A 2016 Report by Chief Executive Women (CEW) and Bain & Co entitled ‘The Power of Flexibility’ found that “in order to advance gender equality in the workplace, flexible arrangements must be available to and actively supported for both genders”. From an individual perspective “where flexible arrangements are widely used, all employees are four times happier”.
Nice! Flexible work arrangements are great for both genders and make us four times happier. What's not to like?
So why is it that many of the women I speak with are hesitant to ask? Reasons include:
The boss is old fashioned and he or she will never allow it
My organisation doesn’t really accommodate it – the policy is there but we don't make it easy with technology, and we need our people to be visible and on the ground
I’m worried that if I do ask I’ll be perceived as though I'm not ambitious enough any more, and it will be harder to compete for plum assignments and negotiate on salary and future career opportunities.
True - these are all valid concerns, yet times are changing albeit more slowly in some industries than others. However, they are changing as organisations recognise that flexible working arrangements are incredibly helpful as a talent acquisition and retention strategy.
“You are enabled to really attract the best talent to your organisation. If you are not limited by a specific office location, you can look anywhere in the country or anywhere on the globe.” Nicole McCabe – Director of Global Diversity and Inclusion at SAP
To assist you to carve out more flexible arrangements that are a win win for both you and your organisation – here are five issues to consider
Do ask – if you don’t ask you won’t get.
Mindset - shift from thinking about trading time for money to trading impact or results for money. When you make that shift yourself its easier to see the benefits of your work for what they are which means you can articulate them more clearly to your boss.
Back yourself - Instead of Abba “take a chance on me” think far more Kylie “you should be so lucky!” Self confidence combined with self advocacy are very compelling career assets.
Make a plan, don’t just wing it – just like when you negotiate a raise, craft a plan beforehand, and include what you do want, how it helps the organisation and where your line in the sand is.
Don’t accept the first no you get as “no forever” - maybe it’s “no, not right now but let’s revisit in a month” or "not sure? How about a trial for a month?"
If you are successful
For those who have been successful in navigating this flex conversation you want to put some risk mitigation strategies in place to make sure that people don't side line or forget you exist. They key theme is don't leave them wondering.
Proactively manage expectations and set protocols - Make sure your boss, team and customers know how and when to find you - when you are at work and when you’re not; when you’ll respond and when you won’t.
Be strategic re emailing and communications with your team, staff and boss - timing is everything. I knew a bloke once who took this to the extreme and would deliberately email the boss at 10pm at night every now and then. It worked a treat for him, but made everyone else who knew about it feel vaguely ill and the boss look incredibly gullible. I'm not recommending that, but if you are worried your boss thinks you are skiving off, email a progress report at the end of your working day.
Be strategically visible on a regular basis so you don’t get forgotten - When you do get into the office - stay visibile.
One of my clients is a senior level executive, with young children and an overseas client in a very different time zone. The demands on her personally and professionally are high including spending much of her time working late nights on the client portfolio. She has flex arrangements. However, she noticed that head office staff started to bypass her in important decisions because she wasn’t perceived asbeing around. She was becoming invisible. So she came up with a plan that included making sure to stop in and have conversations with key decision makers before she headed to her own division area on the days she did come into the office. At the end of her stint in the office she would then revisit the C-level decision makers for ad-hoc visits and corridor chats before she left to work from home. Highly visible. Highly sought after. Much more satisfied.
Drop me an email if you've got any tactics that might help others navigate flexible arrangements.
And do get in touch if you want help with that.
Vive la révolution! #ambitionrevolutionrocks #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #feminineambition #success #career #standout #executivewomen #careerfutureproofing
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