All Flex, All the Time: An Interview with FlexJobs CEO Sara Sutton Fell

Where do I send people who ask me how to find legitimate work-from-home jobs? Or a flexible new job?

In the early days of my business (WorkOptions has been online since 1997), I didn’t have a confident answer for this common query. Plus any information I did dispense came with caveats.

Not anymore. FlexJobs is a premium flexible job listing service that has set itself apart for reasons you’ll read about shortly. First I’ll mention that this is not a sponsored article, although I am an affiliate of FlexJobs because I highly recommend what they have to offer.

FlexJobs CEO Sara Sutton FellFlexJobs CEO Sara Sutton Fell and I first “met” at length by telephone in 2009. That was a couple of years after she started the company in response to her own desire for job flexibility as a way to blend a professional career with home life. (She and her husband have two young boys.)

I appreciated her vision and passion for the much-needed service she was growing. Since then, I’ve watched FlexJobs flourish into a premium job board, listing multiple thousands of wide-ranging legitimate flexible jobs for professionals.

Recently, we spoke again so that I could ask Sara some questions that would make you, my readers, more aware of what FlexJobs has to offer.

Pat: Your home page labels FlexJobs as an “innovative” job service. In what ways is it innovative and different from other job boards?

Sara: “We hang our hat on three key points: One, every single job has flexibility, either telecommuting, part-time, flextime or freelance. Two, every single job is hand-screened. There’s no junk. It’s a very clean job listing data base. Three, we have more professional career-oriented job listings.”

Pat: I also like that FlexJobs has no ads, another “clean” characteristic.

Sara: Right. People perceive [other] job boards as free, but nothing is free; there is so much junk mixed in on the job boards, and so many more ads than before.

Pat: Whereas ad-free FlexJobs is membership-based, with a modest fee to access the job listings. Do people challenge having to pay? 

Sara: Yes, some think job seekers don’t have to pay. But I see that as a double standard; they pay for resumes and career counseling. FlexJobs is a premium service where job seekers are investing in their career by getting qualified job leaders faster. [To clarify], job seekers should not have to pay to get a job. With FlexJobs, members are paying for a premium job screening and listing service, not paying for a job or to find them a job. We’d have to charge a whole lot more if we were a job-finding service!

Pat: As I write this, FlexJobs is currently listing an astounding 32,872 jobs from 4,770 companies. How do you get such an impressive number and variety of professional job postings on the site? 

Sara: We have a team of online job researchers who search the web daily for openings, for the collective equivalent of 50+ hours a day, combing through the junk to find the legitimate job openings. [Addendum: since this interview response, many, many companies have been coming to FlexJobs with their listings, as well.]

Pat: How do they know that the jobs they find are legitimate?

Sara: They research every employer and hand-screen every single job [that’s found]. And every company description we have on the FlexJobs site is hand-written [based on the research], not scraped from their company website.

Pat: I understand more and more well-recognized employers are now coming to FlexJobs directly to post their openings.

Sara: Yes, most notably, in healthcare. That’s been the biggest category for us in 9 out of the last 12 months.

Pat: FlexJobs’ listings extends beyond telecommuting jobs to part-time and other types of flex. Yet the interest in working remotely remains high. How plentiful are those types of jobs?

Sara:  About 40% of the listings on FlexJobs offer some kind of telecommuting; 15% of all the jobs [listed] are ‘anywhere jobs,’ meaning that they require no specific location. [With others], some employers will say it’s a telecommuting job because the employee gets to work from home, but they’ll still have geographic requirements because they want employees to come in for meetings or training. Sometimes it’s for tax reasons.

Pat: Job seekers are advised that networking is the number one way to find a new job. Blogging and social media are also tools for landing leads and jobs. Where does FlexJobs fit into the mix of job-seeking tactics?

Sara: It’s a step in the process. And it alleviates the pain point in the job search process: the faster you can find the job opening, the faster you can apply and be at the top of pile. And then you can use your Linkedin and other social media networks to see if any of your connections are associated with the hiring company or the hiring manager.

Pat: What are some of the trends you’re seeing in flexible jobs?

Sara: Mainly the depth and variety of so many more types of companies offering flexible work: big, small, start-up, and a variety industries, especially, as I mentioned, healthcare employers.

Pat: What advice do you have for the person seeking a flexible job on FlexJobs?

Sara: To consider all kinds of flexibility before you apply. Think it through. You may have a set idea of what would work best for you–for example, only telecommuting, or only part-time–but there are lots of shades of gray. Keep your mind open to other types of flexibility in the jobs offered and evaluate them all.

Pat: That sounds like a smart approach for expanding their flexible work options. Thank you, Sara.

Readers, for good reason, FlexJobs is now the number one national flexible job listing service. I recommend you add FlexJobs to your mix of tools for finding a new flexible job.

You might also be interested in:

How to Find a Flexible NEW Job and How to Negotiate Flexibility During a New Job Interview

The Fastest Way to Get Flexible Work Approved

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How to Escape the Fast Life: One Working Mom’s Solution for Shifting Gears

When she married a widower six years ago, Janna became an instant mother to his two children. Since then, she and her husband had a son.

