Allison Cheston, Career Connector


Career Connector Blog

Negotiating a Flexible Schedule? An Expert Shows You How


I heard negotiation expert Katie Donovan interviewed for an 85 Broads webinar and thought my readers would benefit from her advice. Katie’s company, Equal Pay Negotiations, LLC, specializes in helping women negotiate for equal pay, benefits and promotions and Katie frequently addresses the topic of flexible schedules. Following is my Q&A with Katie on this important topic.

Allison Cheston I feel like we’ve been a work/life balance discussion for at least 20 years. How has the conversation changed? How have things gotten better or worse for employees?

Katie Donovan There have been many changes including improved technology at home and at work; more dual-income families and single parent households; the education gender gap; the recent recession; and the increased role of men in running the family. Technology has helped work creep into our home life even when we are not working flexibly.  Most managers stay in touch with the office during weekends and vacations. The recent recession forced companies to be creative and realize the cost savings of having people working remotely or working varied hours – while saving jobs and keeping the company afloat as it waited for the economy to improve.

Allison Cheston As you and I both know, the time before you are hired is the most powerful moment you will have with that employer—they have pictured you in the job and feel confident that you will be the best person for that job. What about when you’ve been in your job for a while and your employer is aware of both your positives and negatives? How can you still negotiate for what you want?

Katie Donovan Yes, the time after you receive the job offer and before you accept it is truly the Power Moment to negotiate all the perks of your employment package. But that should never be the only time during one’s tenure at a company.  Situations change both for the company and for the employee, so the employment package needs to change periodically as well.  I recommend looking at your overall employment package annually to see what could be adjusted to create a better experience for both you and your manager.  Remembering the impact of any change on your boss, colleagues, and company as a whole makes the discussion more collaborative and often more successful.  Don’t wait until the annual review to bring up new issues because at that point everyone is just trying to get through deadlines and paperwork.  Schedule time with you manager to discuss your career and ask for your manager’s feedback on your performance and potential. Using that as a jumping off point, state that you would like to consider some changes to further improve your performance.  This is assuming you get kudos from your manager with one or two areas of improvement. (Remember that managers need to give you one or two areas for improvement so don’t think you stink if you get them.)

Allison Cheston How does offering flexibility benefit the company?

Katie Donovan The reality of today’s workforce is that not all great employees can work regular hours at the office.  Companies lose out on some great talent if that are not open to flexibility.  That is why 80% of companies offer some form of flexibility.  The other benefits of telecommuting include an increase in productivity both from more hours worked and more work accomplished during the hours worked, and savings in office space costs. The savings in time flexibility can include benefits if an employee goes from full-time to part-time status. The other big savings is found by less employee turnover, since according to SHRM and other sources, it costs 6 to 9 months’ salary on average to replace an employee.

Allison Cheston Why are people worried about asking for flexibility?

Katie Donovan The economy is better than it was in 2009 but still the mentality of “I’m lucky to have a job” remains very strong.  Another reason is less than half of the 80% of companies that offer flexibility actually document it, leaving many employees thinking they are pioneering new things for the company.

Allison Cheston What are the most common mistakes you see people make when requesting flexibility?

Katie Donovan I think the biggest mistakes I see are NOT requesting it or staying at a bad job just because it does offer flexibility.  People mistakenly believe job flexibility is as rare as a unicorn. They either don’t want to rock the boat by asking for it or lose it by looking for an otherwise better job.

Allison Cheston Does gaining flexibility mean that you are no longer on the “fast track” or that you’re limiting your career growth?

Katie Donovan Having a flexible schedule does mean more effort to stay on the radar for promotions, stretch assignments, and the fast track. Be realistic that you will need to be in touch with management to promote yourself. This can be sending an email with a link to an industry story and your comments; going to the office periodically for a meeting that you usually call in to; and asking for the promotion.  As my examples show, promoting yourself includes both soft and hard sells.

Allison Cheston What is the best way to prepare for a conversation with your boss requesting flexibility?

Katie Donovan Before the meeting do research to know what your options are.  Have potential solutions to any concerns that can arise that might arise. Realize that this can be a negotiation that takes multiple meetings, so understand the hurdles that need to be overcome at the end of the first meeting and go find solutions to them. Continue this until there are no more hurdles or no more solutions.  Wherever you land you will know if this job will continue to meet your needs for the next year.

For more information about Katie Donovan and Equal Pay Negotiations, visit the website:


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