How to Negotiate Work-Life Balance

At a recent webinar we presented, one of the questions asked was "How can we better negotiate a better work-life balance environment during the interview?"  This is a great question and a growing concern. Research supports that working excessive hours reaches a point of diminishing returns in productivity, employee engagement and job satisfaction. More and more companies are beginning to offer some degree of flexibility in some way, so you’re not likely to be the first one to approach the topic with the employer.

A recent study found that employees who telecommute are over 13% more productive, and quit at half the rate of office-based workers. Another study found that offering flexible schedules led to a 45% drop in turnover. 86% of the 2014 Best Companies to Work For offer employees some type of flexible schedule, including working from home one or more days a week. So, it’s out there.  Here are some things you can do that might be helpful when you try to negotiate work-life balance for yourself:

1.  Ask clarifying questions.  You may make assumptions because of your own past experiences that the same situation will apply in this new company, but that’s not necessarily true, so do your homework to become knowledgeable. Ask questions to get an idea of what is typical for your role and the cultural environment of the company. Are there employees who have flexible work schedules and what does that look like? What has their experience been?

2.  Consider what would actually work for you. When you’re negotiating, they’ve decided that you’re the one they want, so this is a good opportunity to address any special requests. Are there components of your work that you could do from home? What’s the acceptable minimum, ideal and middle goal in terms of the number of days/week you might work from home for instance.

3.  Help identify what’s in it for them.  Less stress and less commute time for you = greater productivity, and more time for you to get things done.

4.  Share your past success stories.  If you’ve had flexibility in the past, share what worked well and why and how you can see that being the case in the new situation.

5.  Ask for a trial run.  Give your employer a chance to experience the benefits first hand through a trial period.  You can evaluate together whether it’s working and make any adjustments as needed.

If you are a stellar performer, you can usually earn some flexibility.  Often, negotiating this for yourself becomes easier when you’re more experienced and a proven entity, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t ask for it regardless.  You just need to be prepared that in some cases the answer may be no, and you might have to earn it over time.

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