During those six years, Janna, 34, kept working full-time as a senior sales executive in the diagnostics division of a huge pharmaceutical company.

“I literally did not stop from 5AM to 11PM. Not one time. It was a fast life. I couldn’t keep track of sports practices and appointments. I would come home at the end of the work day tired and cranky, having ‘left it all on the table’ at work.”

Janna was ready to quit her job. When she confided in a trusted colleague about her plans, she was encouraged to propose a job sharing arrangement instead. But Janna was unsure. “No one in our organization was doing job sharing, so I didn’t see it as an option. My friend told me, ‘You would be crazy not to give it a try.’ I had to break new ground [in proposing it].”

At the time of our interview, Janna was into her fourth month of job sharing. What’s the difference?

“I finally feel a balance that was lacking in my life. I don’t let anything slip through the cracks; I don’t forget about [sports] practice or a dental appointment that costs me $75 to miss. I can attend all of the special events in my kids’ lives. And now I’m picking up the kids’ car pool twice a week. It’s so fun because you get to know them more. I’m a lot more tuned in to their lives.”

More Interview Highlights with Janna About Her Successful Job Sharing Arrangement

Pat: What is your work schedule now?

Janna: My job partner and I each work ½ days on Monday. Then I work Wednesdays and Thursdays and she works Tuesdays and Fridays.

Pat: How well are you able to keep to the 2.5 days-a-week schedule without going over?

Janna: It’s a challenge because of the nature of our business. For example, we both recently attended a week-long mandatory national sales meeting in another city. But my manager is supportive about making up lost “off” hours at other times.

Pat: What insights did you gain from the process of negotiating job sharing?

I had to be persistent. This would not happen on its own. [But] I’ve worked hard and have a good track record. I reminded my employer of my history of success. This is a technical position; they know it takes two years of training before somebody new can move any mountains [in sales]. So I was in a pretty good spot to ask for it.

Pat: Most of my flexible work proposal customers get relatively swift approval of their proposed work arrangement. Your situation was different; introducing something new in a mammoth corporation can take a long while. How did that play out for you?

Janna: I was discouraged because it took months for my proposal to go through the chain of command. I thought, ‘This is time that I’m losing [with my kids].’ The biggest hurdle was having a very busy VP of Sales get it off his desk [to the next step]. My manager and regional sales manager were supportive but had to choose their timing well when bringing it up with their boss.

Pat: Now that your job sharing arrangement is in full swing, is your manager still supportive?

Janna: Yes. My boss sees it as a win because now he has two sets of eyes looking over a large sales territory. Another win was when I had shoulder surgery and was out for four weeks yet there was some coverage. He didn’t have to cover it.

Pat: How were employee benefits handled?

Janna: We both get full health benefits, and the 401K remains. And you know, with two people, there are two company cars, two phone bills, two airplane tickets to sales meetings, so [my employer] is really backing the arrangement.

Pat: What about your customers? How did they receive your new job sharing arrangement?

Janna: Their faces light up when I introduce my job partner. We tell them we have six children between us. They are thrilled that [my employer] would do something like that to keep a valued employee. Several have told me that they wish they had had those options when their family was young. So overall all, the response has been, “Wow, what a great thing you’re doing for your employees.”

Pat: Cutting your hours meant cutting your income. How did you and your husband approach the decision to switch to shorter hours?

Janna: We sat down with pencil and paper to figure out how we could do this. What does this mean [for our lifestyle]? Financially, it’s manageable, plus were able to cut out child care expenses on Tuesdays and Fridays. My husband would have supported me in any decision, but he’s really happy for me.

Pat: What has surprised you about the job sharing arrangement?

Janna: I’ve gained a new best friend! My job partner and I are like long-lost friends. I enjoy her thoroughly. In that way, it’s blown my expectations.

Pat: Anything else you’d like to add?

Janna: My bosses knew this arrangement was important to me, but I wanted them to know it was important to my kids, too. So I had each of my kids write a note to my manager and regional sales manager. Their thoughts about having mommy around more really “brought it home” to my managers.

Takeaway Tips for My Readers

  1. Expand your thinking beyond black and white choices, e.g., work traditional full-time or quit. There are many work options to match your specific needs.
  2. Just because there’s no employer flexible work policy doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Asking works. Be thoroughly prepared. Janna used the Job Sharing Proposal Package.
  3. Many professional jobs have such demanding responsibilities that a reduced workweek alone is not practical. In contrast, job sharing, where the job position remains full-time, is a way for your career to stay on track while you work part-time hours.
  4. Are you underestimating the value you bring to your employer? Assess your contributions. You probably have more negotiating leverage than you acknowledge.

The Fastest Way to Get Flexible Work Approved

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The Four-Day Cure for Boomer Burn-Out

This article was written with baby boomers in mind—specifically, those without children at home. Parents of young children will do better considering other flexible work options.

