Workplace flexibility is ever more important to both women and men in the workforce and, as companies start to grow internationally and digitalize, it's becoming more and more possible for people to work flexible hours and/or from home.
A recent Catalyst survey of MBA graduates across different industries found that 50 percent of those surveyed said workplace flexibility was very or extremely important to them. 81 percent said their company offers some form of flexible work. In fact, more than three-quarters of U.S. companies have turned on to the advantages of flex time — which includes less stressed and happier workers and greater employee loyalty.
For employers, less stressed and happier workers means greater productivity and, thus, better business and bigger profits. For employees, this means they don't have to commute to work (they can call in instead!) and/or they can schedule their work hours around their other priorities like family. That said, the downside for both employers and employees is less facetime, which, of course, can be hugely important for effective communication.
Regardless, research shows that managers are more likely to grant these benefits to men over women, even ambitious women who have demonstrated a strong commitment to their careers. So, what do people who negotiate for flexibility successfully make sure to do? They start with these eight things.
1. They do their homework.
Find out what the company policy is regarding flexible work options. Telecommuting, reduced hours, early departure, virtual work, job sharing are some of the common offerings. Decide what would work best for you given your current situation.
Ask your colleagues if they know of people who have flexible work and reach out to those people and inquire how they negotiated their benefits. Get their advice on what works best and what not to do.
If the company does not have policies, be creative. Draft your own proposal.
2. They build their case.
Once you decide what options to ask for and you have collected your information about how this works best in your company, it’s time to craft your proposal. What is the best scenario for you? You can always negotiate for less if you get pushback.
3. They focus on how the company will benefit.
Be clear what you are requesting, then focus on how this will help your boss, department, or company. You need to answer this question in preparation for your negotiation. Increased productivity, more focus, less distractions from colleagues, could be considered. Keep the conversation focused on how you will be better able to perform better and get the job done.
4. They're practical, not emotional.
It’s critical for any negotiation to remain calm and confident. Leave your emotions and your ego at the door. It’s a business conversation and don’t take it personally if you get pushback initially. Be prepared emotionally to discuss different options.
5. They're prepared to give up something.
In any negotiation you need to be prepared to be flexible. Decide what you are willing to give up for the flexibility you want? If it’s less salary, than how much? If it’s working on a special assignment, are you willing to walk away?
6. They state their continued commitment to the company and their loyalty.
This may sound like a given, but your employer wants to hear it. Let them know you want a future with the company; you’re in it for the long haul. Your company will want to know that investing in you is a wise decision.
7. They ask for it.
Once you have done your homework, are clear on your options as well as what you want, schedule a meeting with your boss or perhaps your boss and HR, to go over your request. You may want to write up a formal proposal. Consider checking out this website for templates.
8. They're flexible.
Your company may not be ready to give you everything you ask for so be prepared to negotiate. You might suggest a trial period after which time you can revisit how this is working for both parties.
Remember flexibility is a win-win for both companies and career-minded women. Companies don’t lose top female talent and women don’t need to abandon their ambition. If you keep this in mind in your negotiation, it will help you position yourself successfully.
Bonnie Marcus, M.Ed, is an executive coach, author and keynote speaker focused on women's advancement in the workplace. A former corporate executive and CEO, Bonnie is the author of The Politics of Promotion: How High Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead, and co-author of Lost Leaders in the Pipeline: Capitalizing on Women's Ambition to Offset the Future Leadership Shortage.