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Pat Katepoo
Need help getting the boss to say "yes" to a shorter work week? Ask Pat, owner of Work Options Inc., for help!

 EP Work-Family Transition Q&As

Q. Dear Sirs/Madam:

A friend/co-worker and I work for a governmental agency. Both of us are Claims Adjusters, peers. We are interested in job sharing. She is currently
on an extended maternity leave; I am presently working. She is expecting to return to the job force in January and propose the job sharing arrangement. However, we want to make sure that we cover all bases before venturing into it. Once we cover everything we need to know about an arrangement such as this, we will put it in writing for proposal to management.

Do you have any tips/advice on the "how-to's" in making a job sharing arrangement successful? Most of all, to sell our management into agreeing to such a proposal?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Christy P. Najar

A. Dear Christy:

 
Job sharing is a challenging but satisfying flexible work arrangement requiring excellent communication and coordination.
 
You and your coworker should first spend considerable time discussing the details and expectations of the job sharing arrangement. Discuss the desired schedule, the job responsibilities and how they will be shared. You must also decide on a method for keeping each other regularly updated so that important information doesn't "fall through the cracks." E-mail, voice mail, daily logs, telephone or face-to-face meetings are options. Going through this process as a team will also give you an indication of general compatibility as job sharers.
 
As in any relationship, there is no perfect match, but in deciding whether you and your co-worker will be a good long-term, job-share team, consider the following:
  • 1. Good communicator: Maintaining a workable and productive arrangement will require effective communication on an ongoing basis. Your communication styles should mesh well.
  • 2. Cooperative: A supportive teamwork attitude of mutual respect, and a give-and-take approach to the exchange of ideas are positive indicators of a right partner. Someone who is strongly competitive is generally not a suitable pick.
  • 3. Similar and complementary skills: While you want someone with a good background and with experience in your field, someone who complements your strengths and weaknesses can enhance the partnership by rounding out the position.
  • 4. Similar work habits: Attention to detail or big picture approach? Methodical or intuitive? Organized or sloppy (important when you share a desk or filing system)? Prompt or procrastinator? Swift or thoughtful in decision-making? Compatibility in work styles may not be a make-or-break factor, but in general, it will make for a more harmonious arrangement.
  • 5. Flexibility: Ideally, your partner should be able and willing to trade time with you should the need arise. Child care arrangements may be the limiting factor in meeting the ideal, but expectations in this category are worthy of discussion. In selling your management on the proposal, it is critical to have the details you discuss in a well-organized written format. Also, consider items such as, What if one partner leaves or wants to resume full-time? What are the coverage expectations if one is away for three days sick leave? Three weeks vacation? Also vital in making your "pitch": You must present the benefits from their perspective as the employer, not yours. I invite you to visit http://workoptions.com for lots of helpful tips on getting the boss to say "yes" to your proposal.
Two excellent resources for individuals in your situation include, The Job Sharing Handbook, available from New Ways to Work, and my own Flex Success: A Proposal Blueprint for Getting a Family-Friendly Work Schedule. In addition to several proposal preparation exercises and strategies, Flex Success includes a job sharing proposal outline and a finished sample of one that gained approval. For specifics, go to http://workoptions.com/flexsucc.htm.
 
Best wishes,
Pat

Q. Dear Pat,

I am a 31 year old mother of 3 school aged boys. I am looking to supplement my husband's income. My previous employer would like me to return to work in data entry, even if it's just part time. They tell me I'm the only one that can do the job, they've gone through 3 girls in the past 8 months since I left work to be with my kids. I would like to avoid an office position -- I enjoy my 'home base' and would like to work from my home if possible. What can I say to convince my old boss that I can do the job while working from home? How can I get him to see my viewpoint?

Sincerely,
Mrs. D. Kirby

A. Dear Mrs Kirby,
 
When the employer seeks you out, you are in a favorable negotiating position. Use this to your fair advantage. Clearly think through the arrangement that you want (days, hours, location), outline it on paper in the form of a proposal, and describe how the job tasks will get done under these conditions. Use the business term "telecommuting" instead of "work from home" when you write out your proposal. You may want to consider at least one day of the week in the office; most telecommuters are present two to three days a week.
 
Be sure to point out that telecommuting is a growing business trend used by many progressive businesses which often results in double-digit increases in productivity. Point out other employer advantages; you want to present the case with your boss's agenda in mind, not yours. See the "Good for Business"
section at
http://telecommuting.about.com for lots of great data to include in your proposal.
 
