When 9-to-5 doesn't fit into your family, here's how to customize your work arrangements.
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The trend of employers being more open to what has been termed “family-friendly” or “work-life” arrangements is on the upswing. In Canada, there are organizations, like Work & Family Foundation Canada, that provide research on the subject, advice for employees and services for employers looking to institute the kinds of policies that will help them retain staff and make their company more appealing to the new generation of workers.
Meanwhile, Canada’s Top Family Friendly Employers program recognizes companies that already offer flexible hours, compressed workweeks (for example, 40 hours in four days), job sharing, the ability to work from home and other scenarios that help working parents.
Some jobs are more flexible than others
Often office jobs lend themselves better to flexible work than manufacturing, retail or other shift work and factory jobs. “If you’re on the factory floor and the line starts at 8:30 in the morning,” says Nora Spinks, CEO of the Vanier Institute of the Family, “you’ve got to be there at 8:30 — there’s no opportunity to say, ‘can I come in at 9:15?’ What we are seeing is that manufacturing facilities and even heavy industry, like gas and oil, which may not be able to flex on a day-to-day basis, might flex on a month-to-month basis.”
Some mining companies fly in workers to a job site for three weeks and then they’ll be home for three weeks. And when they are at work, they’re offered video conferencing so they can read bedtime stories to their children. Even retailers that have historically demanded flexibility from employees are coming around. “They’re using online programs to make it possible for employees to go in and not just see their schedules, but have control over shift changes,” says Spinks. “That’s customization.”
HOW TO APPROACH YOUR BOSS
According to Pat Katepoo, the creator of workoptions.com, a website that helps working parents negotiate flexiblity at their current job, these kinds of agreements are more often hammered out between the employee and her direct manager. “That’s where success happens, despite the company policy, despite the industry, despite the history.” If you’re thinking of approaching your boss, here’s how to do it.
STEP 1: Build a case
Check with your HR department in case there are policies and programs on the books that aren’t being used. And if not, says Spinks, “ask your colleagues if there has been any precedent.” She also suggests looking at other companies within your sector. “Maybe your company doesn’t have policies, but the one down the street has all kinds of flexibility.”
Go to the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer to download case studies and research. And, if necessary, quote the White House. “I found this particulary useful for senior execs who don’t buy into [flex policies] yet,” says Spinks, referring to Work-Life Balance and the Economics of Workplace Flexibility, a 2010 US Presidential report stating, “the best available evidence suggests that encouraging more firms to consider adopting flexible practices can potentially boost productivity, improve morale, and benefit the economy.” As Spinks puts it, “You can’t say this is just fluff or a women’s issue if the President’s economic advisers say this is a good idea.”
Read on for tips on writing a proposal & convincing your colleagues>