You’re thinking that a flexible work arrangement might be helpful for you, but you’re not sure how to broach the topic with your employer or potential employer?  There are many different kinds of flexible work arrangements and definitions of flexibility, including reduced time, work from home (or remote location), job-share, part-time, adjusted hours and more.

Here are some ideas and questions to consider:

  1. Which type of flexible work arrangement do you hope to create?
  2. Is a flexible work arrangement in the realm of possibility with the type of work you do and the types of people and organizations who rely on this work?
  3. Does your organization have any policies that encourage or prevent such arrangements? Do others in your organization already have flexible arrangements?

If you’ve determined this is the right organization and the right opportunity for a possible flexible work arrangement, you might ask for a convenient time to visit.  During this visit:

  1. Make your ask “easy” for your boss (or potential employer), or in other words: frame your question with their wishes in mind. Outline the benefits for the employer first. What’s in it for them?
      • Reduced cost?
      • Access to high quality talent?
      • Show how a flexible work arrangement could help in your productivity at work and add value to their organization.
  1. You might ask, “How are teams and projects structured here?” This will help you and your employer talk about the possibility for new structures or ways to staff teams.
  2. Or if you have an idea for a specific arrangement, you might say something like, “I can provide 30 hours/week to your organization. Is this within the realm of consideration?”
  3. Explain why you want this flexibility and how you aim to complete the work they need done (i.e. a work plan). You might even suggest the type of a communication plan that you envision to keep conversation open.
  4. Ask for a trial period to make sure it is working for both parties.

Once you’ve had success establishing a flexible work arrangement, several key principles will help to make your flexible work arrangement successful.  Effective employees demonstrate a strong work ethic, trust, open communication and a passion for the work.  Employers demonstrate creativity and an openness to non-conventional arrangements.

Here are two examples of how two professionals negotiated their flexible work arrangements.  A nonprofit professional was looking for a flexible work arrangement to allow time for her to care for her young children when they were not at school.  She identified a job that she felt she was qualified for and where her experience could help advance the organization.  Even though the job description stated that they were looking for full-time work, she submitted a resume and was called in for an interview.  After establishing both rapport and credibility with the interviewer, and as the conversation was about conclude, she asked, “How many hours per week do you envision it will take to complete the required tasks?  Is a flexible work arrangement a possibility?”  From there, when the interviewer responded with some degree of openness, she probed further about whether her idea of flexibility would work in their organization.  During this conversation, the nonprofit professional also expressed that she wanted to be clear on what was expected of her.  She wanted to set clear expectations from the outset:  she did not want to over promise and under deliver.  After further discussion, they arrived upon a mutually agreeable arrangement and agreed to touch base after 3 months to see how things were going with the workload and the needs at the organization. It was determined that the work objectives were being met in the allotted time so both parties were pleased.  This has worked well for many years due to open communication, trust, clear expectations, time management and an arrangement that is mutually beneficial.

A doctor at a leading hospital began a conversation with her employer using an approach of commitment to a clinical space and patient population with an opportunity for growth and expansion. She remained open to feedback about ensuring clinical coverage was adequate, and remained available by phone and pager for set hours of the day when she was not in the hospital. Back up clinical care was arranged in case of emergencies. She manages relationships with others on her team by meeting her work duties, communicating openly about availability, and prioritizing reciprocal coverage for her colleagues.

A new group of the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce has formed to help build the “FlexWork” community in Houston.  The professionals in this group are interested to help grow flexible work opportunities that will ultimately accommodate the pace and flexibility required in modern life.  The group hopes to increase the number of “FlexWork” opportunities to help employers find the talent they need to address workplace needs while helping job seekers find work that is both personally and financially fulfilling in a flexible framework.

If you’d like to find out more about how your company can explore if flexible work arrangements are right for you, or if you’d like to join the community of folks interested in joining the conversation, contact the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce.


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