Negotiating Hours at Work

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You’ve found a dream job, but maybe not a dream schedule. How do you negotiate the hours you want?

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As one working parent shares:

“For the last decade I have worked part time from home, running a consulting company. My kids are both school-aged-ish (my youngest just turned 4) and I have the luxury of being home with them most afternoons. Sometimes that means I do work after the kids go to sleep, but I've felt very lucky to be able to work at something I enjoy and get to spend afternoons with my kids. However, my business has really slowed over the last year (though I do still have clients, which is why I am posting anonymously). As a result I've taken on some additional work that honestly is boring and not particularly passion-inducing but still allows me to work part time from home.

I recently interviewed at a company for a position that would allow me to return to the work I was doing with my consulting company, at a place that feels like a good fit, and they've asked me back for a second interview. I came out of the interview feeling excited about being intellectually stimulated again and working on exciting projects, but then was immediately overwhelmed with thinking about what it will be like to only see my kids for an hour or so every night when I get home. This is a fairly senior position and I feel like if I handle it right I might be able to negotiate a shorter workday - maybe something where I would be able to leave the office at 4 every day, or maybe where I work from home 2 days a week. I was wondering if anyone has successfully negotiated a part-time position or flexible schedule, and if so if you have any tips about when to raise the issue (as of yet I have said nothing, and wasn't planning to until I'm actually offered the position), if there are some schedules that employers might be more amenable to (i.e. you know lots of people who work 8-3 or something), or any other suggestions.

I'm really struggling with this decision - I really want to move ahead in my career, but I also don't want the kids to feel I've suddenly vanished from their lives.

Thanks for your wisdom.”

 

Response:

 

A couple of thoughts. First of all, would you be willing to work full-time for X number of months, and then negotiate to go part-time? In my experience, employers may not be wild about hiring someone part-time from the beginning. BUT once you've been there for a while and proved yourself, they may be more willing to consider it. I was able to talk my boss into accepting a part-time schedule after 6 months, when he had come to like my work and he didn't want to lose me completely.

Also, is there any chance that your husband/partner could try to get home earlier? If so, that might help balance things, so the burden is not all on you to feel bad about getting home later. If both parents work, the moms shouldn't feel all the guilt!

Good luck with your decision, either way!”

 

A working dad's question from a March 2021 thread:

 

"Hi parents but especially dads,

My SO and I are expecting our first in May.

I'm currently negotiating a job offer and got the helpful advice at the dads 411 meeting last week to explicitly ask for what I believe I deserve in terms of schedule flexibility to handle parent duties.

What exactly should I ask for - i.e., what schedule flexibility feels mission critical to you, or what do you wish you had? My prospective future boss is a young married guy with no kids, so I know that he (like me) has little idea what parenthood entails. I need to spell it out for him with specific scenarios and make sure he knows exactly what to expect from me.

What do you suggest I ask for? Any pointers about how to ask also welcome.

So far, my list is:

- Work from home 1-2 days/week once we return to the office
- Flexibility to duck out for emergency pediatrician sick appointments
- Flexibility to time-shift schedule to spend time with family in afternoon/evening before bed (~4 - 6 pm?) and log back on in the evening

For additional context, my wife has 6 months of leave but come 2022, we will be two full time working parents. I intend to keep working my full time office job, which presumably will return to the office later this year."

 

Responses

 

"congratulations on your future child and future job!

and I"m so glad you are thoroughly strategizing how to be an equal parent.

My husband took it as a 1 day a week thing for several months, and it was so great. He took it specifically on a day that I had to work, so he got to care for our daughter by himself. I got to ease back into work little by little, and we got to ease into daycare little by little too (which helped $$). It helped build his confidence, he also got see her little by little change and did not miss out on what he needed to do at work because it was just one day a week (he owns his business). He liked it so much, he continued to take this day off whenever possible, regardless of NYPFL. The first day alone he was a little frazzled and overwhelmed at being left alone, but so was I!

If you are working a full time job, you will likely qualify for NY state Paid Family leave for up to a year after the birth, but it also covers appointments and child sick days and all that. You might qualify for NYPFL even if you don't officially qualify for your new company's paid family leave yet. I'm suggesting this NYPFL solution if your employer pushes back about the flexibility. Their website is pretty helpful with FAQ. Your employer is required by law to pay for NY paid family leave insurance, regardless of whether anyone in your company ever uses it (unless it is a non-profit or a church, then everyone in the non profit has to actively vote not to participate). They are also required to give you at least the amount of time allotted by NY state, regardless of gender. You don't have to work that long to qualify for it. This could help your employer meet some of the costs of the flexibility you requested, as 1/2 your salary on those days would be covered by NYPFL."

 

"First - as a mom - I salute you for being proactive about this, both in general and because (sorry, I'm probably being obvious here) it's great to see fathers in heterosexual relationships taking on, much less consciously planning for, the workplace complications of childrearing. My husband did too (and took 5 weeks unpaid after our son was born, which made him as competent as I was with the baby), but I feel like I was unusual lucky for our generation of parents (our kid is 12).

