October is National Work and Family month, a time when employers are encouraged to celebrate progress and also continue to review the business benefits of creating healthier and more flexible work environments. And while businesses should always be thinking about how to better support, engage, or retain their employees, it’s important to use this time to shed a light on the benefits of flexible work.
From my work consulting organizations on how to better support and retain parents, especially new moms, in the workplace, I can tell you flexibility is a key component to success. Were it not for the outdated societal norms that companies and employers still (automatically) employ; women might actually be positioned for gender parity at work. FlexJobs CEO and Founder, Sara Sutton Fell put it this way “By making flexible work options more readily available for all workers, both men, and women, we create a more equitable workforce and reduce the friction between work and life that affects many more women than men.”
Instead, what we see is 43% of highly qualified women with children leaving the workforce either temporarily or for good; which leads to a breakdown in the leadership pipeline. Women who were once sailing smoothly along their career paths and ascending to new heights come crashing down after having children. For new moms especially, flexibility is critical. There are more reasons than options, for a working mother to request an unconventional work day. And by doing so, both employees and employers have the opportunity to create a more harmonious work environment that benefits everyone.
Freelancers, Part-Timers, and remote workers report greater work-life integration and are typically more satisfied with their work than their non-traditional counterparts. With the emergence of Co-working/childcare spaces, new moms in the workforce can perform their jobs and still be in the same building as their children. These co-working/childcare dwellings not only provide a shared environment for career-minded women to flourish but promote the enrichment and well-being of the children in their care. Keltse Bilbao, founder, and owner of Big + Tiny located in Los Angeles insists: “Work-life balance can be especially difficult to achieve for parents of young children. Today, people are becoming increasingly more aware of the importance of spending quality time with their loved ones while being productive and successful. Big and Tiny is the space that helps parents achieve this balance.”
Flexibility is one of the most sought-after benefits in the modern workforce. Millennials would actually take less pay if it meant more flexibility at work and increased work-life integration. And while companies are often slow to adopt formal policies, unemployment rates are at all time lows and the war for talent is high. New parents are poised to ask for more control over their work-life integration. Here are 3 ways to ask for flexibility in your current role:
1. Do your research.
Consult your colleagues to see if they’ve inquired about or received flexible benefits. Does your company have any formal policies around flexibility? If so, take note and include the policy and/or success stories to craft your request. No policy? Start with some key facts about flexibility and determine what your ideal scenario would be to draft your proposal.
2. Company, first.
Frame your request in a way that clearly outlines, first and foremost, the benefit your flex schedule will have for the company. Address how the flexibility will help those on your team and your boss as well. By putting the company first, your boss will be more receptive and willing to indulge you.
3. Be open to compromise.
If there’s any hesitation or pushback from your employer, ask for a trial period and a temporary arrangement of 3 months. Or if your initial request is to work remotely full time, consider a trial of just one or two days a week. Document your productivity and achievements during the trial period, and be open to feedback so that both you and your employee will recognize the benefits of your new flexible schedule.
Moving into a flexible schedule doesn’t have to mean off-ramping. Staying the course and asking for what you need can be a win-win for everyone; workers are happier/less stressed which increases productivity, while companies benefit from higher employee retention.