Full-time tech pros work an average of 52 hours per week, according to a recent survey by SpiceWorks, with 18 percent saying they log 60 or more hours. While most professionals are willing to work hard in order to pursue a career in tech, they would like to have at least some say over when they work. But negotiating a flexible schedule with a new employer is often easier said than done.
“Don’t wing it, or you’re likely to get a knee-jerk ‘no,’” advised Pat Katepoo, a flexible work options advisor based near Honolulu. “Preparation, professionalism and persistence are the keys to successfully negotiating a flexible schedule during the hiring process.”
Given the current market conditions, there may never be a better time for a highly skilled and competent tech pro to negotiate flexible hours with a current or future boss. Here’s a look at what it takes to loosen the scheduling tether.
Look for a Supportive Environment
Before you even think about raising the topic, determine whether the company seems open to the idea of flexible schedules. If the organization routinely promotes its devotion to work-life balance, telecommuting or remote work in job postings and on the corporate Website, it’s a good sign that your boss will entertain your request. (Such research is also valuable, as you’ll need detailed information about the company’s current priorities to create a compelling business case.)
If you don’t spot obvious signs, pose subtle questions about the work environment and office hours on discussion forums and during late-stage job interviews; you don’t want to show your cards too early, suggested Dr. Lori Long, a business professor at Baldwin Wallace University.
“Wait until you’re the final candidate for the job before discussing an alternate work schedule,” Long said. “You’ll have more leverage once the company has invested time in the hiring process and extended you an offer.”
Create a Detailed Proposal
Don’t cite personal reasons or family responsibilities as the reason for your request. Instead, offer a detailed written proposal that explains how a flexible work arrangement will benefit both your manager and the company.
For instance, would working four 10-hour days per week help you communicate with offshore clients or development teams? Could working from home on weekends give you uninterrupted time to code and lower rent costs for a startup?
“If the company supports social responsibility, explain how avoiding rush-hour commutes can reduce pollution,” Long said. “Tying your request to critical business priorities and a company’s values increases your chances of success.”
Anticipate and address every possible concern or objection in your proposal, Long added, including how you will stay in touch with teammates or attend the daily scrum.
If the company is unfamiliar with the concept of flex scheduling, provide links to studies and how-to articles, and propose a 30-to-60-day pilot program to demonstrate proof-of-concept and alleviate their concerns. Be sure to include benchmarks and clear ways to measure your productivity and the effectiveness of the pilot.
“Don’t push for an answer on the spot, give the manager time to read and consider your proposal,” Katepoo said. “Encourage change by being persistent, but not pushy.”
Getting to ‘Yes’
When applying for a new job, don’t broach the subject with a prospective manager until you’ve settled on a salary.
“Don’t trade money for a flexible work schedule because you entitled to fair compensation for your work,” Long advised. “Trade a membership to an onsite gym, free lunch or other perks if having a flexible arrangement is that important to you.”
Offer to work onsite for the first 90 days until you put down roots and establish trust. You can also agree to be available during certain times every day (known as core hours), or commit to making yourself available for scheduled meetings.
“Be prepared with a menu of acceptable variations of flexible work options so that you have room to negotiate and compromise,” Katepoo said. “If you’re willing to walk away, there’s nothing wrong with mentioning that you may need to pursue other options. Employers will usually give you some flexibility to adapt your work schedule as long as you ask for it.”