How Parents Can Ask for More Flexibility at Work

I wonder how much we talked about the need for work-life balance when everything was actually balanced. Of course, many of us were stressed and exhausted during pre-pandemic times, but there was a certain time for work, a time for family, and a time for personal care, even if one of those buckets seemed to be larger than the others. But now, more than ever, work is life and life is work, and everything happens at the same time. The idea of ​​balance seems like a fancy idea from simpler times.

The new norm should be: “Well, let me finish this huge work project at my dinner table until one kid can walk into their Zoom class and a toddler throws a tantrum because he needs a green cup. and I gave him a blue cup, and oh well, the dog is shitting on the mat again. “

Come and dream with me for a moment: what if it hadn’t been? What if we could find a way to define exactly what we need and actually articulate it? What if we could – tolerate me – ask our employer for the flexibility we need in terms of scheduling, childcare, and workload? I would say that now is the time because:

They will never be more understanding than they are now

Of course, if you walked into your boss’s office around November 2019 and said, “Instead of nine to five, now I have to work from noon to eight, is that okay?” chances are high they would say, “Yeah, that won’t do, buddy.” We were all in the offices with our regular morning scrum and the ability to peer into each other’s offices or offices as needed – a fact that seemed vital to collaboration and workflow.

But this year we realized that we can actually collaborate and align workflows from the comfort of our own home office using email, Slack and video calls. Not to mention, the bosses are at home with their kids, partners, and accident-prone pets; chances are good that they live in a similar reality and realize that now, more than ever, adjustments can and should be made.

And even if they do not live according to the principle of a “pandemic with young children at home”, they have been seeing little Ella appear in your video calls for several months now – the curtain of your family life is ajar, and even if we do not experience this firsthand, they already understood what you are juggling with.

Great, so how do you actually talk?

Start by confirming your commitment to the company

You may fear that asking for onboarding will mean you need special services, or that you are not doing the job, or that you are not as committed to the team as lonely childless Peter, ready for anything Zoom, any zoom, any time …

Reframe how you think and state it – because you are so committed, because you want to always work at the highest level, you would like to suggest some adjustments that will allow you to continue to meet (or exceed!) All of your goals.

Come up with a specific plan

Your boss may want and be able to work with you to plan or flex the workload, but it is not up to them to decide what kind of adaptation it is. Engage in this conversation with a clear plan for how and when you will get your job done.

Maybe you want to change your working hours to a break between early morning and late afternoon or early evening, with a short break in between, to help your kids with their studies. Get your peers’ consent to reschedule any recurring appointments you miss, or figure out how to adjust the timeline of your workflow to make it work. If you want to take one day off during the week (and make up for it on the weekend), choose a day that doesn’t have time for team meetings or big deadlines.

If you really want to reduce your overall workload, decide what you are willing to give up in return, such as agreeing to a temporary pay cut or fewer paid days off while you cut your working hours.

Agree to re-evaluate after the trial period

Your boss may be uncomfortable agreeing to let you work on a different schedule indefinitely. Recognize that while you think your plan will help you do better work, you also understand that some adjustments may be needed. Ask them to try your plan for a few weeks, then get back together to see if it works for everyone.


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