If you're anything like me, you've driven yourself crazy trying to carve out time where it doesn't seem to exist. One potential solution? An alternative work arrangement. When structured well, it can help you get more stuff done and have more free time.
It worked for me: I have a 32-hour workweek.
I've been working as a health-care analyst since 2007 and had been toying with the idea of pitching an alternative schedule for years, but was always too scared to ask. I worked at the same company for more than five years, but it wasn't until I accepted a more challenging position with a competitor that I felt it was now or never.
I analyzed my role to pinpoint how I could get the job done in under 40 hours a week. My proposal involved a pay cut, but it was absolutely worth it. I feel like I matter to the company because they took time to hear me out and grant my request, which has made me more motivated and productive. Surprisingly, and to my great relief, I didn't experience too much of a negative reaction from coworkers, either (we have several on-call employees who also work flexible schedules).
Ready to ditch the grind for an alternative schedule? Here's how to make the pitch to your employer.
Decide Which Arrangement Works Best For You
Assess both your position and the company culture to figure out what to ask for. Besides the 32-hour week, consider other arrangements: telecommuting part of the week, working an extra hour each day to be off every other Friday, or working a compressed week (like four 10-hour days).
Once you've made the decision, try saying something like, "I've been thinking about ways to increase my productivity, and I'd like to talk to you about potentially changing my work schedule."
The question you'll probably get is: "But how will all your work still get done?" That's why it's essential to have tracked your time and projects — you'll be confident you can deliver on what you're promising. I listed all the projects I’m responsible for and showed how I would be able to complete them on my adjusted schedule.
Map the Benefits to Your Employer
Your boss will be most receptive if you identify how this will benefit the company, not just you. Because I knew that employee retention was a hot topic at work, I emphasized that being able to pursue my passion projects outside the office would make me a happier, more loyal employee. If you’re using your extra time to learn skills that will help you at work, that’s definitely a benefit to your company as well.
Once you have your list of benefits, work them into the conversation by saying something like: "I've looked into it, and companies that offer alternative work arrangements often have happier and more loyal employees. I also plan to enroll in a class to pursue an Excel certification, which will help with my position in X ways."
If your employer seems reluctant, consider asking for a trial period: Maybe you'll work this new schedule for a month, then follow up to make sure it's working for everyone.
Make Financial Adjustments if Necessary
In my case, because I work 20 percent less than a typical full-time employee, I took a corresponding pay cut. This was not negotiable, because our salaries are based on a 40-hour work schedule. I knew that I could offset this loss with freelance work, and I viewed the salary decrease as motivation to add more projects.
While I was okay with an adjusted salary, everyone is different; in fact, this has been the biggest reason my coworkers have said they won’t ask for a similar arrangement. Some companies may not require a pay cut at all — if you’re on a set salary and are delivering the same amount of work in a shorter timeframe, you should get paid accordingly.
Initially, let your employer guide this area of the conversation. That way, you’re not offering to take a pay cut.
Communicate Across the Company
If your request is approved, work with your manager to be sure your coworkers know about the change. The last thing you want is to hurt productivity — my goal was for things to be as seamless as possible.
If you have direct reports, schedule time to sit down together and go over how this will affect workflow and any regular meetings. When meeting with your team, say something like: "My focus has not changed, and I'm still committed to being available to all of you." Be clear about your availability, and make sure to answer any questions and alleviate any concerns they have. ▲
Nikki Carter is a New Orleans–based writer and editor who runs Spirit Style and Scribe and has written for a number of websites, including the award-winning GoNOLA.com. Follow her adventures in writing, yoga, and personal growth on Instagram.