How to Use Workplace Flexibility to Advance Your Career | Working Mother

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Ellenore is a happily married, working mother of three kids ranging in age from college to grade school. Being a member of the working mom club for the last eighteen years produced many stories. They range from the profound to the ridiculous. Entering middle life led to the desire to make a bigger difference and raise children to the same. She also blogs at www.balancingmotherhoodcareer.blogspot.com, www.ethiopianties.blogspot.com and tweets at @ellenorea.

How to Use Workplace Flexibility to Advance Your Career

You can ask for flex and still get promoted.

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Flexibility has been my key to success—while working hard, having fun and making history.

Ellenore Angelidis

I have become a go-to person for folks with questions about how to request or implement flexibility. After my first post, a reader reached out with typical questions.

“What types of things do you think are most reasonable to ask for? Leaving early on certain days? Or coming in later? Or working from home? Or a combination of those things? My youngest daughter has XX so there are a lot of meetings, class observations, etc. I need to do during work hours that . . . have been impossible, so I want to ask for something reasonable to accommodate.”

You know you need it; now what?

Key things I learned from both taking advantage of a variety of arrangements over my career as well as coaching others.

1. Success is up to you; managing a flexible arrangement needs to treated like a key goal or project.

2. Trust is critical and to build it you need to be proactive, transparent and open to feedback.

3. This arrangement is a privilege you need to honor; not a right you take for granted.

Even in informal arrangements, it is important to be transparent with your manager, your team and any other groups that this might effect. You need to think through how to cover important meetings, projects or deadlines to avoid negative business impact. You will still be expected to meet your performance goals. Since it is most important to you, so act like an owner and treat it like the priority that it is.

To accomplish these objectives consistently, I believe you need a “scorecard.” I am sharing one below based on what I found worked. It has two parts. The first is focused on managing any potential impact on others and the second on managing your performance, leadership and growth. I find this is helpful to complete before you ask as well to use to manage an existing arrangement. If you are using before you request flexibility, you should ask the questions in a forward looking way. What are key concerns and how could you set up the arrangement and communication to address them.

You should also think about what type of manager you are working for and what your general team approach is to flexibility as you get started because it will likely impact both your framing and your specific approach.



Questionnaire: You should have your team and extended team (including key stakeholders, customers and teams you interface with regularly) answer the questions below on a quarterly basis with specific data and examples.

  1. Is my schedule transparent and predictable?

  2. Do you know ahead of time whether I am going to be in the office or not?

  3. Are you having issues with scheduling meetings or calls?

  4. Can you find me when you need me?

  5. Are you experiencing an increased work load since I moved to working flexibly?

  6. Are you having to pick up tasks, answer questions, or address escalations that should belong to me?

  7. Is there any other impact (positive or negative) I should be aware of?

  8. Do you have any suggestions to make the flexible arrangement work better?

Performance, Leadership and Growth: You and your Manager should complete together quarterly and discuss along with the results of your survey

  1. Am I delivering results and meeting my goals? Are those goals meaningful for my level and my role?

  2. Am I reliable and dependable? Do I deliver items as promised, on time?

  3. Am I being stretched? Are my goals providing learning and progression for me?

  4. Am I positively influencing and being a role model for other team members and key extended team members?

This may seems like a lot of extra work especially when you are likely looking for flexibility because you are overwhelmed with your current responsibilities. But it is great investment of your time because ensures you carefully thought through and mitigated any negative impacts on others as well as set yourself up to continue to advance your career. You opened up the lines of communication you need if something is not working well and created the framework to ensure you prioritize the things you need to do to maximize your overall success.

And your success can have beautiful ripples of positive impact. When you put your arrangement out there so visibly rather than as “a dirty little secret,” it may be just the life line someone else needs to ask for an arrangement of their own.

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