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Friday, August 27, 2010

6 Steps to a Schedule With Flexible Hours for Working Moms.

Do Your Homework

Just one in five working mothers with minor children say full-time work is the ideal situation for them, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Most want flexible hours.

But it's hard to find part-time work unless you're a sales clerk or preschool teacher. Indeed, the best way to get a satisfying, well-compensated part-time position is to negotiate a more flexible schedule with your current employer. You may not even need to reduce your workweek if you can complete your duties through telecommuting. Or, perhaps you can shift around work hours to accommodate doctor's appointments and school events.

Follow these six steps to achieve a flexible schedule at your current job:

Talk to friends and colleagues with flexible schedules. Ask them what they like or dislike about the arrangement. See whether it's hurt their career or earning potential. Make sure to think about the full range of possible schedules.

  • a compressed work week means four longer days, but you get Fridays off
  • working a 6 or 7 hour day in the office and finishing up after the kids are asleep
  • job sharing may be the best solution for time-intensive professions, like law
  • reducing your hours can be tough in client-driven fields; you don't want to get paid less and end up working full-time because of the pace of the industry

Think About Your Needs

Decide what schedule will work for your personal life. As much as you'd like to work less, you may not be able to afford the pay cut that comes with part-time work. Make sure you understand whether your employer reduces benefits for people who work less than full time.

Also, look at your work style and child care realities. Working from home may sound great until you're trying to concentrate on a report with three screaming kids underfoot. It can also be isolating, especially for introverts who need the encouragement of close quarters to interact with their co-workers.

Investigate childcare options. If your children are still little, see what you would save by cutting back on child care. Some centers don't really discount part-time care, so you might want to continue full time to retain the flexibility at work. If you have a babysitter, gauge how open she would be to a more flexible schedule with possibly fewer hours.

Make sure you have a backup for personal responsibilities, such as the inevitable sick child. Have a frank discussion with the people in your life to get them on board, whether it's your husband, mother or school carpool buddy.

Think About Your Employer

This is probably the most important step. It's really up to you to figure out how to cover your job responsibilities with the schedule you want. If others in your department are looking for better balance, they might be open to a group schedule that would give each person more time off while making sure all work is covered.

Determine which tasks must be completed in the workplace, which can be done on your own schedule, and which can be eliminated or delegated to another person. If you plan to go part-time, you will either have to eliminate certain duties or produce at a slower pace.

Write down your proposal. Ask co-workers with flexible schedules to share any documents they have, or look for templates on the Internet. Be sure to specify how work emergencies and crunch times would be handled.

Make Your Pitch

Take a deep breath. Now ask your boss to consider the new schedule. Again, it's up to you to make the case for how it helps the business.

If the initial reaction is frosty, ask your supervisor to simply consider the idea, or perhaps implement it on a trial basis. Try to work with your employer.

Implement the New Schedule

Communicate your new schedule to your superiors, colleagues and any customers. But don't go overboard. If you're planning to regularly check email and voicemail, only inform people who would need to reach you urgently.

The first few months may require some fine tuning for you to get the workload right. Try to set realistic deadlines and expectations, so you're not working overtime unnecessarily. Differentiate between urgent tasks and those you can delegate or delay.

Succeed With Flexible Hours

It's not a win just because they say yes. You need to stay in close touch with your boss, colleagues, and clients to make sure everything continues to go smoothly.

Remember that flexibility works both ways. Be willing to cover job emergencies, but make sure to take back the time off when work is slower. Nobody else will set those boundaries for you.

Be prepared for some resentment from others who want better work-life balance themselves. If confronted, gently remind them of the sacrifices you make for the schedule, whether it's checking email from home or earning less money. Don't apologize, or your co-workers will conclude that you have something to feel guilty about. Instead, be confident and perhaps they'll follow your example.

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