What boomer hasn’t bordered on burn-out some time in their career? Including you, perhaps?

When quitting your job isn’t an option and there’s no short-term sabbatical on the horizon, what practical alternative do you have?

While there’s no quick fix, spending stretches of time on a relaxing interest outside of work creates a restorative mental shift. Let’s look at how that could work for you.

Do you have a languishing hobby that needs more time and attention? Are you wondering how to find “extra” hours for your interests without trading income or benefits to get it?

One approach is to redesign your job into a compressed workweek of four, 10-hour days. (I know, I know; you’re already working 10-hour days, so how can you slice off one day a week? I’ll get to that in a minute.)

Burn-Out Gets Painted Away by a Four Day Work Week

Stella is the Senior Art Director for a medium-sized advertising firm whose true passion is oil painting. The demands of her job had her working a crazy schedule, leaving her love of painting neglected for years.

Stella couldn’t afford to cut her salary to return to her painting, so she first assessed and modified her job to shift some of the responsibilities to her two ambitious assistant art directors—a career development pay-off for them.

Then she negotiated to restructure her schedule into a compressed workweek, which gave her every Wednesday to devote to her long-lost hobby.

Stella’s redesigned workweek allows her to paint regularly for several uninterrupted hours, which she says has “restored” her; it is a relaxing expression of her creativity and it “cured” her burn-out.

How to Ramp Down Excess Hours

Now, what if you’re a salaried employee working 45-50+ hours a week at the office as the expected norm? How do you justify taking off one day a week (up to 20% reduction in hours) without a cut in salary? Here are a few strategies to consider:

1. Ask for it. Sometimes it’s that straightforward, if you’re well-positioned to make such a request. You could adapt the strategy I used. (The hours I describe aren’t a match, but the 20% figure is).

2. Start reining in your hours to reach 40-45 a week. Use elimination (of low value tasks), delegation, boundary-setting and work redesign as a team to pare down duties. Once you have a handle on the “new norm” (but with work deliverables maintained), you’ll be in a better position to propose a compressed workweek.

3. Get approval to telecommute one day a week before requesting a compressed workweek. For most people, working remotely increases productivity by double-digits. This in turn fosters the goal of reigning in work hours (see #2, above). Then, when you’re ready to propose a compressed workweek, you can restate your case for telecommuting one day a week (fewer interruptions, increased productivity), and arrange to come into the office the remaining three days.

Tip: Choose your “off” day to match your energy levels and your rhythms of work and play. Wednesdays off allows you to handle shopping, a vet visit or a haircut so your weekends can truly be a time of rest from the workweek. Choosing Fridays as your “off” day extends your weekends.

Is a Compressed Workweek Right for You?

Before you decide on a compressed workweek, assess its pros and cons as they relate to your lifestyle and work-life needs. If you decide to move forward, here’s the first page of your compressed workweek proposal.

A Better Burn-Out Cure

After you’ve followed through on the above strategies, start planning your short-term sabbatical. Download a 53-page guide to getting management approval of six weeks off to travel.

The Fastest Way to Get Flexible Work Approved

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How to Negotiate Flexibility During a New Job Interview

Interviewing for a new job is a tough-enough situation. But what if you want both a job and a flexible work arrangement to go with it?

Finding a flex-friendly employer paves an easier path, but not all companies fit that category. Even those that do sometimes have a waiting period before new employees can telecommute or work a non-traditional schedule; the employer prefers new workers get oriented to their position—and demonstrate job performance and reliability—before flex scheduling kicks in.

I won’t mince words: it is usually tough, tricky, and even risky, to negotiate a flexible work arrangement during a new job interview with a typical employer. But it’s not impossible. Information and timing are key elements to negotiating success.

Information: Scout Out Clues

Before the interview, surface clues about the company culture that will help you to decide whether or not to bring up the topic, and if so, how directly.

Check the company’s “Careers” section of their website to see if they position flexible work arrangements as one of their desirable employment features.

Savvy employers recognize that workplace flexibility helps in recruitment and is a strong driver of retention. They promote it and practice it. But some don’t walk the talk. Verify actual practices by checking with current or past employees; use Linkedin and GlassDoor to find people to ask.

If nothing is publicly mentioned about telecommuting and other flexible work arrangements, the prospective employer is probably not using them as a business and human resource strategy. Now you know. But before you jump to a firm conclusion…

Look for subtle clues about company culture when you arrive for the interview. Are there indicators that a personal life outside of work is openly acknowledged? For example, do you see family photos on desks or children’s artwork posted on cubicle walls? During the interview, tune into the hiring manager’s verbal, physical (does s/he look well-rested or tired?) and environmental signals that reveal his or her work-life perspective.

Strategies for Asking

Depending on what information you surface, you might be bold enough to be direct, asking about a typical day, or typical number of hours a week, as well as expectations about extra hours during special projects.

Inquire about employee connectivity during “off” hours; are employees expected to check email in the evenings or on weekends? If flexible work policies are mentioned on their website, ask about the level of employee participation. (Or you could check the employee parking lot after-hours to get your answer.)