Here's my take on your questions from the perspective of a former manager (of 10-12 people for ~15 years): You should absolutely ask for what you need - but to get what you need, also consider your requests from the perspective of your future manager and co-workers. Some things are easy to accommodate and some may require another person to provide significant cover for you, and asking for very many of the latter might leave a bad taste in your manager's mouth (and/or give co-workers reason to resent you, badmouth you, etc. - they shouldn't, but you're working with actual human nature here). Your manager's bottom line is getting the work done without too many pains in their necks, and if he thinks you're too much trouble, his commitment to you as an employee (and hence their desire to accommodate you, help you grow as an employee, etc.) may drop sharply, and possibly without your realizing it. Obviously this is especially something to avoid as a new employee. Some suggestions:


Start by asking if your prospective manager has had experience with staff taking parental leave and returning to work, and how it went. Make it an open-ended question to try to suss out his opinions, and let the results guide how you present your requests. If he feels like he was shafted once by having to cover when multiple coworkers or staffers took parental leave successively, you can know to lean more heavily on ideas like 'I really don't want to inconvenience people, but I know enough to expect the unexpected, so let's plan now.' If he says 'You'll be the first, but I'm interested in thinking this through and figuring out what works best for all parties,' that sets up a different dynamic.


Be prepared for the situation to change repeatedly - and prepare your manager for that. Babies change, as will your own understanding of what you want/are able to do. So I also suggest saying (maybe in a slightly later part of the discussion) something like, 'Also, I'm pretty sure I'm not able to predict right now what exactly will work for me and my family, so I should warn you that I may be coming back to you in a few months to revisit things. I really appreciate your being open to this discussion.' That will establish the option to change things again if you need to in 6 months or a year, maybe from a stronger position after you'll have established yourself and know more about the feasibility of different options.


I can't predict your manager's reaction, but these are my thoughts about your list:


Pediatrician visits: Yes - anything occasional and preplanned should be a no-brainer, with the exception that for anything mission and time critical (like a presentation where you're the lead person), you should take steps to be there unless it's an emergency-room situation. If not, as a manager I'd consider that a black mark against you indicative of poor planning skills and/or lack of commitment (unless your spouse has a job she can't normally skip - if that's so, forewarn your manager). Depending on your situation, that might mean asking to avoid being assigned time-critical in-person tasks over the first 6 months or so.


Working from home: Yes (assuming you can do everything effectively that way) - right now it may be required right now. (Also, are you asking for this for the first 6 months, or longer?) I used to require people to work full time in the office for their first 6 months or so, to orient them, give me a chance to get a handle on their work style, and ensure they didn't miss out on standard opportunities to meet people, go to relevant meetings, etc. COVID has changed all that, but I'd suggest including the caveat, 'Normally, I'd like to work from home 1-2 days/week for X time... but if there's a week when I'll be needed in the office every day, I'd just need a little forewarning so my wife and I can plan for it.' That makes it clear that you're thinking of the big picture, not just your own side. (Also, make it clear that you're not expecting to be the primary caregiver when working from home - that does not work, or not till your kid's in 4th or 5th grade, from my experience.)


Time-shifting working hours: Maybe, but could be tougher (depending on the job). If somebody's likely to need/want you for urgent work - or even just for info that you have and others don't - during the 4-6 pm slot, your manager might need to assign another person to be 'on call' over that period, which may or may be feasible (and/or politic). That may be easy or it may be tough, so generally I'd be delicate in asking about that (by starting with 'I'm not sure this will arise, but would it be problematic if...', and you may need to settle for doing that 1-2 days a week. I had (before I had a kid myself) a staffer who asked to leave at 2 pm on Fridays so she could meet her daughter at the school bus and do fun things with her; because her work included editing news articles (which often arrived in the afternoon because they were being written in the morning), I had to personally cover for her dozens of times over the years (I couldn't assign this to another staffer because their time/salaries were budgeted to specific other groups). Fortunately I liked the work, and there were few other urgencies or meetings on Friday afternoons, or I might not have let it continue.


-- That said, I'm not sure the 4-6 period is crucial, and it almost certainly won't be at first - for the first few months, babies follow cycles of 3 hours or so almost around the clock. Later, we found a 5:30-7:30 evening patch with our son worked well, though your mileage may vary. It may be more worthwhile to ask if the job can accommodate your having a firm departure time, on the early side of standard - say 5 pm (depending on your commute) - with the same understanding that you'll get back to work in the evening if needed. You also will probably really need/want your downtime by the end of the day, so baking in 'go back to work after dinner' as a routine expectation may be a bad idea. But if you do want to do that later, you can revisit it.

 

Other things: Be prepared for many minor illnesses (in both baby and parents), especially if/when your kid is in daycare. Our son started daycare at 6 months, and we must have all gotten at least 10 colds over the next year, which usually made him feverish for a day or two, so that one of us had to take off (and you can't get much work done with a sick, cranky baby, who may not sleep much). YMMV, and if your childcare is a nanny instead of daycare, the illnesses will be spread out over more time (including when your child starts school), but be prepared. I see someone else addressed FMLA and other leave in a reply; definitely check about that. You could also ask if the company policy allows you to use your own sick days when the baby's sick; my former HR manager, by then the working mother of two college students, made that a policy and we all loved her for it (your manager might even quietly permit that on his own recognizance, cough cough, though I wouldn't ask for that).

 

Sorry for writing a tome here, but this is something I've thought about a lot. Good luck working it all out - and congratulations on forthcoming job and baby!"

 

Related Reading on PSP

The Debate: Working Long Hours and Parenting

Would You Keep The Job You Have Now If You Didn’t Have Kids