Are you familiar with all the types of flexible work arrangements? Have you thought about asking for one, either because you’re currently pregnant and thinking about your return to work after maternity leave, or because you’ve returned to your regular schedule after having your baby and want to try something different? We’ve put together a quick reference guide to the six common types of flexible work arrangements — and we also have some awesome upcoming posts from one of Kat’s friends who’s had a very successful career mainly with reduced hours / part-time work. (Ladies who have one of the other types of flexible work arrangements, would you consider guest posting or being interviewed? We’d love to hear from everyone!)
(Pictured: Boing!, originally uploaded to Flickr by GollyGforce.)
The six main types of flexible work arrangements are:
Flextime / Alternative Work Schedule
In this popular option, a company allows an employee to adjust her work schedule without changing the total number of hours worked. For example, she might work 7-4 rather than 8-5. Her schedule may be the same each weekday, or it may vary.
An employee works a schedule with less than full-time hours, either with pro-rated benefits, reduced benefits, or zero benefits.
Two employees split the hours, duties, salary, and benefits for a single full-time position with or without overlapping schedules. Each one typically works 20 hours.
Compressed Work Week
Instead of working 35-40 hours a week Monday through Friday, an employee comes to the office 4 days a week at 10 hours each, or 3 days a week at 12 hours each, for example.
Telecommuting / Remote Work / Flexplace
An employee is permitted to work offsite, either for a certain number of hours or days a week, or 100% of the time.
Results-Oriented Work Environment (ROWE)
The ROWE approach emphasizes an employee’s productivity rather than a specific number of hours or a particular schedule. As long as she completes the required work and produces acceptable results, the total number of hours worked isn’t important.
Ladies, which type of flexible work arrangement seems most attractive and conducive to a great working relationship on both sides? Those of you who’ve negotiated one of the types of flexible work arrangements, or who’ve worked a type of flexible work arrangement, what are your best tips for success for other working moms?
- What Every Employee Should Know About Flexible Work [U.S. News & World Report]
- Employees Like Flexible Work Programs — But Few Use Them [The Wall Street Journal]
- Why Law Firms Are Increasingly Flexible with Their Workers [Denver Post]
- New Hampshire’s the Latest State to Make Requesting Flextime a Little Bit Easier [Slate XXfactor blog]
Anon MN says
I’m about to start working from home 60% next week, and I am so excited.
I always wondered about the “flex time” for salaried employees. Is this really legal being that I am salaried and therefore expected to produce results? I technically work “flex-time” (7-4 instead of 8 – 4:30) but always thought it was stupid because isn’t it just my job to get my work done? Why do they care when I arrive (unless, of course, I had customers or courts to deal with, which I do not).
I think some of the flex-time formalities are for internal reasons. When do we expect employees to be in the building/available to take calls or meetings/ need air conditioning, etc. Defining the times protects against abuse and misconceptions abut why someone is coming in late/early/only MWF. I also think some offices have more face-time expectations than others or require more team interaction so you need to set parameters. My job is a billable hour job where people don’t really care when I come and go, but do have some expectations that I make myself available during generally accepted work hours of M-F, 9-5ish.
I’m an attorney working 30 hours over 4 days with a day off in the middle. In public sector and able to actually work only 30 hours, and use comp time to make up for it if I have to go over for a project. Yes, this is why I took this job! Came on full time, got to drop my hours when my kid was born, can go back up to full time as my lifestyle allows. Agency made this decision to be able to attract and retain talent through varied stages in life and it has made for a very loyal office of dedicated attorneys.
I am an in-house attorney and have worked from home almost exclusively since my daughter was born (she’s almost three). While this is common in my particular office (our management and clients are generally at other sites), it is an unofficial arrangement and there have been various attempts to get folks back to the office.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that being able to work from home kept me in the workforce during the first year with my daughter. I solo parented for most of the workweek, and my child did not sleep that first year. If I’d have had to be in an office, looking decent, with a long commute each way, I’m fairly certain I would have quit. Very grateful my company “unofficially” gave me flexibility.
I work in financial services (non-legal / corporate job) and have been home based since my child was born a year and a half ago. Before that, I was only in the office 1-2 times per week.
I love my arrangement, and I am not sure I will ever be able to re-adjust to commuting an hour each day and being at the office for 9+. It’s still hard though and some days I am so exhausted even working from home is difficult. It also really blurs the lines between work and personal and as a mom I feel like I never really get a break because any 5 minutes I have from work I am throwing in laundry or checking on how my child is doing with the caretaker, then it’s back to the job again and morning / evenings I am solo as husband has the long commute.
As for advice, I’d say you definitely have to be disciplined to make it work, and have a large enough space if your child will be home with a caretaker in the same place you are working. When I started, we were in a small city apartment and had a nanny who couldn’t keep baby from crying and that was truly awful. I was ready to quit every day. We ended up moving to the house in the suburbs (and different caregiver) and it’s working much better for us all.
