My recent blog post, “Who Says There’s Flexibility?”, talked about the fact that 1 and 4 working women in America do have some kind of flexibility. This benefit is rarely granted across the board, so anything but a traditional work structure can appear to be a long shot. Until more women step forward and share their flexibility case studies, The Custom-Fit Workplace is a great book for advice, inspiration and guidance on how to approach your boss.
When you look around your office and see so many women working long hours, it can be hard to believe that flexibility actually exists. It is indeed happening: the book provides case studies from companies like Jet Blue, Ernst & Young, and Best Buy—and profiles strategies that are gaining traction in workplaces nationwide.
These companies have gone public about their flexibility, but others loosen their grip on the 40 to 60-hour in-the-office work week more quietly. At a recent dinner I was surprised to hear from a partner at a top management consulting firm that they have an actual program in place to give women—or men—the opportunity to work fewer hours, but stay on a professional track. This option may be a slower route to senior management, but it allows women to spend more time with their families without fully putting the brakes on their careers. I’ve heard of similar programs at top law firms—and these programs seem to offer the best of both worlds.
When you’re hanging on to your work life by a thread and thinking a hiatus is your only option, remember that flexibility comes in many forms. Some women have told me that their employers allow them to start their days at 9:30 so that they can see their children off to school. This may be enough for some women, but the book delves into all the possibilities: new twists on traditional flexible hours and part-time work strategies, virtual workplaces, Results-Only Work Environments (ROWEs), “Babies at Work” programs? and various “on ramp and off ramp” opportunities.
If stalwart conservative companies like Ernst & Young can figure out flexibility and have the comfort level to broadcast their success, I think just about any company can follow suit. It’s hard for employers to raise their eyebrows and dismiss flexibility when there’s proof that it works.Do some research among friends at other companies to find out what kind of flexibility is working at their companies.
Do some research among friends at other companies to find out what kind of flexibility is working at their companies.
Approach your boss about flexibility when you’ve done your homework and you fully understand how flexibility can work for both you and your employer.
This blog first appeared on 9 Lives for Women on 04/18/2012.