Experiential Insight by: Mary Kate Moorokian, Transit Service Planner
Last November, full-bellied and hopeful, I packed a box, said my goodbyes and promised sad faces I’d see them in a few months, but as I approached my car a voice whispered from the pit of my stomach: “You’re not coming back.” Sheryl Sandberg writes in Lean In, "43% of highly qualified women with children are leaving careers or off-ramping for a period of time." I’m still not sure if I fall into or out of that percentage, but after having my daughter, I knew I wasn’t ready to fall back into the 40 hour week chaos.
I called my boss and asked for a modified schedule. I wasn’t prepared to answer questions about my proposal, just threw it out there. Needless to say, the conversation was confusing on both sides, and I hung up the phone feeling lost. I thought of my friend Mary Kate. We got pregnant with our first babies around the same time, and I remembered she discussed a modified schedule. I reached out to her for this article in hopes that her guidance would lead other mothers to avoid making the same mistakes I did.
Plan Your Proposal
If I had a time machine, I would have been more specific with my boss about my modified schedule and how it would benefit my family and my work team. Mary Kate explains, “I wrote a memo detailing my plan for being out, what tasks I would be wrapping up before the baby came, what projects would need attention while I was out, my assumed return date, and my request for an additional telecommute day when I came back.” Mary Kate hit ever point an employer would want to know, making it easier for her boss to make the scheduling decision because all of the information is out on the table. As you embark on your schedule proposal, it’s important to research and debrief each facet of your job to build a comprehensive proposal. Below, you’ll find some questions that will get you started.
1. What are the required hours to be considered a full-time employee at your office?
2. What are the various options, like remote or a short work week? Here is a link to several options: https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/7-alternative-schedule-ideas-working-moms/
3. Can you do some of your work at home? What percentage of your job is client facing?
4. What are the most critical aspects of your job?
5. Can you be more efficient in some of your work practices? Are there ways to trim the fat in your work week?
What’s in it for us?
In any negotiating conversation, it is critical to discuss the benefits of your proposal. When speaking to your employer, it’s imperative to clearly communicate how your schedule modification will benefit their bottom line and your increased work satisfaction. A recent Gallup study shows that 60% of women rate greater work-life balance and better personal well-being as a “significant” attribute in a new job (http://news.gallup.com/reports/195359/women-america-work-life-lived-insights-business-leaders.aspx) and now, more than ever, these stats are becoming more mainstream making employers more aware of the importance of providing flexibility for mothers. Informing your boss about how you see that happening will benefit the both of you. For example, you propose: I plan to work three days in the office and one day remote and off on Fridays. I will schedule most of my meetings during the three in office days, Tuesday-Thursday, and leave Monday for administrative and project work. Mary Kate mentioned she arranged for a nanny to come in on her remote days during peak business times; this is an important option to include in the request, as it shows that you will be available during your remote days. She also covered the reasons why the schedule modification was essential to her, voicing her desire to breastfeed her daughter for a year and spending as much time as possible with her children. In my opinion, including these personal reasons are vital to humanize your request and communicate your personal goals.
When to Send?
Timing can play a huge role in the success of a modified schedule. Mary Kate backs her decision to discuss leave plans prior to her maternity in stating, “Asking BEFORE going out on maternity leave gives you time and the emotional strength to negotiate (if that becomes necessary). If you wait until the baby comes, you'll be exhausted and stressed about the unknown nature of your return. Just bite the bullet and have the conversation.” I couldn’t agree more. I am the queen of procrastination and conflict avoidance, and it was easier for me to push off the scary conversation until I was hiding behind baby excuses in the comfort of my home to call my boss, but that was not fair for my employer or me. Mary Kate opens her response in voicing the importance of transparency. I believe being upfront in these bold conversation builds trust and respect with your employer, hopefully benefiting you within your postnatal negotiation and future opportunities.
My hope is the guidance in this article will help you to become more confident and knowledgeable when initiating this conversation with your employer. If you have more insight, please share in the comments below. Thank you for contributing to our network of mothers.
HUGE THANKS to Mary Kate Moroorkian for contributing to this article.