CPA Lady says
When I worked in public accounting, at that firm there was the option to either go “reduced hours” (80%) or go “seasonal” (full time in mid-january through mid-april and mid-august through mid-oct, off the rest of the year). IMO, going reduced hours was completely pointless. You were expected to bill the same # of hours as a full time person during busy season, and then take a bunch of time off in May, November, and December when there wasn’t much work to do. Even though you were billing probably 95% of the hours of a full time person, you’d only be paid 80%. I was not willing to work 70+ hours a week at a job where I would be making 80% of the pathetic salary you make as a peon-level person in public accounting. That job was very flexible in general, though. You could basically come and go as you pleased as long as you billed your hours.
At my new job, I work full time with minimal overtime even during busy season, and that is doable for me. It was really the overtime that I couldn’t handle. We have pretty much complete flexibility as long as we work 40 hours a week. I can leave for a dr. appt. or a hair cut, or work from home when my kid is sick.
My long term plan is to someday work on a seasonal basis. Probably back in public accounting. Once my daughter is older, and definitely during my headed-towards retirement years. A lot of the seasonal workers in my public accounting firm were older women who worked on the same clients year after year. They were paid well and had summers and winters off to travel, spend time with family, etc.
I have a position that features a sort of ROWE/Flex/Remote hybrid. I’ve been able to set my own hours (currently 730-330, working through lunch), but there is also an understanding among salaried individuals at my company than as long as work is progressing apace, “punching the clock” for a strict 40 hours isn’t necessary. I’m expected to have the majority of my hours on site between 8 and 5. But I can occasionally put in a few hours at home in the evenings or on a weekend, and I have the occasional option to slip out without making up the missing time. With the cyclical nature of my year, I have some seasons I’m much busier than others and find that eventually my hours balance out.
This arrangement has been excellent, and is the number one irreplaceable benefit I have that keeps me from finding a (much desired) new job.
Corporate finance director here.
Before kids, my dream perk was a compressed work week, so I could have a longer weekend. Ha.
Now, I *need* both flextime and telecommute options to make my life work. I generally work 8-4:30 (through lunch) with a few extra hours sprinkled through night/weekend, around 45 hours total. But I need the flexibility to come in late if I need to meet with a teacher, or work from home if we’re in the dreaded “24 hour fever free” zone. Or even just to catch up on loads of laundry during the day.
It’s one of the reasons I’m staying with my current (less-attractive) company, because the flexibility and reasonable hours are not guaranteed if I go anywhere else. I know it’s limiting my upward progression, but I’m not at a point where I can put in 60 hour weeks or be able to stay until 8pm on no notice.
Corporate America’s fixation on working more than 40 hours in a professional leadership role is very difficult for working families. I don’t know a single VP (or higher) who doesn’t have a nanny or a stay-at-home spouse. (Or a teacher spouse, if they have older kids.) It’s frustrating and feels like I’m constantly banging against a glass ceiling of my own making.
Same. Pre-kids, I worked 9 hours/day and had a long weekend every other week, but post-kids, no way.
I have never had a job that demanded (on paper) more than 40 hours per week, but when kid #1 was a baby, I would routinely work 10 hour days with an hour commute on either side. Not sustainable at all, so I leaned out and lateraled to a less-demanding role at a satellite office closer to home. After baby #2, I had to go back to the main office, but was able to switch to 80% time, 4 days/week, with some flexibility to switch the day I had off if I needed to stay home with a sick kid or had an appointment. It was a godsend. In those positions, telework was absolutely not an option. In theory, flextime was, but I quickly realized that getting in early was no guarantee I’d be able to leave at 4, so why?
I’m now a director at an office 10 minutes from home and daycare, with basically total control of my schedule, and it is amazing. I typically work 8:30-5, but if I need to leave early, come in late, or work from home, no big deal. My job is a lot more demanding and I probably work more hours than I did in my previous positions, but eliminating the hellish commute and being able to fit those hours in around my family/life obligations is a total game-changer.
I have a compressed workweek. I work for a state gov’t agency. My hours are 7:45 to 5:30, M-Th. It’s hard to wake up to be at work that early and it’s still a crunch to make it home for bedtime, but every week, just when I start to get burnt out and feel terrible that I’ve spent no time with my little guy, I know we will have all day Friday together and it really helps to get me through. Having a weekday to run errands is also really helpful. The toughest part is that sometimes stuff gets planned for a Friday that I have to miss, which is probably not good for me long term, and that it’s harder to squeeze everything in when you only have 4 days. Some weeks, I’ll just have a day or two that is unproductive or filled with BS busywork and there’s no Friday to catch up like there used to be. Still, the compressed week is basically essential for my sanity and child care situation. It did take me a little bit of time to adjust to the longer days.
So my workplace is HUGE on face time. They just recently rolled out a telecommute policy and the underlying assumption is basically ‘if you are waiting for a home repair or have pinkeye or similar contagious but not serious ailment, you can work from home with permission and a million strings attached. You cannot stay home with a sick kid and call it ‘working from home’. It’s really restrictive, but better than what we had before which was basically ‘work from home but you can’t count the hours or get paid for the work you’re doing’.
