Tired of working crazy hours? If you've been thinking about speaking with your employer about scaling back to a more manageable work schedule, be sure to check out the terrific advice, articles and products offered at WorkOptions.com.
Whether you are interested in job-sharing, telecommuting or a part-time schedule, WorkOptions.com has customizable proposal templates to help solve your work-life balance dilemma. I have recommended these products to my clients for years and they have never failed to disappoint. Highly recommended.
Every once in a while I read a blog post that makes me want to jump out of my chair and shout, "Yes!" Such was the case when I stumbled upon Rosabeth Moss Kantor's recent blog entry about telecommuting on the Harvard Business Publishing's site. Here is an excerpt:
"President Obama, here is a deceptively simple action item to put on your agenda for business growth, working families, and a green future: Make it the norm for everyone to work at home at least one day a week. That single step could raise productivity, save energy, decrease pollution, reduce traffic congestion, cut household expenses, increase quality of family life, and keep educated women in the work force. Workers of the world, go remote!
During this time of economic crisis and reinvention of global capitalism, one of the things crying out for reinvention is the rigid workplace of the last century. It is amazing in the digital age that most work is still associated with industrial age work rhythms and the symbolic chains that tie workers, knowledge and otherwise, to fixed locations. Flexible workplaces with flexible hours and days are long in coming."
Yes, yes, yes -- I couldn't agree more! To read her full post, click here.
Interested in securing a telecommuting arrangement at your job? Here are four tips to help you successfully prepare to discuss this option with your employer: (excerpted from our instantly downloadable e-guide, FlexJobs: Your Work, Your Life, Your Way! )
1. Investigate Company Policy: Look at the policies and procedures manual for any written telecommuting guidelines. If there are none, make an appointment to speak with the Human Resources department and get their input. Many companies don't have official policies on this issue, so be sure to check with other employees to get a sense of how the "unofficial" policy works.
2. Be Specific About What You Want: Carefully analyze your needs before approaching your boss about a telecommuting arrangement. It's best to come up with a few workable alternatives - your boss will prefer a well-thought out series of options over a "yes or no" ultimatum.
3. Prepare, prepare, prepare: Before meeting with your boss, get your facts in order. Think about your proposal from the company's standpoint and be prepared to explain how your job will still get done when you telecommute. Write a thorough proposal outlining your request , put it away for a few weeks, and then read it again. Anticipate objections your boss might have and practice your responses to those objections.
4. Select a strategically advantageous time for your meeting: While no time is perfect, most managers have periods during the day (or week ) when they are more easily accessible than others. Schedule your meeting for a time when you are least likely to be interrupted -- early mornings or after five o'clock tends to be best for most managers.
An analysis of Fortune’s list of America’s 100 Best Companies to Work For conducted by Workforce Management notes an interesting trend: Even the most employee-friendly firms are trimming back benefits. In 2001, for example, 33 companies on the annual list paid 100 percent of employees’ health care premiums. Today, 14 do. Since last year, 27 companies on the list have cut what they pay in health care premiums. And the number of companies on the list offering a defined- benefit pension to new employees has dropped from 40 to 27 in three years.
But at the same time, more companies on the list are adapting inexpensive, employee-friendly ideas--like personal concierge services and flexible work policies. In 1999, just 18 companies on the list allowed telecommuting, compared with 79 today. Only 25 firms on the list in 1999 offered compressed workweeks, such as four 10-hour days with Fridays off. Today, 81 companies do. "
Such benefits do make a difference," Fortune writes, "and they’re a lot less expensive than health insurance."
For years, I've maintained that one of the best ways to find a flexible employer is to target small employers. A recent study (2005 National Study of Employers) conducted by the Families and Work Institute confirmed my observations. The study revealed that small businesses are helping to drive changes in the structure of work, offering employees more opportunities for workplace flexibility, while large employers are providing more benefits that have direct costs.
According to the study, small employers, defined as organizations with 50 to 99 employees, tend to offer their employees greater flexibility, such as flextime, returning to work gradually after childbirth or adoption, taking time off for education or training to improve skills or phasing into retirement. In fact, the study concluded that small employers are significantly more likely to offer flexibility to all or most employees than employers of other sizes.
Why is this true?
Small business owners have discovered that flexible scheduling is a relatively low cost benefit that helps them to recruit and retain top-level talent. While small companies can’t offer the same level of benefit offerings as their corporate counterparts (i.e. health insurance plans, 401k’s, etc.) they can offer more flexibility than their larger competitors.
The hiring manager is typically the owner of the company who can quickly make exceptions to policy and approve alternative scheduling arrangements. In big corporations, exceptions to policy must go through several layers of management (and lots of political maneuvering) to be approved.
Savvy small business owners are bottom-line oriented. They are quick to recognize the tremendous value offered by hiring top-level talent without the overhead of full-time salary and benefit costs.
Here are some tips for finding employment with small businesses:
1. Networking is critical to success. Speak with friends, alumni groups, volunteer contacts and business associates for leads.
2. Call your local Chamber of Commerce or small business advocacy group and ask if they have a membership directory for sale. These types of directories are an excellent tool for sourcing local businesses.
3. The local newspapers often feature stories about “up and coming” businesses. Go to the library and do some research about local companies.
4. Peruse the classifieds to see who is hiring. Even if a company doesn’t have a current opening in your field of expertise, use the information in the ad as a way to learn about small business employers in your area.
5. Contact venture capital firms to see if they are working with any emerging companies who might be interested in hiring you on a flexible basis.
If you've been running into a brick wall trying to find flexibility in a traditional corporate setting, now may be a good time to transition into a healthcare or educational work environment. With the increased demand for healthcare professionals and teachers, salaries and advancement potential are on the rise.
Please understand that I am not suggesting you go back to school and train to become a nurse, physical therapist or an elementary school teacher just because they are growth fields (unless you are so inclined). However, I do recommend that you look at job openings in hospitals, universities and public/private schools where flexible scheduling tends to be much more widely practiced than in the corporate sector. These institutions need people in management, development, human resources, accounting, finance and other support roles to function efficiently.
While salaries in these settings tend to be lower than in the corporate arena, the benefits packages offered by educational and health institutions can sometimes be quite lucrative. Perks offered by private schools or universities (such as tuition reduction for dependents) can make a real difference in the value of your compensation package.
FYI, some states offer very strong financial incentives for teacher training. According to an August 18, 2006 article in Careerjournal.com, "So far this year, 18 states, including Illinois, Connecticut, Virginia and Kansas, have passed measures encouraging teaching, according to the Education Commission of the States, which tracks education policy for state governments. The initiatives ranged from luring teachers out of retirement to offering scholarships to programs that forgive education loans."