This week, we acknowledge National Telework Week, an initiative launched four years ago by Mobile Work Exchange to encourage agencies, organizations and individuals to pledge to work remotely for an entire week. According to 2013 statistics, 136,000 thousand pledged their participation during last year's event, which was estimated to save "$12.3 million in commuting costs and kept cars from driving 12.1 million miles." What's more, participants of National Telework Week gained back a total of 665,936 hours, which equates to 76 years.
National Telework Week drives awareness of the "win-win" outcomes flexible work options, such as telecommuting, have for both companies and their employees. Companies are finding success implementing these alternatives to the traditional work environment because they help improve staff productivity and morale and decrease employee turnover. Business leaders are choosing to create more fitting cultures to attract and accommodate top talent with an end goal in mind -- retaining those who will drive the company and its initiatives forward.
Flexible work options have undoubtedly helped professional women better align their personal and professional lives. But unfortunately, not everyone finds it easy to incorporate flexible work options into her lifestyle. While a majority of the workforce is aware that we're undergoing a shift from 9-5 being the norm to having "alternative" or "non-traditional" ways of working, according to our third annual workplace survey, employees still report feeling limited in their personal ability to gain flexible work options. Almost half (47 percent) of working adults agree that asking for flexible work options would hurt their chances of advancing in their job.
There is a disconnect between what is being offered and what women feel they can take advantage of without jeopardizing their professional development. We want to encourage one another so that women feel more empowered to ask for what they want without feeling like they are susceptible to diminished career opportunities. If you have serious stage fright about making the "ask" for more flexibility, here are some truths to remember about flexible work to foster the needed confidence to take control of your work/life alignment:
- Asking for flexibility is not asking for a favor. Too often, we think of a flexible work arrangement as a special accommodation the company makes for an employee. This overarching thought tends to keep the conversation more focused as a personal request than a business proposition, which is where the conversation can quickly breakdown. Flexibility is a smart business strategy. The ROI of flexibility for companies has been proven time and time again through numerous research studies and realized first hand at the front-line.
- We're often our own biggest obstacle. Fear of a "no," or the possibility of seeming selfish or ungrateful, so often holds women back; otherwise, we would have asked for what we wanted already. When faced with a tough decision or conversation, we tend to internalize and over focus on negative thoughts. We think about all of the reasons why something may not work versus all of the reasons it can work. Do your research and present your case with confidence. Hearing a "no" never hurt anyone. Your employer won't give you more money, more flexibility or a promotion if you don't ask. Have the courage to ask, and the resolve to be okay with the answer.
- Think outside the traditional employment box. Most of us think that employment is with a company on either a full-time or part-time basis where the company pays you either a salary or an hourly rate, sometimes offers benefits and withholds your taxes. While this is still a large percentage of jobs, a major shift is underway to move toward more non-traditional work options. It is what we call "Working Outside of the Box." There are number of different terms that you have probably heard before that fall into this category, such as consultants, independent contractors, freelancers, staffing agency employees and temporary employees.
If you need assistance in requesting flexible work options or uncovering your work/life alignment needs, there are many resources and tools to reference. For example, Mom Corps recently launched Mom Corps YOU, an all-inclusive online community for seeking support and expert resources for better integrating professional and personal lives. We have two featured events this week: "Returning to Work Later? What to Do Now" on Tuesday, Mar. 4 and on Thursday, Mar.6 Dr. Taz Bhatia will discuss what doctors eat offering tips, recipes, and the ultimate eating plan. Both webinars are at 1 p.m. EST.
Thinking it's time for change? Or perhaps you have tips for empowering women to seek change? Share your thoughts and who you may be interested in hearing from through Mom Corps YOU's community forums.