I work FT Plus (usually under 50h/week though) and my husband travels extensively for work. During the summer I am able to work an earlier schedule and leave one day a week at 2:30. That extra afternoon is so great for getting everything done so I can really relax on the weekends.
I really do wish that I worked in an environment that was much more focused on being effective and efficient than being in your seat at all hours. At the same time, I think that many flex work arrangements are a privilege and people forget about that. I am often getting the short end of the stick because the external people I need to work with are all enjoying their flexible work arrangements, meanwhile I’m getting no answer when we call at 4:30 on a normal business day… but I digress.
Care for a sick kid should count against your own sick time and not be time in which you’re obligated to work. I get that the culture and/or specific deadlines may not allow for that, but there’s a legal basis to push back under those circumstances.
I’m an attorney and I work full-time, but one of the primary reasons I stay both at my firm and in private practice (as opposed to going in-house) is what I perceive as a great deal of flexibility. I have a billable hours target and so long as I am meeting that, moving my cases and otherwise getting it done, I have a fair amount of flexibility in how and when I do it. I get thrown for the same loops as everyone else with child sickness issues, etc., but I can work from home, no questions asked.
I think I’ve posted before about my frustration with my “part-time” arrangement. I’m really struggling with it. I think one issue is that my workload is completely unpredictable; I can come into the office with two hours of billable work on my plate for the day, and by the time I start those 2 hours, a new “emergency” project explodes and completely hijacks everything. It’s hard to line up enough projects to meet my billable hour requirements, and there is no way I could do it if I actually only came into the office 60% (which is my comp goal).
I’m also a specialist in a billable hour law firm. I’m looking for other comp models for law firm specialists; my current comp is based on billable hours, which stinks. My firm has historically expected specialists to carry their own book, but I don’t know how I would manage a book with the exploding emergency projects.
I work from my home office because I travel around 20-30% of the time (usually 1-2 nights a few times per month). I make my own schedule entirely and nobody keeps tabs on me as long as I am getting the work done. The flexibility is amazing.
We don’t have kids but are planning on trying next year. I love my current job (which I have been doing for 16 months), but to move up, I would need to go back into the office and work a 9-5 role. I’m hoping to gather valuable skills in this flexible role for the next 3-5 years and then hopefully go back into the office once my child goes to school.
I’m also super thankful my husband has a flexible job as well. I wouldn’t be able to do it all without him.
In House Counsel says
I’m in house at a MNC and since my daughter (almost 4 now) was born, I’ve been able to work from home 2x a week on an official basis. That flexibility has be invaluable in keeping my sanity and me engaged/interested in my job. At my company about 1/3 of the workforce is remote and another 1/3 probably work at least 1 day a week from home. Its been a great environment to be in as a working mom of 2 given the lack of facetime and emphasis on getting work done.
I am a soon-to-be first time mom (37.5 weeks… ready for this baby to be out!!!) and a physician assistant. I quit my job in the ER at 27 weeks because I was assaulted by a psych patient; also the schedule of the ER isn’t very family friendly (12 hour shifts, could be scheduled for any day/weekend/holiday, etc). I’ve been home since and, honestly, going a little crazy. I’m not sure how I’ll feel after baby is born, but if I feel like I feel now, I am going to want to work. I am a little apprehensive and torn about working full time. We’ve had difficulty having a baby and I am looking to create that elusive work/life balance.
Background/Question: A local physician has an opening for a .9 FTE (four days one week, five days the next) in his ENT practice. The position is opening up in December of this year. One of the offices I’d need to cover is over an hour away from my home. Call is minimal, no ER, hospital, or surgical rounding (meaning this is pretty much just office based work). I live in a rural area where it is difficult to recruit / retain both docs and PAs.
I would like to negotiate the position to be .8 FTE – four days every week. I feel like this is the maximum I can/want to handle.
–For those of you who can’t work from home, how realistic is it to be working/commuting 7-5, 7-6 with a 4 month old?
–Has anyone tried a “ramp up” period where they return to work on a part time basis and then slowly add more hours to their schedule so everyone can adjust?
–Anyone go through the experience of starting a new job fresh off of maternity leave? Tips?
I worked FT 7-3 (7.5 hr work day at that job) with a 4-month-old. It can be done, for sure, but 4-month-olds in my experience go to sleep REALLY early. Like, right when you get home early. If you’re working 7 to 5 or 6, you may not get much time with your baby during the week. Mine went to sleep at 6 p.m. for a while as a baby….that time was not of my own doing. It was her time. Early to bed, early to rise. You have to make the best of the time on the weekends. It gets better as they get older and stay up a bit later (in our case, now 8 p.m.).
I would love ROWE! Unfortunately, part of my job is to babysit the office even when no customers call or come in. During our busy season, though, I would be able to get my work done faster with more accuracy if I could work during non-open times. (I am a tax preparer) I know that I would obviously have to be in the office during open times to meet with clients, but the work would go better without distractions of other workers, drama, telephone, etc.