For many workers today, the idea of the nine-to-five may seem like just a fantasy.
Longer hours are now coupled with the expectation that most employees will check their work e-mail accounts even on nights and weekends. With more and more workers feeling like they have to give up their own lives to get ahead professionally, it’s no wonder that companies recruiting top talent are looking for better ways to encourage a healthy work-life balance. In many cases, these companies are finding that giving employees more flexible work options is a gift that keeps on giving.
A 2013 study from Catalyst, a non-profit organization devoted to women in the workplace, found that workers tend to dial back their career goals when employed by a company that does not support or offer flexible work options. While high potential employees of both genders displayed this change when faced with fewer flexible options, the trend was even clearer with women in the workplace. In a company where women had access to flexible arrangements, 83-percent of female workers aspired to reach senior positions and the C-suite. Without these options, however, only 54-percent held similar aspirations. Significantly, these numbers also dropped for men: 94-percent aspired to the C-suite when afforded flexible work arrangements and only 85-percent held those goals without these options.
Perhaps in recognition of the fact that greater flexibility makes for a more engaged workforce, a 2015 study shows that 80-percent of surveyed employers are now offering their staffers flexible work arrangements. While this number may seem encouraging, it does come with a catch: an employee may have to be his own best advocate in achieving these options as only 37-percent of these companies have a formal, written policy for these work arrangements.
So how do you go about securing the flexibility you need while hammering out a job offer?
1. Do your homework
Some companies will emphasize their flexible working arrangements in their recruiting materials. However, most will not. But just because flexibility is not a part of a company’s hard sell to recruits does not mean it’s not available. Start with digging and researching real, employee accounts of life at the company. Plenty of sites like Ivy Exec give employees a safe space to post anonymous observations of how their companies treat them–for better or worse. Get a feel for what other employee experiences have been like to set your expectations appropriately for what options might be available. A company that does not offer the occasional telecommuting day is unlikely to allow a more extensive work-from-home plan.
2. Know what you want
Once you have a good idea of what’s available at the company you’re considering, begin developing a proposal of what a fair and reasonable flexible working arrangement looks like to you. Do you want to keep a full-time schedule but work from home several days each week? Are you looking for a three-day workweek to help with childcare? Whatever option you’re seeking, make a detailed outline of your plan and prepare to advocate for your needs in negotiations. Make sure your desire for flexibility does not lead anyone to question your dedication to the company or the position by making it clear what you can offer when afforded the proper framework. If you’ve worked a similar schedule in a prior role, demonstrate several key wins you accomplished for the company while working with a flexible schedule.
3. Present your wishes at the right time
Timing is everything: your first phone interview with a recruiter is not the right time to begin pushing for a flexible working arrangement. Early inquiries into work-life balance can make you seem as if your priorities lie outside the scope of the job itself. Instead, wait until you have a job offer in hand to pitch your flexible work arrangement plan. Be specific and, if necessary, be prepared that you may asked give up on some other benefits or compensation should you be looking for more ample flexibility—and know whether or not you’re willing to do so.
Even if you have aligned your expectations with the company’s typical offerings for flexible working arrangements, you may find that your proposal jeopardizes your offer. Different roles have varied expectations and the company may simply need to hire someone who can give more hours on-site or on the road without hesitation. While disappointing, know that flexible working arrangements are a growing trend and other companies may be happy to accommodate your needs.