How to Negotiate a Flexible Work Schedule

To get your boss to agree to such an arrangement, your proposal should spell out exactly how the arrangement will work, the value it will bring to your employer, and how your performance will be measured.

By Lori K. Long
Wed, August 29, 2007

CIO — Whether you are a working parent stressed out from balancing the conflicting demands of work and family, a young professional who'd rather hang out with friends than put in overtime or a baby boomer who's not quite ready for full-time retirement, a more flexible work arrangement can give you the time you need to manage and enjoy your personal life and achieve that ever-elusive goal of work-life balance.

While today's competitive corporate landscape puts tremendous pressure on professionals to work long days, more and more companies are waking up to the fact that 50-plus-hour workweeks lead to burnout. They're also beginning to see the benefits of offering their employees flexible work arrangements, such as part-time work, job sharing, telecommuting, compressed workweeks (full-time work in fewer days each week) and flexible schedules. According to the National Study of Employers, more than 68 percent of organizations offer at least some of their employees the option to work an alternate schedule. Companies that embrace job flexibility, such as Best Buy, McGraw-Hill, Cisco and Deloitte, witness higher productivity rates and lower employee turnover.

Best Buy's corporate headquarters has implemented what might be considered the ultimate flexible work environment, an initiative it calls the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), and it is paying off for the company. With ROWE, employees work when and where they want, and all meetings are optional. Departments that have implemented ROWE have seen up to a 35 percent increase in productivity and up to a 90 percent reduction in turnover, according to a report in the June 2007 issue of HR Magazine.

HRFocus reported in February 2007 that 91 percent of McGraw-Hill employees who have flexible work arrangements say that those arrangements have a positive impact on their productivity. Cisco's tele-work program resulted in $195 million in increased productivity, according to research conducted by Boston College's Sloan Work and Family Research Network. And Deloitte estimates it has saved $41.5 million in turnover costs since implementing flexible work options, according to Corporate Voices for Working Families.

Unfortunately, not all companies are as progressive as Best Buy, McGraw-Hill, Cisco and Deloitte when it comes to telecommuting, job sharing and compressed schedules. Flexible work arrangements are even harder for IT professionals to negotiate due to the nature of their work. After all, when the network goes down at 2 a.m., someone has to get it back up. And when a customer-facing system needs to be updated, the pressure on developers, testers and project managers to finish the enhancements on time and under budget often requires them to put in crazy hours.

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