How does the hiring manager respond to these types of inquiries? Tune in to the vibes; they are very telling.

Collectively, these company culture clues should drive your decision about whether to and how to bring up a request for a flexible work arrangement. Add your intuition to the mix as you gather these signals during the interview.

In some cases, the inquiries I’ve suggested so far are best reserved for the second interview, if you’re called back for one. Which brings us to timing.

Timing: Know When to Negotiate a Flexible Work Schedule

The time to negotiate specific terms of employment is after you’ve been extended a solid job offer. As with salary and benefits, flexible work arrangements can be a part of those employment terms to agree upon before you accept the offer.

Bring it up after both sides have finished negotiating salary and have come to a mutually-agreeable figure. (Salary is an expected area of negotiation in a new job offer, so you should be well-prepared to get your well-researched figure in that category. But that’s another article.)

From there, you could segue into talking about your history (if you have one) as a telecommuting or four-day workweek employee and how it proved to positively impact your productivity. Then present your desired flexibility terms as a topic for negotiation.

Warning: It Could be a Deal-Breaker (on Either Side)

Be ready and firm from the start about what you are or aren’t willing to accept in salary, flexibility and other terms.

If flexibility is so important that you ask directly as part of your negotiated work terms, are you ready to decline the job offer if those terms aren’t met? Be prepared with a menu of acceptable variations of flexible work options so that you have room to negotiate and compromise.

Are you willing to risk having the offer withdrawn if they perceive your request as unreasonable? That’s another possibility for which you need to be prepared.

Take a look at the big picture of your circumstances to determine how you should proceed with asking and negotiating.

Alternative Routes

So much of work-life (and life in general) is about trade-offs; if you really want the job—the work is interesting, the money’s great, the commute is smooth, or whatever else appeals—a lower risk approach is to get hired first, then negotiate a flexible arrangement later.

If that doesn’t happen, you may want to focus your job search efforts on employers and jobs that offer flexibility from the start.

Don’t Quit Your Job; Flex Your Job

If you’re already employed full-time, here’s the fastest way to get flexible work.

The Fastest Way to Get Flexible Work Approved

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How to Find a Flexible NEW Job

The fastest way to a flexible work arrangement is to ask for one at your current job. But what if you’re looking for a new job? The sad fact is, most employers don’t offer a flexible schedule or telecommuting arrangement to new employees. But some do.

Here I’ve compiled several options to help you find flexible employers and jobs.

Professional Job Listings: All Flex, All the Time

There are scores of job boards which list telecommuting and part-time jobs, but it’s tricky sifting out the scam sites to find the few legitimate ones. And some otherwise legit work-from-home websites allow ads from spurious “employers.” What to do?

To cut through the clutter, I recommend FlexJobs.

Some time back, I had an hour-long talk with FlexJobs CEO, Sara Sutton Fell. She has a personal story that translates into a passion for people looking for a calmer work life. She’s all about offering viable job options with integrity. More recently, I interviewed her to get her current comments about flexible work opportunities.

Her team searches the web for you and hand-screens the telecommuting, part-time and free-lance jobs they find—throughout the US and beyond—checking the legitimacy of the employer and the posting.

Only those jobs that make their scrupulous cut are posted on the FlexJobs site.

For a modest fee, you get full access to their huge listing of jobs. But you can read all the truncated listings for free, so you’ll have an idea of what you’d be paying for first. There are more than 50 job categories, most of them professional-level.

[Disclosure: WorkOptions is an affiliate of FlexJobs because they’re that good.]

Flexible Work Staffing Firms for Professionals

You might find your next employer through a flexible work staffing firm for professionals. I’ve seen businesses in this category come and go since the mid-1990’s, but in recent years, I’ve seen more staying power. This is an encouraging sign; employers are recognizing there are more effective ways to work than 8 to 5.

I asked several of these staffing firms to send a description of what they offered job candidates. Below are excerpts from the six replies I received.

Corps Team (formerly Mom Corps) is a national flexible staffing firm that works to match professionals with flexible job opportunities suited to candidates’ qualifications and scheduling needs. For its candidates, Mom Corps offers access to flexible job opportunities, events and job search support services such as an expert resume service. Corps Team is free of charge to job seekers.

Flexible Resources, a staffing and consulting firm, has championed the policies and practices of the flexible workplace since 1989. They have placed hundreds of Marketing, HR, Finance and high level Admin professionals in a variety of flexible work arrangements including permanent part-time, creative job shares, telecommuting and contract. Flexible Resources services client companies and job seekers in the New York City metro area. They welcome all to check out their website for free advice and job postings.

Flexforce Professionals is a niche recruiting and staffing service specializing in part-time professionals for the Washington, DC metro area. Most of Flexforce’s candidates are seasoned business professionals with at least 10 years of experience. Many are working moms who prefer to work on a part-time basis to balance work and family. Placements can be part-time permanent, part-time temporary, or project-based. Candidates may register with Flexforce through its website, where they can also find valuable return-to-work resources, view active job postings, and join the Flexforce mailing list.

