Working flexibly has become more common over the last few years, as many large companies are trying to promote work-life balance, as well as recruit and retain female employees. A few different options exist, with the most common described below. It is important to remember that you can combine these in the way that works best for you and your family. You should also be open to switching between them as, and when, your needs change.
One of the most obvious choices available to you is to return to work part-time, by either dropping a day or working reduced hours. Your employer, however, might find this more difficult to agree to, as it may not be appropriate for your position. However, if it is available it will give you more time away from the office to spend with your family. I have often been cautioned away from this approach. It can be the case, depending on role and industry, that you will be paid less, and yet do the same amount of work as you were prior to moving to part-time hours. So if you go down this route, make sure to enforce some boundaries around your work hours.
- Working from home
Also known as telecommuting, this is self-explanatory. A lot of companies now provide employees with an at-home setup, and with technology advancements, you can work just as effectively from home as you can from the office, if not more. Most people do not do this full-time, but on a set number of days per week – most commonly between 1 and 3 days a week. You can also work from home for part of the day, and do reduced hours in the office.
One of the big advantages of this option resides in the fact that you cut down on your commuting time. Many employers encourage this particular flexible work arrangement, and many large cities with large cities’ issues such as gridlocked traffic promote this type of work arrangements heavily to the business community. It can be an argument to use when negotiating flexible working arrangements with your manager.
Also known as time-agnostic, this is when you move your hours outside the standard business hours. This could work for you if you wanted to spend more time at home in the morning and get into the office later, or if you need to leave work early for pick-ups. This can be combined with working from home as well – where you, for example, leave the office early and then work from home in the evening after your child is in bed. To me, this is the most useful type of flexibility for working parents as it enables you to juggle child-related activities that happen during a standard workday, and you might also be able to commute outside of rush hour and avoid some of the pain associated with crowded roads or public transport.
- Compressed week
A compressed week happens when you work your weekly hours in fewer days during the week, for instance, over four days instead of a regular five-day week. This does not work in all business settings, where you might be doing long hours anyway. However, if it is open to you, then it will allow you an additional full day with your child and could lighten your childcare burdens as well.
Whatever option you pick will likely require negotiating with your managers. Depending on your industry and your workplace, this will range from the easy to the incredibly painful, but in the end will very well be worth it. If you want more information on making flexible working arrangements work, check out our tip sheet!