By Paige Hobey
Ready to make a change at work? Whether you want to work from home or cut back to part-time, it’s never easy to approach your management with a request. Start by writing a proposal that includes your ideal job responsibilities and schedule, your communication plan, the benefits of your proposal from your manager’s perspective (such as continued productivity with reduced costs), and your suggested next steps.
Anticipate resistance? Propose a trial period to ensure everyone is comfortable with the change. Or if you want to work from home, begin with one to two days a week away from the office.
Even with a well-written proposal, some managers may still need an extra push. Before you present your pitch, check out these common employer concerns and our recommended responses so you’re ready to make your case.
"If we approve your request, it will set a difficult precedent."
Some employers take the long view, fearing any alternative work arrangement may lead to an avalanche of similar requests. Explain every position in the company is unique, so your work arrangement will not necessarily set a new precedent. Other employees should understand that management evaluates every request on an individual basis.
"A flexible/shortened schedule just won’t work for your job."
This knee-jerk management reaction tends to result from a lack of imagination. Certain aspects of your job may require face-time, but you could break out the discrete tasks and demonstrate how each one can still be accomplished in your new arrangement. Don’t let your boss get off this easy.
"The team is already swamped, and no one can take over any of your work."
Head off this objection by suggesting projects that could be eliminated or completed less frequently. Once you’ve exhausted opportunities for reducing your weekly workload, lay out a plan for delegating some tasks without putting too much burden on anyone. Is there a junior employee on your team who wants more responsibility? Offer to train her and slowly transition some projects. How about someone at your level who wants additional client exposure? She might be happy to take over some client service responsibilities.
"During busy periods we need everyone to work longer hours, so we can’t approve a shortened schedule like this. It’s unrealistic."
Crunch times are inevitable, with some jobs more than others, but the occasional busy period doesn’t preclude an alternative schedule. You may be able to negotiate a flextime schedule that ends at 4 p.m., but offer to take work home or come in early during particularly crazy weeks. And as a part-timer, you could work full weeks a few times a year. Be creative—you want to maintain boundaries between work and home, but you also want your request approved. Good luck finding a manageable compromise.
"We need to be able to reach you at all times, so this just won’t work."
PDAs, cell phones, and designated phone and fax lines can offer guaranteed accessibility. Explain your communication plan to your employer.
"It could bring down team morale if everyone else is working long hours and you have a special arrangement to work part-time."
This is a toughie, and the right response depends on the personalities of your colleagues and your company’s corporate culture. Point out your willingness to bring work home if needed, your strong relationships with teammates, and your track record. If you’ve proven yourself over time, your team should continue to respect your contributions even in a reduced role.
Almost 68 million women are employed in our country, accounting for 46% of the U.S. labor force. Our employers need to keep us happy, and flexible work arrangements are increasingly common. One in four employed women work part-time, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and almost 14 million people work from home for an employer, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Be confident and be persistent. We’re all out here rooting for you.