Momentum Resources is a boutique staffing firm placing professionals in part-time and flexible full-time roles in the Richmond, Virginia, and metro Washington, DC markets. They work in a variety of industries including accounting, law, project management and non-profit, and typically work with mid- to senior-level professionals at no cost to the job-seeker.

Part-Time Pros staffing company unites degree-educated professionals with companies who have part-time, contract and full-time staffing needs. Their mission is to provide the perfect match between client needs, desires and wants with associates’ knowledge, skills and abilities, whether it’s a stay-at-home parent wanting to contribute to their household income, an early retiree wanting to continue to work part-time, or a college student needing to earn extra income.

10 til 2 knows that the workforce is changing and that professionals now strive to attain a more satisfying balance between work and family roles. 10 til 2’s long-term, part-time professional staffing has given thousands of jobseekers the opportunity to progress in their careers and still enjoy quality time outside the office. 10 til 2 is always looking for top-notch career professionals to join our team and revel in the perfection of part-time.

March 2016 Update: The List is Growing

These firms have popped up more recently. I only know about them and am not endorsing them, so do your due diligence.

Inkwell calls itself “a global flexible staffing innovator.”

Power to Fly urges you to “get the best remote jobs in tech.”

Prokanga says “We connect high caliber professional women with flexible opportunities.”

The Second Shift says it is “connecting professional women with great projects from top companies.”

How to Find Flexible Employers

Beyond these innovative staffing and job listing services, you might want to target specific flexible employers as part of your job search strategy. Here are several ways to surface them.

How to Vet a Prospective Employer for Workplace Flexibility

If you have targeted a specific company and you can’t find them on any of the lists, check their website under “Careers” or “Employment” to see if they position flexible work arrangements as one of their desirable employment features. Verify actual practices by asking current or past employees. Use searches and queries on GlassDoor and Linkedin.

Then there’s the reality-check tactic (if you’re within driving distance): check how full or empty their parking lot is between 5 and 7 pm!

How to Ask About Flexibility in the Interview Process

That covers the job search aspect of finding flexibility. In a different article, I address how and when to inquire about flexible work arrangements during the new job interview.

→ Best in Class: FlexJobs. View job listings now.

Don’t Quit Your Job; Flex Your Job

If you’re already employed full-time, here’s the fastest way to get flexible work.

The Fastest Way to Get Flexible Work Approved

Compressed Workweek Proposal Job Sharing ProposalPart-time ProposalTelecommuting Proposal

Share This Article So That Others Can Find a Flexible Job

3 Reasons Why You’re Still Not Telecommuting (And How to Resolve Them Pronto)

You’re a professional. A smart “knowledge worker.” So doesn’t it frustrate you to drive daily to a desk that’s miles and miles and too-many-minutes away from home, only to use a computer and a phone to get most of your work done?

Precious time blown; gas burned; stress brewed in rush-hour traffic. And to think you could bypass all that and be more productive at home, or anywhere else.

Do you want to know what keeps you from telecommuting? There are three main reasons, but it’s time to kick them to the curb so you can enjoy working from home. Start taking action today, and you could be telecommuting within weeks from now.

It’s Not the Technology

We’re way past that barrier. It’s mainly a management issue. It’s employers and managers who have not yet embraced the business strategy that is telecommuting, also known as telework, remote work, virtual office or mobile office.

Face timeWhatever you call it, there are far too many supervisors who only know a “face-time” management style and thereby thwart the strategic use of telecommuting. Even though working remotely benefits both employer and employee in several well-documented ways.

What’s the ideal scenario? To have an enlightened employer that embraces flexible work arrangements as a business strategy, promotes a flexible culture, and provides management-by-results training.

My guess is your employer isn’t there yet, right? That leaves you facing three common reasons why you’re still not telecommuting. Here they are, and how you can take action to resolve them.

Reason 1: There’s No Policy for Telecommuting Where You Work.

No surprise here. While progress is being made in many companies, your employer, like millions of others, has been slow to embrace telecommuting in a formal way.

How to Resolve It: Don’t wait for your employer to catch on; devise your own “policy” now. If you’ve worked for the same manager for at least one year (which builds the trust factor), take the initiative and present your request to telecommute using a professionally-crafted proposal.

Thousands of employees have negotiated a one-on-one telecommuting deal with their respective managers, without benefit of a policy. You can, too. Use a quick assessment exercise to gauge your chances of getting your manager’s approval to work from home.

Reason 2. Your Manager Puts a Premium on “Face Time” and Wants You in the Office Every Day.

How to Resolve It: Here are a couple of tactics that can change your manager’s mind.

First, make it very clear that your request is not to work from home every day.

Most employed telecommuters work from home one, two or maybe three days a week and go to the office the remaining days. You’ll propose the same. Plus you can stay very “visible” to your manager and coworkers using the phone, email, IM, web chat and texting, just as you do now.

