3 Ways to Get More Flexibility at Work

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: March 10, 2014

Workplace Flexibility is Increasingly Important

Flexibility rated as one of the top perks people look for in a job. Whether you're a parent looking for a better work/life balance, or simply someone who wants to cut down on commuting time and costs, more and more jobseekers are actively seeking out workplace flexibility.

Here’s a primer of the three most common forms of workplace flexibility that can help you balance family and life demands with your career.

3. Compressed Work Weeks

Compressed work weeks involve working longer hours each work day, but then earning extra days off. The most common CWW approaches include four 10-hour days per week with a three-day weekend or, more commonly, nine 9-hour days with every other Friday off. In essence, you bank extra hours and then spend them for long weekends.

A CWW benefits employees by allowing them long weekends for travel or family commitments and the ability to have time off during normal working days/times. Having weekday time off for errands or family opens up weekends for more free time and relaxation. It also certainly helps getting Christmas shopping done or taking the family to the latest kids’ movie without the crush of crowds. Finally CWWs can reduce the need for paid childcare.

Employers often prefer CWW to other flexible workplace arrangements because they can be assured that employees are indeed putting in full time at work, and because employee time off is more predictable, making it easier to plan meetings and other work activities. As such, it is often easier to negotiate with your employer for a CWW than other alternative work schedules.

2. Telecommuting

Telecommuting involves working from somewhere other than the traditional workplace. Most often, this means working from home using computers, smartphones and internet connections. Some companies are completely distributed, with employees rarely working in the same physical location. Other employers prefer the use of part-time telecommuting, in which one-quarter to one-third of an employee’s work hours can be performed at home. Others rely on telecommuting in ad-hoc situations, such as when a key employee must be home for family reasons or in the aftermath of severe weather that makes coming into work hazardous.

The obvious benefits of telecommuting for employees include the reduction/elimination of commutes, increased work autonomy, and the increased ability to integrate work and family demands on customized schedule.

Many employers also see telecommuting as advantageous. Telecommuting allows companies to manage distributed teams and attract talent from beyond the local labor market, reduces office space requirements, and allows them to retain talent who may need telecommuting solutions for their work-family demands.

On the other hand, many employers are leery of telecommuting because they fear that employees may abuse the privilege and slack off; that a lack of coworker interaction may harm cohesiveness, the generation of new ideas and collective performance; and that they will lose the ability to evaluate and manage employee performance without "facetime."

In fact, many of these fears are unfounded, depending on the nature of the job, employee and customer needs. However, because of these fears, it may be difficult to negotiate for anything more than part-time or ad-hoc telecommuting options.

1. Flextime

With flextime, employees still work the same amount of hours but can shift their work times earlier or later than the typical "9 to 5." For example, an employee may wish to work "7 to 3" so he/she can be home to see the children after school, or another may work better on a later "10:30-6:30" schedule. Further, some flextimers work longer hours two days a week, and shorter hours on other days. Most companies that allow flextime mandate that there be some core hours in which all employees must be at the workplace, such as Mondays through Thursdays from 10am to 2pm.

Flextime is particularly useful for managing the work-family juggle in dual-career and single-parent households, which represent the majority of US families. As such, this can be a particularly important work arrangement. Employees can benefit from flextime by arranging their work schedules around their family or other life demands and make up the work when they are more able to do so.

From the employer point of view, flextime is advantageous because it requires full-time hours at work, and, along with core hours, still allows for coworker interaction and accessibility to clients. For this reason, many employers are more amenable to flextime arrangements than telecommuting.

Negotiate Everything

In short, workplace flexibility plays a vital role in keeping employees productive and happy. You may want to use the information in this article to determine whether one of these approaches is right for you, and which you may be able to negotiate for at your workplace.

But when you're done negotiating non-compensation related items, it'll be time to negotiate salary. And Salary.com can help you get paid fairly what you do.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.