In the past month, we've done many segments on "Good Morning America" about working from home and gaining control over your life through various flexible arrangements. We've received thousands of e-mails from people who are eager to better manage work, and life outside work. Here are the five most common questions viewers have asked, along with the responses I've offered:
Can a compressed week work for a large company, or is it best for small teams?
Size doesn't matter. Any type of flexible work arrangement, including a compressed week, will work for companies and departments -- big or small -- if the people are willing to devote the time and effort to ensuring success. Policies and protocols aren't valuable if the people responsible for executing them aren't dedicated to making them work.
So don't focus on the size of your organization; focus on the people instead. And remember -- one plan doesn't always work for everyone. You often need to tailor flexibility around the specific job responsibilities and the individuals.
I am terrified of asking my boss for any kind of change in schedule. Do you think I'll get fired for even raising this issue?
You should be slightly terrified only if you're already seen as a slacker, clock-watcher or someone who doesn't really care about her work. But if you're a diligent, motivated and productive employee, I certainly hope you wouldn't get fired for simply raising the possibility of improving the workplace through alternative work arrangements. You're not demanding a change or expecting an entitlement; you're presenting a well-thought-out proposal for consideration. No decent manager should fault you for that.
My boss is very resistant to change. He rarely likes to change the policies that have been in place for years and years. How should I handle this?
The best companies constantly change and adapt to respond to increased competition, technology and the evolving needs of the business and its people. When creating your proposal, be sure to include responses to all of the potential concerns or opposition the boss might have. In addition to proposing benchmarks to measure the success of your program, also suggest a trial period. Don't ask your boss to commit to a permanent change until he or she has had the benefit of experiencing and evaluating a three-month trial. If he knows he can reject it at the end if it's unsuccessful, perhaps he'll be more willing to approve the trial.
If I reduce my hours, should I expect to reduce my pay?
If reducing your hours means reducing your work load, then yes, you'll likely have to reduce your pay. If, however, you're reducing your hours but you're maintaining the same work load and productivity, then don't be so quick to give up money. Many people can accomplish more in four hours than some people can get done in eight hours.
Be honest about your work load and your manager's expectations before suggesting or agreeing to a pay cut just because your hours are changing.
I worry about alienating my colleagues if I ask for -- and get -- a flexible arrangement. I want it so badly for myself, but I don't want them to hate me for it.
Sometimes by initiating the dialogue, you can bring about positive change and opportunity for everyone. Many departments or teams partner to approach their managers as a group, so everyone wins. Other times, two people coordinate efforts. If you know that there is someone else or even several other people who would enjoy a flexible work arrangement, consider broaching this issue with them casually to get a sense of their interests.
You must decide that there's safety and leverage in numbers if you join together to approach your boss with a workable plan. Or, after such conversations, you might discover that your interests are different from theirs, and you're better off going it alone. They shouldn't be surprised that you're doing what's best for you, while also keeping the business needs top of mind.
Tory Johnson is the workplace contributor on "Good Morning America" and the CEO of Women for Hire. To connect directly with Johnson, visit www.womenforhire.com.