A second tactic—and probably more crucial to getting your boss’ approval—is to stress the trial period for your telecommuting arrangement. A trial period is three to six months long.

Your manager may not like the perception of losing control (“How do I know you’re working?”), yet wants to be reasonable in giving your request to telecommute a fair chance. Knowing that she can change her mind allows you to move forward instead of having the door shut on the proposal altogether.

The trial period gives you time to prove the arrangement is, in fact, workable and highly productive.

Reason 3. You’re Afraid to Broach the Subject of Telecommuting.

In other words, you’re afraid to ask, or afraid of a “no” if you do ask.

Fear of asking is less of an issue among men, but it’s been a common thread I’ve observed among otherwise very accomplished professional career women.

These are women who are confident and capable in their work, yet they convey that asking for a flexible work arrangement for themselves is something they shouldn’t do, or something they don’t deserve, or something that might have very negative consequences, usually along the lines of threatening the professional relationship they have with their manager.

But guess what? It’s not true. The real problem is women’s perception of these things.

According to the authors of Women Don’t Ask, (affiliate link), as a “result of powerful social influences,” women have an “impaired sense of entitlement” and they often “assume that they are stuck with their circumstances.” So they refrain from asking for what they want. Sound familiar?

How to Resolve It: Among the ways to build confidence to ask for telecommuting, rehearsing your proposal presentation is a research-backed tactic for overcoming nervousness to negotiate.

Questions: Which of these three reasons ring true with you? Among the solutions presented, which action will you take to move closer to being a telecommuter?

Takeaway: You don’t have to wait to start telecommuting because of common reasons that are resolvable. Take the actions to resolve them.

The Fastest Way to Get Flexible Work Approved

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They want to work from home, too, so do them (and me) a favor and share this.

How to Telecommute Long-Distance and Full-Time

Sometimes, I get an inquiry like this: “I’m interested in your Telecommuting Proposal Package, but will it work for me if I’m moving to a distant city?” The answer is yes, the Package is adaptable to that situation. Jonathan Crane, who got approval to work 1800 miles from the main office, is a good example.

I had to tailor the proposal for my needs because I’m moving across the country. The response was overwhelmingly positive: I was granted full time telecommuting…[and] I received special compliments for the proposal as it addressed the concerns of the CFO directly, and that’s what really sealed the deal. Jonathan Crane, Royalty Analyst

Find more inspiring examples just below this related Q & A. 

Dear Pat: I just read your advice about how many days working from home to request when proposing a telecommuting arrangement. My situation is different; I want to move from the Boston area to Charlotte, North Carolina, (where my wife has family), and still keep my current job.

We had our second baby six months ago, and with the cost of full-time child care and living expenses in general, it makes sense to make the move south. If we do, my wife, a full-time accountant, could probably work part-time, which she’s been wanting to do since our first child was born.

I don’t have a new job lined up yet, but it occurred to me that I could do my current  job as a credit analyst from just about anywhere. In other words, I want to telecommute full-time, far from my employer’s headquarters in Boston. (I figured could fly to Boston a few times a year, if needed.)

Would your Telecommuting Proposal Package work for me in this situation? ~ Ready to Relocate

Dear Ready: This is not the typical application of the Telecommuting Proposal Package, and it is a tougher one; the chances of approval are lower than the usual request to work remotely from home part of each week.

I’ve given some examples below where it has worked well—a couple of analysts included—but first, here’s some advice specific to you.

1. Can you stall the relocation for a few more months? If so, gauge your chances of approval for nearby telecommuting and if you score well, propose to work from home now, three days a week. Your effectiveness in that trial period will lay a solid foundation for your pitch for full-time, long-distance telecommuting from Charlotte.

2. Your wife could use the same tactic in her current job. Otherwise, she should start exploring job opportunities in North Carolina. I highly recommend FlexJobs for finding legitimate telecommuting jobs.

3. If waiting three months is not possible, and you plan to make the move anyway, you have nothing to lose by asking. In fact, if you’re ready to walk away no matter what, you’re in a strong negotiating position. So go ahead and make the pitch. Press for a three-month trial period, at least.

Can Full Time, Long-Distance Telecommuting Get Approval?

Yes. When your manager understands that your work is something you do, not somewhere you go, approval for the trial period will follow. (But some managers don’t get it, so you should also be exploring job opportunities in the Charlotte area, no matter what.)

Here’s Some Inspiration

At the risk of sounding promotional about my proposal product, I want to  encourage you that a detailed proposal—whether your own from scratch or my fill-in-the-blanks template that is the core of the Proposal Package—can get you where you want to be: working remotely, full-time, in an affordable city.

“I moved from Houston to Abilene, Texas [375 miles away] and still wanted to work for my employer. They were not willing until I submitted the [Work Options] proposal to the COO of the company.

