Monthly Archives: November 2016

Asking for the Perfect Flexible Schedule

There’s a lot of talk about flexible schedules these days—working from home one day a week (or always!); working four-day weeks instead of five; or shifting the traditional 9-to-5 to something that works around your family, hobbies, or preferred working schedule, just to name a few.

But while you’ve probably heard of these options, you may have pushed them aside, thinking that a flexible work schedule “just wouldn’t work” for your job or company.

Well, I’m here to tell you that, in many cases, it can. And it can definitely make a huge difference in your life: Yes, it can improve your sleep, relationships, and hobbies, but it can also help you maintain your health and vigor on the job.

While it probably wouldn’t have worked in some of my previous jobs, like when I worked in investment banking or when I was on the buy-side, I recently took a corporate job, where it did. Here’s what I learned through the process of asking for more flexibility and a change to my schedule—and how you can do it, too.

 

1. Prioritize Your Most Important Needs

As you think about what type of flexible schedule will work best for you, ask yourself: What are the two most important needs in your life outside of your day job? What are the schedule adjustments that would most dramatically affect your stress level and happiness? Is it making time for your daily workout class, or is it needing to make calls during normal business hours for that startup idea you’re trying to get off the ground? Having two schedule changes to propose is often helpful because it allows room for a potential compromise to get at least one.

For me, I wanted to work from home on Fridays so that I could have less distraction from impromptu office meetings and friendly interruptions, thus leading to less of a to-do list over the weekend. Plus, I could get laundry and other tasks done while on conference calls, again leaving more time for purely my interests over the weekend. I also wanted to start my workday later than my boss, who has a long commute and gets into the office before 6 AM in order to leave in time to pick up her kids from school.

From there, you can strategize how your work schedule might be adjusted to meet these needs. If you are running a nonprofit on the side and need to be at some weekday events, say, maybe you can designate specific hours of being logged into your work later in the evening or on an off day to tie up your responsibilities. Or if you need to make a morning swim session to prepare for the triathlon you’ve been training for, instead designate a period of time before heading off to the gym, or an hour before bed, to pre-address anything going on in the morning while you’re away.

Of course, your schedule and preferences aren’t all you’ll have to think about, which brings me to…

 

2. Understand What an Appropriate Ask Can Be

Every workplace has a culture that allows for different types of flexibility. There will be some aspects that you will not be able to change, and that’s important to understand before you go any further.

First, read your employee handbook to see if there are major ground rules that you need to observe. At my job, for example, it’s acceptable to get a workout in during the day as long as you’re finishing your workload on time and not leaving during critical work periods. But if you’re on market hours, you probably won’t be able to leave during the middle of trading.

It’s also worth asking a couple veteran employees how they manage other priorities and view the company’s perception on non-work related activities and to pay attention to what others on your team are doing. If you have a group that runs at lunch, it’ll be easier to join them than to ask to leave early to go to the gym. Or if you have a group that leaves to make their children’s sports, you may be able to adapt your needs to coincide with their time away.

Facts About This Growing Trend

In both jobs I’ve had since finishing school, there has been the option to work somewhere other than the office, whether it be my apartment for the day or my mom’s house when I visit her.

I’m not the only lucky one. People all over the United States are starting to experience this perk at their jobs, too. Some recruiters are even interviewing candidates for positions that are specifically remote, meaning the employee would be based in a completely different city or state than the headquarters.

And while you may think working from home would be a major distraction (TV to watch, dishes to wash, oh my!), 77% feel they are more productive than when they work in the office. Check out some more fun facts below about this growing trend and the people who do it.

We’re talking about making yourself presentable, and you do that primarily through clothing, shoes, accessories. You may be able to get away with staying in your yoga pants all day on a rainy Sunday, but they likely won’t pass muster in the office. When survey participants were asked how much they spend on clothing, shoes and accessories for work in a given year, 47% said they spend $250 or more and one in 10 employees (or 13%) admitted to spending $750 or more.

Of course, even if you work for yourself or don’t report to an office ever, you’ve still got to get dressed, and you’ve still got to eat. Having a job that you’re physically required to be at doesn’t necessarily have to add to your wardrobe expenses, particularly if you know how to make smart clothing purchases, but it’s probable that it will somehow. And if you’re on the job search, well you’re likely spending money to travel to interviews, and let’s not forget about the money you’re putting toward printing copies of your resume on pretty, ecru-colored paper.

