on set days
·         Telework occasionally as needed
·         Traveling employees
·         Work from satellite office
Uninterrupted Time
Designated days or times with no interruptions (including meetings) to increase productivity
·         No meeting days
·         No meetings after 3 pm
Gradual Return to Work
Working less than a full-time schedule following a leave
·         Working fewer days after a leave and gradually resuming full-time work or more hours
Reduced Hours / Part-Time Work
Working fewer than 40 hours or fewer than the workplace norm
·         Part-time work
·         Seasonal time off or part-year work (e.g., summers)
Job Sharing
Sharing a full-time position by two part-time employees.
·         Each employee works 2.5 days per week or other part-time schedules and shares benefits
Career Lattice
Moving up, down or sideways in the organizational hierarchy or taking positions with more, less or lateral responsibility while still maintaining a long-term career plan with your employer
·         Declining a scheduled promotion
·         Reducing hours for a period of time
·         Making a lateral move
·         Increasing your time or responsibility
How To Ask for a Flexible Work Arrangement?
  • STEP 1: Identify Your Priorities and Determine What Type of Flexibility You Need
  • STEP 2: Research your organization.
  • STEP 3: Write a proposal
  • STEP 4: meet with your supervisor

Identify Your Priorities and Determine What Type of Flexibility You Need
The following questions can help you identify what your priorities are and help you determine what type of flexibility you need:

1.    What are your professional priorities and goals in the short term (next 6-12 months) and long term (1-5 years)?
2.    What are your personal priorities and goals in the short term (next 6-12 months) and long term (1-5 years)?
3.    What would success look like in all categories of your life (i.e. work, personal life, etc.)?
4.    What are the needs and interests (i.e. performance expectations) of the key stakeholders or most important people in the different parts of your life? (Note: this includes not only key stakeholders at work but at home as well).
5.    Are you currently working flexibly, either formally or informally?
6.    Why do you want flexibility?
7.    How do you want to integrate flexibility into your role?
8.    What types of flexibility do you need versus want? What is your wish-list order?
a.    Are you looking for flexible arrival and departure work hours? Would you find it helpful to start earlier and leave earlier? Or to start later and leave later?
b.    Are you looking for a compressed work week? Or the option of compressing your work week as needed?
c.    Would you like to be able to work somewhere outside of the office? Part-time? Full-time?
d.    Do you want to scale back the total number of hours worked each week? Would it be beneficial to split your hours with someone else when trying to scale back?
9.    What types of flexible work arrangement do you see in your current work environment? What are currently available to you?
10.  How much do you need to earn to meet your financial commitments? Could your desired flexible work arrangement impact that? Could it impact your current benefits provided by your employer?
11.  Is there something specific about the nature of your work (i.e., types of tasks), team, or department that prevents you from working flexibly?
12.  Would a flexible work arrangement help you better meet current work demands? If yes, how?
13.  What are the barriers that get in your way of achieving what you define as work-life balance and success? What barriers can you change? What barriers can be resolved with a flexible work arrangement?
14.  What are the current barriers holding you back and/or reasons for not using flexible work arrangements at this time?
15.  Do you have the organization, time management, and communication skills needed to work flexibly? What skills might need some improvement and how can you improve upon them?
16.  What time of day are you most engaged with work? When do you feel most productive?
17.  When you are working, do you prefer to work over long stretches of time, or do you work better in short spurts with regular breaks?
18.  Where do you work most effectively, in a quiet space, in the office, at home?
19.  Do you prefer to work alone or collaboratively with a team? Does your current role require you to primarily work alone or in a team?
20.  Do you prefer to keep your work and personal lives strictly separate, or more integrated and blurred?
21.  What types of working arrangements appeal to you? Which do you not like or would never work for you? For example, gaining flexibility by blurring the lines between work and life—such as being available for emails or calls outside regular work hours—or keeping your work completely separate from your personal life, with clear times for each?
22.  What are some short-term options that you could temporarily live with that are easy to implement?
23.  What are ways you can create “4 WAY WINS” in the four main areas of your life - work, home, community, and self?