I will work from 730 AM to 4 PM Monday thru Thursday and off at 1330 on Fridays…I put in the proposal exactly what I wanted and they gave me everything. Thanks.” Marc E. Amberson, Master Trip Support Specialist, Licensed FAA Aircraft Dispatcher and Aviation Expert,  Abilene, TX

Marc told me he’d worked for his employer for 15 years before he moved. And it sounds to me as if his job is quite specialized. These are favorable negotiating factors, so the proposal’s role was to show how the new arrangement would work. And it did.

Baby boomer Janet wanted to telework from about 100 miles away from her employer to be closer to her elderly parents. She works for the federal government which has telework policies, but she still had to make her case for working remotely on a full-time basis.

“With your [Proposal Package ] guidance I prepared a strong document that convinced management to approve my request. Thanks—it made a tough sale much easier!” Janet (preferred first-name only), Management Analyst, Mississippi

Brad’s job was in a call center which was adaptable to remote work.

“I wanted to telecommute full-time in my current job because I was moving to Atlanta from San Francisco. With the [Proposal Package] template, it was easy to just plug in the pieces that related to my job. It also made me really think through what I needed to do to get approval; I was well-prepared with a strategy and ready answers to my boss’s questions and concerns. Bottom-line: my telecommuting proposal was approved. Thank you.” Brad Palmer, Atlanta, GA

This next example involved a director-level administration employee, raising the bar for getting approval:

“My husbaremove work A Jordannd and I are leaving Alaska because of his new job in another state.

I work in healthcare administration and really wanted to continue working for my employer after the move.

I’m so thankful I came across Pat’s telecommuting proposal template package. It gave me the tools to start a strong conversation with the company’s leadership. I found the proposal package very intuitive, and it was full of opportunities to use data to support my ideas.

My supervisor said my proposal to continue my director-level work remotely was ‘impressive’ and ‘comprehensive.’ In the end, I got approval of a six-month remote transition plan while they recruit for my position.

Pat’s template allowed me to create a remote working arrangement to support me and my team through the transition. That alone was worth FAR more than the cost of the proposal.” Amber Jordan, IA, PMP, Fairbanks, Alaska

Michael is a financial services consultant who lived on the east coast and wanted to relocate to Colorado.

“I purchased your product as I was looking to relocate to part of the country where my employer does not have a office. Using your proposal I was approved to transition from full time in the office to full time remote over a four-month period after a 45-minute meeting with my manager and a quick conversation with our CEO. Thank you.” Michael Pouliot, CFA, CAIA

This request for far-away telecommuting won over four higher-ups in three layers of management for first-time-ever approval:

“[My immediate boss] was impressed…Unfortunately, she was not the final decision-maker …Our VP…was very impressed with [the proposal’s] professionalism, detail, references and quotes…he needed to talk to his boss (the Senior VP) and the CIO (about feasibility of technology and security issues…).

Two days later my VP told me that while he had never allowed an employee to work from a home office and that the idea was very progressive, his answer was “Yes!” The Senior VP and CIO had both approved my proposal.

I am walking on air and still can’t believe my dream has come true! I truly couldn’t have made a better impression without the help of [your Proposal Package. It] gave me the tools I needed to pursue this alternative work arrangement with confidence. Thank you…” Shannon Bryant (got approval to telecommute from Maine), Healthcare Analyst, Chesterfield, MO

So know it can be done and getting approval is a real possibility. Give it a go and let me know how it turns out.

The Fastest Way to Get Flexible Work Approved

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How a Flexible Work Arrangement Supports Weight Loss Success

My diverse career path started in health care as a registered dietitian (RD). In the late 1980s, I was the coordinator for the local Optifast Program, a medically-monitored weight loss program for obese individuals.

This was a popular and busy program with lots of people enrolled. Especially after Oprah went public in 1988 with her Optifast Program results. (Remember the wagon of fat she pulled onto the stage as she wore size 10 jeans?)

At the medical group where I managed it, the Optifast Program was conducted in the evenings to accommodate the patients; virtually all of them were time-pressed professionals.

As I interviewed client and client, a familiar challenge surfaced: how to incorporate healthy habits into a hectic career life. For many of these people, this was a dire need because of the level of their health-threatening obesity.

If I knew then what I know now about negotiating flexible work, I would have added a few success strategies to the lesson plans of the program’s group support sessions.

Flexing Her Way to Fitness with a Flexible Work Arrangement

Fast forward to this century to learn from Eileen, who took a different approach to weight loss and better health, using a flexible work arrangement to support her goals.

After decades of neglecting her health, Eileen had a recent medical scare related to her obesity that triggered an overhaul of her habits.

The changes she made to her diet and physical activity were dramatic. This concerned Eileen’s physician, who then counseled her to slow the pace and add monitored support. The goal was long-term lifestyle changes, not a quick fix.

For Eileen, that meant weekly afternoon appointments with a dietitian, daily afternoon time with a personal trainer at the gym, and regular attendance at group exercise sessions. Eileen also attends occasional nutrition and cooking workshops to learn healthier food preparation techniques.

Yes, it’s a lot. But health is Eileen’s current priority and that’s reflected by her willingness to trade some of her income for regular time off: she negotiated a 30-hour workweek at her job as an assistant director of development for a city college.

