This article was originally written for and posted on Babes Who Hustle. This is the original version submitted.
I did a scary thing at work recently.
I asked for a 4-day, 32-hour work week from my full-time corporate job. And guess what? I got it.
It’s something I’ve wanted for two years now, and I kinda, sorta had a work from home arrangement for a while, but it wasn’t enough.
I’ve realized that full-time corporate work doesn’t really work for me and that life is too short to spend at a desk job, so I’m taking steps to make my life more balanced. I have two young daughters I want to spend more time with and a lot of interests that warrant my attention.
Unfortunately, we also have a mortgage, (a lot of) student loan debt, daycare costs and a lot of other things to pay for, so I can’t just quit and go live my passion. But after talking with my husband, I decided I’m ready to make some sacrifices to get some time back.
It can be a scary thing to speak up and ask for what you need from your employer. They pay your salary, which you need, and most places of employment are at-will, meaning they don’t really need a reason to let you go. It can also be emotionally charged and personal, making it tough to stay rational and calm when having to defend yourself or get turned down. But, you can do it!
Here’s what you can’t do:
Go to your boss demanding things (unless you are willing to walk out if you don’t get what you want, which I also don’t recommend).
Five things to do before taking the leap:
- Check your employee handbook to see if there are existing policies in place. My company’s touted that it’s a proponent of work-life balance and that while there were no official policies, it was up to the Department Director’s discretion. You better believe I copied that info and highlighted it throughout my various conversations about this topic.
- Speak to Human Resources. After reviewing the employee handbook, I went to my HR representative to speak to her about options. She reiterated what I already knew and gave me a little bit of insight on if this had been done before (not that she knew of) and how I could frame it up. This meeting made me realize that I would be forging my own path regarding my request.
- Document your successes. I save any emails of praise from my peers and above, samples of successful work, recognition awards, etc. because they serve as proof that I am capable, productive, valuable and get my work done. Favorable yearly reviews are also great! Show your company why it would be worth it to accommodate your request.
- Read up. Find articles or news stories that support your request. There are a ton out there about how employee retention and productivity can increase with flexible work arrangements. Show everyone how it will benefit them to give you something you want.
- Decide what you want. What is it that you're actually asking for? More vacation, a condensed work week, part-time work, work from home options, flexibility in your start time, a raise? Be clear and firm about what you’re asking for, but allow for flexibility or negotiation. Maybe you want a 4-day work week, but are willing to check email after hours to attend to urgent matters. Or, you are willing to take a pay cut to reduce the number of hours in your week. Put it in writing so they know you are committed to your work and will maintain the level of quality they are used to.
After all that, I did the scary thing — asked my manager if there was a possibility to have a 4-day work week. Being a mom with young kids herself, she was totally open to the idea. She wants to keep me as an employee, and is willing to go to bat for me to make that happen. But, it was convincing the higher-ups that took some work (and time), which is when the documentation I prepared became so important.
My request went all the way up to the Sr. VP of Marketing and the Human Resources team. They had to look at the request as an organization, not just my individual instance, because if they say yes to me, they will have to say yes to others, and they are scared of that. But, I’m happy to say that my request was approved and I will now have a 4-day work week.
Not all cases will end in a favorable outcome, but don’t let that deter you from trying! Maybe your company can’t give you what you need right now, but are willing to address the request again in 3 or 6 months. Keep compiling those kudos and any research you find to make your case stronger. Continue to do outstanding work so they see the real value you bring to the organization, which hopefully will give you a leg up when you go back to the table.
Other than the fact that I’m really excited about the opportunities this extra day out of the office will provide, I’m really proud of myself for putting in the work and time to fight for something that will hopefully have a positive impact on other people in my organization that have the same desires. I’ve had a few coworkers, and even my Director, thank me for being a champion for this cause in our organization, because it has been recognized as something that needs to be addressed, but nobody has grabbed the bull by its horns.
You’ll never get a yes if you don’t ask the question. Put on your big girl undies, go forth, and ask for what you want!