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How to Ask Your Boss For Flexibility As a Working Parent

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Wondering how to negotiate flexible working arrangements? Read these top tips provided by flexibility experts Kevin Delaney and Lauren Smith Brody.

With record numbers of parents dropping out of the workforce due to the demands of child care, making sure that you know how to negotiate flexible working arrangements is more important than ever before. Many working parents recognize the opportunity to make lasting changes in their companies when it comes to juggling their careers and parenthood and the conversations they’re having now can impact the future of parents in the workplace.

Wondering how to negotiate flexible working arrangements in your company? Let’s take a deeper look at this below. 

Parents Deserve Flexibility In The Workplace

While parents have always needed and deserved flexiblity in the workplace, the pandemic made this even more pronounced. In Vivvi’s 2021 State of Working Parents Survey, 82% of respondents said spending more time at home with their children over the past year has made employer-provided child care benefits even more important to them. 

Finding affordable, accessible child care is part of the problem; parents often struggle to find adequate child care arrangements to allow them to work full-time. There’s also often a stigma attached to being a parent in the workplace; many parents feel it is a “selfish need” to have to ask for flexible work arrangements to accommodate caregiving. As a result, you’ve got a situation where working parents don’t believe they can be adequately supported in the workplace.

You have a right to be more transparent with your company about your needs as a parent – not just as an employee. And that often means a flex work schedule. Although many companies did recognize the value that flexible working arrangements offered their employees during the pandemic, there are still many companies that are late to the game and are still not offering flexibility to those that need it most.

Why More Parents Are Looking For a Flexible Work-Life Balance

We can all agree that the pandemic was tough on us parents. Having to juggle the demands of our jobs remotely while also making sure that our children had access to an early learning program is no easy task. Many working parents spent an extra 27 hours per week on childcare and household tasks in 2020. 

Companies that offered a flex work schedule during the pandemic certainly made things a little less stressful on parents, but that isn’t to say that this delicate balance between being an employee and a parent wasn’t an issue before. 

Imagine this scenario: You need to collect your toddler from daycare before pick-up ends at 6 pm. You’re finishing up for the day when you get an urgent email that needs to be addressed ASAP. You rush to get the task done meaning you are 20 minutes late leaving the office. Now you are stuck in rush hour traffic and will be ten minutes late for pick-up…again. 

Does this situation sound familiar? 

Or maybe, you get a call from your child’s daycare that they are sick and you need to leave the office straight away but don’t have anyone to cover you. We can guarantee that every parent knows this feeling. That is why many are looking for a more flexible work-life balance. 

It is getting harder to ignore the fact that being a parent doesn’t always fit into the traditional “9 to 5” lifestyle we had for so many years. So, if you are looking to achieve a flexible work-life balance, how do you do that? What can you do to make sure that you get the flexibility you deserve and avoid returning to an office that is “business as usual”?

How to Ask Your Boss For a Flexible Work Schedule

We sat down with Kevin Delaney, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Charter, and Lauren Smith Brody, author of the Fifth Trimester to discuss how parents can start a conversation around flexibility with their managers and company.

While the idea of having this conversation with your manager may seem daunting, Lauren Smith Brody tells us to see this conversation “not as an accommodation that they’re giving you but actually as a way that you’re helping them make progress.” 

Step One: Do Your Research

The first step in asking for flexible working arrangements is to research your company’s existing policies and any precedents that have been set by others at your company. “Any negotiation begins by negotiating with yourself and understanding exactly what it is that you need and why you deserve it,” explains Lauren Smith Brody.

Make sure that you are assessing what your competitors are doing also. By looking at other businesses that are in the same industry, whether a direct competitor or not, and comparing their benefits plan with yours, this will help you to understand where your company may need to improve in terms of flexibility. 

This can help you when framing your request for a flexible work arrangement. If you can show your manager how the company can improve from a talent retention point of view, it will help in your negotiation for a flex work schedule for parents and other caregivers. 

“Flexibility is a component of having a more successful workplace,” says Kevin Delaney. “As you are thinking about your asks, think of those people who have had flexibility because of caregiving responsibilities as allies in terms of looking for flexibility.” 

Step Two: Build Your Case

The next step is to build your case and argument. Presenting research to your managers won’t always be enough in this situation, so you will also need to provide them with a plan for how a flexible working arrangement will be successful. 

It is recommended that you consolidate your core job tasks into three or five bullet points. Then formulate a plan for how you can deliver on those core deliverables even in a more flexible work environment. For example, you’ll always make sure to have a set window of time where you’ll be available to answer client emails and have meetings. 

“Come up with a plan and show how you could see this working so that it feels like a win-win if you did work flexibly,” advises Lauren Smith Brody. “If you did adaptively utilize any kind of flexibility during the pandemic and it worked, have that in mind too as proof of concept.”

Step Three: Propose a Trial Period

After you have presented your plan about how a flex work schedule could be implemented at your company, propose that you do a trial period. Take initiative here: detail how long the trial will be for and how you will measure its success. 

Lauren Smith Brody advises parents to “think personally about what it takes to be satisfied [in your job] and how you and your employer define success. Try to find some commonality there and express that in how you want the success of this plan to be measured.”

Remember, your manager may be hesitant to accept doing a trial period. While negotiating flexible working arrangements, remember to do it in a way that is inclusive of all caregivers, not just working parents. 

If your manager approves a trial period, summarize the conversation in writing immediately and make a conscious effort to keep your manager updated on how the trial period is going. If your manager is not amenable to the trial period, banding together with two or three other colleagues that are also in need of a flex work schedule can be helpful. 

Step Four: Be a Driver Of Change

So, you’ve had a conversation with your manager and they have agreed to run a trial period. Now, what happens? Being the person that initiated this change in your company allows you to make sure it is beneficial for all employees, existing and new. 

Keep reminding yourself that this change is not just for working parents but for all of your coworkers that have caregiving responsibilities, whether that is minding an elderly relative or a sick loved one. Make sure that you are a visible driver of this change. Let your coworkers and your manager know how a flexible work arrangement is improving your work-life balance. 

Negotiating Flexible Working Arrangements: Transparency is Key (On Both Sides)

Knowing how to negotiate flexible working arrangements with your boss doesn’t always come naturally to us as parents – especially as many of us only recently had a flexible work schedule due to the pandemic. The key to making this change successful is making sure that you and your manager are 100% transparent.

Be honest about how your flexible work plan is impacting your productivity, client relationships, work-life balance, and overall job satisfaction. Don’t leave out your family either. Mention how these changes have affected your home life too, even if it is as simple as allowing you to attend your son’s soccer match on a Wednesday evening. 

All companies want their employees to be happy in their work and personal lives. If you’re not happy at the moment, ask yourself: would a flexible working arrangement help? And if so, how can you make a lasting change for caregivers in your company? 

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