So far, she finds the physical pay-offs worth it—she’s lost more than 25 pounds and has more energy—with the social dividends being a bonus.

Flexible Work Objective: Improve health and fitness through regular afternoon training sessions, exercise classes, plus nutrition appointment and workshops.
Custom Work Option: Work 8 to 3, five days a week
Type: Shortened workday
Total Hours Worked Weekly: 30
Salary Retention: 75%

Eileen plans to keep this schedule for six months before resuming full-time hours. She expects this temporary part-time arrangement to build a foundation of confidence and change to sustain healthy habits.

She might propose telecommuting two to three times a week so she’ll have time to hit the gym regularly.

Do you have new health goals for the coming year? How could a flexible work arrangement support your success? If you need help figuring out a custom answer, please let me know. I’m glad to help.

The Fastest Way to Get Flexible Work Approved

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These are low-cost proposal templates that get approval of a flexible work arrangement.

Job Sharing Options: Five Workable Ways to Share Your Job

Now that you know how to find and choose your job sharing partner, consider the creative possibilities for splitting your schedule.

For many positions, a shortened workweek for each partner is the most practical arrangement, with a common one being:

Partner A: Works Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning
Partner B: Works Wednesday afternoon, Thursday and Friday

Some job sharing teams, usually in sales and other positions which need seamless integration, choose to overlap Wednesdays, both working a full day. This means they are each working 60%, with the two together equaling 1.2 FTE (full-time equivalent).

But practical isn’t the only way to go. Your position may lend itself to creative yet workable schedules.

I had one client, an ER nurse, who successfully negotiated to work six months off and six months on with another ER nurse. This allowed her to spend extended time at her vacation home in Scotland.

Another was a corporate pilot for the company’s private jet. Because she was always on call, she couldn’t plan anything with her family without the risk of interruption. So she arranged alternate-week job sharing so she could secure her time off.

Partners A and B alternate a certain number of weeks, or even months

Another variation alternates days throughout the week:

Partner A: Monday, Wednesday, alternating Fridays
Partner B: Tuesday, Thursday, alternating Fridays

Alternating days breaks up work continuity and is not one I’d recommend unless it’s a really good fit for your position and objectives. An example is a job with distinct tasks on any given day, e.g., a physical therapist working with a set number of clients.

One that I’ve seen work well with teachers is:

Partner A: Works mornings, five days a week
Partner B: Works afternoons, five days a week

Job sharing is not always split 50/50. Consider this possibility:

Partner A: Works three days a week (60%)
Partner B: Works two days a week (40%)

Cover-JS-2013With a variety of workable ways to schedule a job sharing arrangement, you can be practical or creative—or both. Consider the needs and objectives of the position and of the two job partners in coming to a scheduling decision.

If you’re ready to get started, my Job Sharing Proposal Package equips you to make a first-rate presentation, and you can download your copy today. Let me know if you have any questions first. I’m glad to help.

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How to Choose the Right Job Sharing Partner

After you find prospective job sharing partners, how do you choose the “right” one?

Your job sharing success depends heavily on who you choose as a job partner. Get to know each of your prospective job-share teammates so that you make the right pick. (Does this sound like dating?)

Are You Compatible?

With each prospect, have a meeting to discuss the responsibilities of the job position and the expectations of the job sharing arrangement. This discussion alone will give you an indication of general compatibility.

As in any relationship, there is no perfect match, but in making your partner selection, consider the following:

1. Good communicator: This tops the list because thorough and consistent communication is crucial to job sharing success. The arrangement needs to be as seamless as possible to others—as if you’re one person—so you can’t let anything fall through the cracks.

2. Cooperative: An attitude of mutual respect and support plus a give-and-take approach to the exchange of ideas are positive indicators of the “right” partner. Pass on the person with a competitive streak.

3. Similar and complementary skills: While you want someone with a solid background in your field, a coworker who complements your strengths and weaknesses enhances the partnership by rounding out the position.

For example, a combination of your strong organizational skills and your partner’s creative bent will reap better results on projects than either strength alone.

4. Similar work habits: Attention to detail or big picture approach? Methodical or intuitive? Organized or sloppy (important when you share a desk or filing system)? Prompt or procrastinator? Swift or thoughtful in decision-making?

Compatibility in work styles may not be a make-or-break factor, but it fosters harmony.

5. Flexibility: Ideally, your partner would be able and willing to trade time with you should the need arise. Child or elder care arrangements may be the limiting factor in meeting this ideal, but include flexibility and trading time in your discussions. While you’re at it, you may want to discuss expectations about possible long-term absences, such as maternity leave or a short-term sabbatical.

Making the Selection

Follow your intuition about the match-up potential. Don’t ignore red flags; they’ll haunt you later. (Does this sound like dating? Oh, I said that already. You know what I mean.)

You may not start your job sharing arrangement as soon as you’d like, but it’s worth it for long-term success for you to take your time to pick the “right” job partner.

The Fastest Way to Get Flexible Work Approved

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