Research your organization.
Now that have identified your priorities and needs, it is important to understand available FWA Policies within your company and informal policies within your specific office:

1.    What formal policies exist within your company for flexible work arrangements?
2.    What are the work styles and schedules of people in your office / project teams?
3.    How do your colleagues feel about flexible work arrangements?
4.    Is anyone in your office or project team already working flexibly? Do they or you know of others in your organization working flexibly?
5.    Are the flexible work arrangements formal or informal policies? Are these policies and options specific to certain employees?
6.    How did your colleagues ask and get their flexible work arrangements? How has it evolved over time?
7.    How do the current flexible work arrangement options and flexibility culture in your office fit with your priorities and needs?
8.    How does your role compare to those of your colleagues currently working flexibly? Is there something specific about the nature of your work (i.e., types of tasks), team, or department that prevents you from working flexibly?
9.    Was workflex successful for your coworkers?
10.  Did working flexibly create any challenges for your coworkers? What kind of challenges were created?
11.  If there were challenges, how did your coworkers respond to those challenges?
12.  If there were challenges, how did management respond?
13.  How might you address those concerns or prevent similar problems in the future when working flexibly?
14.  Has your supervisor ever managed someone working flexibly? If so, was the experience positive or negative?
15.  What will your manager be most concerned about? What objections might your supervisor have towards a flexible work arrangement?
16.  How can you respond constructively and address these objections and concerns?
It is important to present how you will address the problems that arose in the past and why the results will be different this time.
Common Management Concerns
How Can You Address These Concerns
Productivity & Scheduling
·         Discuss the team’s work schedule in detail.
·         Discuss any scheduling team conflicts that may arise? How can you help minimize these conflicts? How can the team work together to minimize these conflicts?
·         Identify methods to measure your effectiveness and the team’s effectiveness. What are some measureable Key Performance Indicators?
·         Identify alternative solutions if the new arrangement begins to impact performance.
Employee Commitment
·         Help reassure your supervisor of your commitment to the job and the quality of your work.
·         Present some of the research results to your supervisor of the benefits to employee commitment and productivity as a result of work flexibility.
Trust & Communication
·         Implement a system that will work for both you and your supervisor to help build trust that you are working and committed to your work.
o   Reporting system - Daily? Weekly? Bi-weekly? Monthly?
o   Provide more frequent updates? Email? Phone calls? In-person meetings?
Snowballing Effect
·         Again present some of the research.
·         Help reassure your manager that not everyone will want the same type of flexible work arrangement. What may work for one person, may not work for another?
·         Be willing to present your proposal as a trial period. At the end of the trial, you can review together what worked well and what needs improvement and any new concerns that have arisen. Be willing to include the team in the discussion.

Write a proposal
Frame your request as a well thought out business case. Demonstrate that you have thought through how you work arrangement will affect your department, team, and your ability to fulfill your obligations and your department’s and team’s ability to succeed. Provide examples and solutions that demonstrate your commitment to maintaining or improving your current level and team’s level of performance and considers the needs of the organization, your coworkers, and yours. Help make your supervisor look good!
·         How will workflex benefit your employer?
·         How will workflex benefit you?
·         What is your business case? How will it address a business issue and what are the benefits that will come out of workflex?
·         Will you be more productive without workplace disruptions?
·         Will you be more available without your daily commute?
·         What type or types of workflex are you interested in?
·         How long do you plan to work under this proposed arrangement?
·         What hours and days are you proposing to work and from what locations?
·         Outline how the arrangements you are proposing might work.
·         Give options so your supervisor can work out an arrangement that works best for everyone. Present the option of a trial period.
·         Acknowledge that your organization has the right to rescind workflex options at any time. Present methods to address arrangements that are not working.
·         Who will be most impacted by this flexible schedule?
·         Will this improve service in any way?
·         How will others receive what they need to accomplish their work?
·         How do you currently communicate with your team, coworkers, supervisor and clients? How will communication with your team, coworkers, supervisor and clients differ once you are on a flexible schedule?
·         How will people know how and when they can reach you?
·         How do you communicate to your team members?
·         Will you be able to continue to meet deadlines and be available for critical situations? Highlight your track record and ability to accomplish tasks.
·         Are there specific hours that you must be present to accomplish your responsibilities?
·         Can you make arrangements to be onsite for location-specific activities?
·         How will work emergencies be addressed?
·         How will you meet job expectations in your new flexible arrangement?
·         How will your supervisor know you are getting the work done?
·         How and when will you and your supervisor assess the effectiveness of your arrangement?
·         Emphasize that you want to be flexible and results-focused in approaching any arrangement.
·         Be clear and the impact you anticipate working flexibly will have on your work and performance? How and why you will be more productive? What will be the limitations and boundaries?
·         What can you accomplish with flexibility?
·         What would have to change in order for this to work for you and your employer?
·         What are reasonable boundaries you can set that will work for you and your team in short- and long-term?
·         What communication tools will help you connect (i.e. instant messaging, video conferencing, mobile phone)?
·         What are your performance goals this year?
·         What performance measures should you and your supervisor use to demonstrate success?  BE SPECIFIC!
·         If proposing a trial period, agree to a specific time and specific metrics.
·         Present an ongoing review process to address problems as they arise.
·         Have answers to your supervisor’s questions that addresses their concerns, fears, and reservations.
·         When presenting options, be more flexible with your wants rather than needs regarding flexibility. Push harder for your needs.
·         What tasks and responsibilities do you feel you will continue to be able to do? Are there any tasks and responsibilities that may need to be reassigned?
·         What support will you need from your supervisor to help you be successful under this new arrangement? What resources will you need?

