Q: My boss recently approved my proposal to work four days a week which begins next month. I’m afraid that, once I start, my co-workers may grow resentful or jealous of my arrangement. Any suggestions?
A. Resentment and jealousy are indeed potential responses from co-workers if the situation is not handled deftly. Fortunately, you have some time before your new schedule starts to take measures which will help keep ill feelings at bay.
As with any relationship, good communication goes a long way toward preventing build-up of negative feelings.
So, talk with members of your work group, one-on-one, if possible. Approach and attitude are critical. Do not be smug about your new work arrangement; approach your co-workers with a sincere desire to hear and respond to their concerns.
You should decide beforehand how accessible you plan to be on your “off” day. Will you be totally unavailable except for emergencies? Or, will you check and respond to voice mail and/or e-mail once a day? Will you carry a pager or cell phone? Who will be your back-up and what constitutes an emergency requiring your direct response?
Have ready answers to these types of questions. That way, when you outline your new schedule to co-workers and solicit their feedback, you can make some assurances by going over the communication plan.
Let them know that they will be part of the evaluation process that you will implement for your work arrangement schedule, but that you also welcome their suggestions for enhancing the situation at any time before the formal assessment.
Subtly inject the fact that you will be taking a pay cut but that you feel the trade-off will be worth it because you are anticipating an increase in focus and work energy as a result of your modified workweek. (This is not uncommon among those who reduce their hours.)
Emphasize your commitment to your job, the work group and your employer and that you expect your new arrangement to only enhance your commitment, a typical response of those who have and appreciate work flexibility.
It won’t be 100% smooth sailing; certain personalities and inescapable office politics preclude that. However, by being the consummate professional and a consistent communicator over time, coupled with a desire to make the new schedule work for yourself and your co-workers, you can enjoy your four day workweek with minimal backlash from co-workers.