Another Good Reason Going Into the Office Every Day

Whether you’re taking the bus, driving your car, or participating in a car pool, getting to work every day is costly. Maybe you pay to park in a garage, or you commute via train. You buy a coffee on your way into work and a piece of fruit or an egg sandwich some mornings. You button up in compliance with the office’s business casual dress code, and you even sometimes put money toward networking events. According to CareerBuilder, you’re spending an average of $276 to $3,300 per year on these various commuting-related expenditures.

The national survey looked at approximately 3,000 full time employees across a range of industries in both big and small companies. Harris Poll, who conducted the survey, examined how much people spend on gas or public transportation as well as how much money they put toward daycare or petcare—or both. If you’re one of the 50% of people who buys lunch each day, the amount you spend per workday obviously goes up significantly. But even if you always make your coffee at home, diligently pack food each day, and bring your dog to work at an office that’s within walking distance of your home, you’re still not off the hook.

We’re talking about making yourself presentable, and you do that primarily through clothing, shoes, accessories. You may be able to get away with staying in your yoga pants all day on a rainy Sunday, but they likely won’t pass muster in the office. When survey participants were asked how much they spend on clothing, shoes and accessories for work in a given year, 47% said they spend $250 or more and one in 10 employees (or 13%) admitted to spending $750 or more.

Of course, even if you work for yourself or don’t report to an office ever, you’ve still got to get dressed, and you’ve still got to eat. Having a job that you’re physically required to be at doesn’t necessarily have to add to your wardrobe expenses, particularly if you know how to make smart clothing purchases, but it’s probable that it will somehow. And if you’re on the job search, well you’re likely spending money to travel to interviews, and let’s not forget about the money you’re putting toward printing copies of your resume on pretty, ecru-colored paper.

If there’s one not-quite-obvious thing that the survey results indicate, it’s that we are more in need of flexible work policies and the option to work remotely on occasion. Think of how skipping the commute just one day a week would reduce the money you spend each week on getting to and from work—and everything that’s involved in that process. Whether you’re just saving money on the cost of a subway ride, on fuel for your car, or lunch because you forgot to plan ahead (again!), there’s no question that you’ll save more. The clothing you don’t need to get dry-cleaned? The dog walker you don’t need to schedule? I’m seeing dollar signs.

Home Days Are Actually Productive

From small startups to large corporations, the option to occasionally work from homeis becoming an increasingly popular benefit. In fact, I’m willing to bet that a good number of you have already made use of this perk. As with anything, though, working remotely is only as productive as you make it.

While you might not be constantly pulled aside for on-the-fly conversations and last-minute requests, you might find it hard to sit down and actually make things happen when you have instant access to your bed, TV, and countless other distractions. But this can be exactly what you need to help you plow through your to-do list, lighten your workload, and recharge your energy—as long as you’re strategic about it.

Want to learn what you can do to turn your non-office days days into major wins? Check out the tips below.

 

1. Set Up Your Sanctuary, Wherever That Might Be

Most offices are designed with productivity in mind—your living room, not especially. If you want to make big things happen, you need to make sure you’re in a setting that encourages you to do so. A lot of people recommend setting up a formal workspace in an isolated room (or even getting decked out in business-casual attire while you’re at it), but I think it’s all about creating a happy space for yourself.

As long as you choose somewhere that’s relatively quiet and free from interruptions (no roommates, significant others, or pets to get in your way), you should work wherever you feel most comfortable, whether that’s in a home office, your bed, or even outside on your front porch. Before determining your space, however, take a good, objective look at yourself and your work style. If you’re liable to doze off taking up residence with your computer on your bed, it might not be the best place for you to tackle tasks.

Other environmental hacks that might be worth taking into consideration as you create your sanctuary: surrounding yourself in natural light to decrease stress, adding a few small plants to your workplace to promote creativity, listening to music to improve your mood, and, interestingly enough, working in a room with high ceilings to enhance abstract thinking and increase your attention to detail. You may only be able to do one or two of these hacks, but take advantage of what you can while you’re not stuck in the office.

 

2. Build a WFH-Optimized Agenda

I’m a big believer in agendas regardless of location, but when you’re working from home, they’re particularly important. Without a manager to check in on you or hardworking co-workers to inevitably create an environment of productivity, you alone need to hold yourself accountable—and there’s no better way to do that than by creating (and following) a solid plan.

The first step to devising a tailored agenda is choosing the right tasks. Working from home offers you an amazing opportunity to stay focused for long periods of time without distraction, which is perfect for intensive, independent projects like blog posts, proposals, and presentations, or anything else that involves a lot of careful thought and creativity.

Even if the deadline for a project like that isn’t imminently looming over your head, it’s worth getting a head start—you rarely get this much uninterrupted time to work, so save the routine maintenance for when you’re back in the office. Once you have your to-dos outlined, work them into a realistic schedule.