After a myriad of conversations, it is abundantly clear to me that almost everyone is interested in some type of workplace flexibility -- young and old, single and married, with children and without, more career-driven and less so.
Recalibrating the role and timing of corporate work in our lives is part of the conversation that we are all starting to have out loud. What does success mean? What are our 'life ambitions' -- corporate, family and more? As we start to engage proactively in these questions, flexibility -- the ability to have some choice and control over our combination of life activities -- is a critical part of the future solution.
What is the current status of flexibility? How widespread is it? How can YOU get some?
Unfortunately, our labor laws are half a century old and were conceived when the structure and dynamics of society were vastly different to what they had been before and have been since. The employment framework and models desperately need to evolve to reflect our current reality, but updating the laws has been proving harder to accomplish than anyone would like.
That said, surveyed last year for the 2012 National Study of Employers, 77% of U.S. companies offer flex time and 63% offer flex place (i.e. teleworking). Admittedly, the flexibility your company offers, if any, may not be available to you or be the type you want. However, more companies now acknowledge, or want to achieve, the numerous benefits workplace flexibility can bring.
So, what can you do to achieve some critical or desired flexibility to make your life 'work' or be more fulfilling? Here are steps to help you get it:
1. First, big picture -- think through what you want for your life. Are there different things for the medium-term than over the long-term? What do you envision for your position or career in combination with your family and other goals, and does that change over time?
2. Work out what kind of change of working hours or location you need or would like in your current or desired future corporate role. Are there any critical components to surface and incorporate?
Now, you have a sense of where you are going. Next, how do you get there?
3. Consider what might be the steps to getting to your desired flex set-up -- a stepped approach to change your hours, incrementally moving to teleworking on certain days or even shifting your type or line of work?
4. Familiarize yourself with workplace flexibility, so you understand the standard models and the numerous benefits that can result from each -- including employee loyalty and retention, real estate efficiencies and increased productivity. How outcome-oriented is your current or desired position? The more easily your work/tasks can be measure and tracked, the easier the transition to flex can be (for both you and your manager).
5. Sound out your current or potential manager (to the extent possible). Whether your company's flex policies are formal or informal, it is often the team/group manager who practically decides on the type and extent of flexibility implemented. It is their responsibility to see that the unit's work gets done. Try and get a sense of his or her attitude to different types of flex working so you can evaluate what to suggest.
6. Plan what you want in (reasonable) detail and, based on all the above, develop a proposal. When you present it, it will be clear that you have thought about it carefully; you are aware of how you will continue to get your tasks done; and you are conscientious about mitigating any potential negative impact. Although workplace flexibility is all about reciprocity, it will help the discussion and decision process if you can take the burden off your manager and show how you will make it work.
Now, you should be prepared.
7. Approach your manager. Propose something that will make a difference to you initially AND be a good introductory step. This could be just for you or for the unit altogether.
8. Hold your breath and cross your fingers!
I can't promise that your manager or company will understand, no matter how much you really need or want some flexibility. It is not yet widely appreciated that even small changes, with a nominal impact on daily operations at most, can be meaningful to employees, like you....
But, you do have options. There are other companies who 'get it' and realize that they benefit enormously when their employees have more broadly successful lives and are able to pursue more of their life ambitions than just their business careers. There is movement, increased noise, compelling data and, therefore, also hope. Honestly, it's about time.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power" which will take place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.
Follow Sophie Wade on Twitter: www.twitter.com/FlexcelNetwork