meet with your supervisor
1.    Ask your supervisor when would be a good time to discuss your proposal with him / her.
2.    Schedule a meeting.


It is important to document your agreement. It provides an additional opportunity to confirm or clarify whether both sides have the same understanding of how the flexible working arrangement will operate. It is important the clear expectations are established between you and your supervisor and communicated to your team.
Ensure your agreement clearly establishes the main details:
1.    The specific flexible arrangement that was approved, including when, where, and how it will all work.
2.    If your proposal was approved as a part of a trial period, what is the duration of the trial period. (A reasonable trial period can go on anywhere from one month to six months. Typically three months is an effective and practical length of time.)
3.    Methods that will be used to monitor the arrangement’s success.
4.    How often you and your manager will review how things are going and the arrangement’s success.
5.    What strategies will be used to resolve possible challenges that may arise. What are the timelines for addressing challenges and implementing these strategies.
a.    You may need to add or revise this agreement based on challenges encountered, strategies and practices applied to address these challenges, and feedback received from your supervisor and team members.
It may be a good idea to schedule a time to discuss the agreement with your team members. Ask your supervisor for his / her opinion and recommendations to facilitate this discussion and address any concerns.

·         Requested arrangement may conflict directly with how your team achieves their business goals.
·         Requested arrangement may place an unreasonable burden on other team members.
·         Your supervisor and team might need more time to have resources and strategies available to accommodate your request.
·         Some of your preferences may be difficult to accommodate without some significant adjustments by everyone involved.
·         Your specific role and responsibilities may not be able to accommodate or allow the flexibility you are requesting.
·         Your supervisor may not be willing to support flexible work arrangements. This could be a result of lack of training or support or based on prior experiences.
·         Your own performance issues in the workplace.
1.    Ask your supervisor for feedback about why your request was denied.
2.    Ask your supervisor what might make the proposal more acceptable. Would they be willing to discuss this again if you were to incorporate feedback from this meeting and present a new arrangement?
3.    Ask about what activities or performance behaviors you will need to demonstrate in order to increase the possibility of approval in the future.
4.    If work place performance issues are a concern, discuss measurable objectives and goals that can help demonstrate your effectiveness at work. Establish a timeframe and discuss whether the request can be revisited once these objectives have been met.
5.    If your supervisor is willing to revisit the request in the future, leave the meeting with a set date for the future discussion.
6.    If your supervisor is hesitant or resistant to revisit the request, consider proposing a joint problem-solving meeting with your supervisor and another relevant decision maker in your organization (such as another manager who supports work flexibility, HR representative, office manager, practice lead, etc.).
7.    Make sure to maintain a positive and cooperative attitude while at work as you consider your next steps.  Remind yourself that this is a business strategy. Not all roles allow for flexibility or the type of flexibility you need.
8.    Think about what concerns were brought up by your supervisor during the meeting. Where they specific to your performance and/or role? Were they more focused on the impact to the team? What can you do to address or minimize some of these concerns? Set measurable goals to help demonstrate down the line that these concerns have been addressed.
9.    Take time to think about what was discussed and points that were made. Use the information from this meeting to help you evaluate your next steps.
a.    Can you consider a different type of work arrangement that might better fit your role and team?
b.    Are there other open positions in your office or in the organization that would enable you to work your preferred work arrangement or, at a minimum, meet most of your needs? Would you even what to transition into that open position? Would it be a good fit?
c.    What can you do to address or minimize some of the concerns brought up during the meeting?
10.  Put together a constructive response and plan of action to provide and/or discuss with your supervisor.

Don't be afraid to try something new! Your HAPPINESS is the most important thing in life. 

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