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You're a devoted mother (or plan to be), but you're also dedicated to your career. Luckily, these two passions don't have to be mutually exclusive. Growing numbers of companies are permitting flexible arrangements--such as telecommuting, job sharing and condensing the workweek--so employees can enjoy time with their families. In fact, in 2005, 44 percent of U.S. firms allowed some percentage of employees to telecommute, up from 32 percent in 2001, according to a survey by New York-based Mercer Human Resource Consulting.
Still, most companies don't offer flexible options outright. Depending on which of the three situations detailed here suits you and your family best, you'll need to convince your boss that the arrangement will benefit your company--and her directly, if possible. Here's how to put together a winning plan.
Working at home/telecommuting
"By the best estimates, there are between 45 and 48 million teleworkers in the United States, not counting home-based businesses," says Chuck Wilsker, president and CEO of The Telework Coalition, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit group that advocates tele-commuting. "I predict that number will double by 2010."
If you would like to be among the legions working from home, launch into information-gathering mode. Scan your company's most recent employee handbook for any mentions of telecommuting or flexible scheduling. Observe whether co-workers, especially your manager or other top executives, have ever worked from home. This will give you an idea how open your boss may be to your plan. (If no one in your company is currently telecommuting, research competitors who do allow it.)
Next write a proposal that offers solutions to potential drawbacks, such as difficulties communicating with the office or new-baby distractions. The proposal should be as brief as possible and tailored specifically with your boss in mind--covering what you anticipate will be her top concerns, says Pat Katepoo, career adviser and founder of WorkOptions.com in Kaneohe, Hawaii. Also highlight your home-office setup, mentioning communication tools and your ability to participate in meetings via conference call. And while you don't have to be lengthy or exhaustive, "you need to tell your boss that you've arranged for care for your child so you can work uninterrupted," Katepoo adds.
Don't forget to tout how the arrangement will benefit your team-- and your boss. Point out that the time you'd spend commuting could be spent working, for example. Include the latest estimated cost of an employee leaving--one and a half times the employee's annual salary due to lost productivity while the position is open, plus recruiting, hiring and training. Finally, request one or two days of telecommuting a week to start, with a 90-day trial period; at your review you can discuss adding more days.