For some proposal strategy tips from those who got the boss's approval to telecommute, I invite you to visit my website at
http://workoptions.com/telecom.htm. As a desirable, sought-after employee, be confident about asking for what you
want. Keep a firm position about which aspects of the arrangement are of most importance to you and be ready to give or compromise in areas that are not as critical to your job arrangement satisfaction.
 
Best wishes,
Pat
Q. Dear Expert,
 
Much to my delightful surprise, my boss just agreed to let me work from home one day per week. However, she said that Human Resources must approve the plan. Now I must come up with a written proposal for this
plan.
 
Any suggestions for format and/or content? Perhaps you even have a
sample....
 
Thank you!
Janet
A. Dear Janet:
 
A convincing document spelling out all the details of how you will get the work done at your home office makes it harder for the decision-makers to say no. But, where to start?
 
WorkOptions.com offers several practical resources to answer that question. Flex Success: A Proposal Blueprint for Getting a Family-Friendly Work Schedule is a step-by-step proposal development tool, sort of a digital workbook which, in a quick and easy fill-in-the-blank way, equips you with a customized, thorough and convincing professional document. It has a six-year record of positive results.
 
There are several Strategy Tips from first-time telecommuters who received approval of their plan found at http://workoptions.com/telecom.htm.
 
These ideas should get you started on the path to final approval.
 
Best wishes,
Pat
Q. Hi Pat:

I'm currently on maternity leave, waiting to have my second child. I'm working for a company at which I've been employed for about 12 years. They are very hopeful that I'm planning to return after having my baby. In fact, my boss sent me an email message on my first day away from the office offering a little incentive to return!

The job that I hold, Executive Secretary, is one that is best done at the office. However, with my many years of experience there, I have the understanding of "the overall picture" that allows me to quickly recover
from a day away from the office.

Since my oldest daughter will be attending kindergarten this fall, my plan is to negotiate a Monday, Wednesday, Friday onsite schedule if I should return to the job. With this schedule, I would be able to transport her to and from school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My husband may be able to adjust his schedule for the alternating Fridays that she would attend.

My commute time to work is three hours round trip, so in addition to the school issue and having time to spend with my newborn, I would be getting a break from the long commute! My plan would be to bring work home with me for Tuesdays and Thursdays, to help meet a 30-hour part-time work schedule in order to maintain benefits.

I welcome any advice you may have in the negotiation process!

Thank you,
Lori Smith
A. Hi Lori,
 
You have stated a very good case for cutting your work week to address your personal needs. Now, you must state the benefits in terms of your boss and employer. That's the tough part!
 
Redesigning your job to be less-than-full-time requires thoughtful and thorough planning. (In fact, given your position, you may want to consider a job-share arrangement.) It's best to put forth your plan in written form. Be sure to cover all the bases in your proposal in order enhance your chances of getting approval of your arrangement. It's up to you to develop the "business case" which shows how your employer will benefit (retention of a loyal and experienced employee, increased energy for the job, etc.) and have its needs met under your new arrangement.
 
Your boss will want assurance that it can work; spelling out the details on paper goes a long way to giving that assurance. This approach is the most effective, time-proven way to a proposed new work arrangement approval. Outline your new schedule, your continuity of communication plan, your duties and how they'll be covered on your days away from the office. Be prepared with rehearsed replies to your boss's expected objections to your request and proposal.
 
You'll find lots more specific strategy tips at http://www.workoptions.com.
 
It sounds as if your boss appreciates and needs you. This indicates a willingness to "work something out." Do your part to present a solid plan and proposal, one that will make your pleased boss to agree because you developed a great solution to keeping you on the job.
 
Best wishes,
Pat

Q. I'm about to negotiate a contract with my current employer to do work out of my home. While this is exciting and exactly what I've been wanting to do, starting my own business within one month is scary. I want to negotiate a fair hourly contract rate, but don't want to gauge my employer or price myself out of my first home business job. On the other hand, I don't want to be taken advantage of because of my lack of time to plan (I learned of my lay off and opportunity to work from home on March 1, 1999; my last day is April 2, 1999, and between now and then I need to sign a contract).

What expenses do I need to consider when determining my hourly rate?
 
Thank you for your attention,

Anne Ramstetter Wenzel
Menlo Park, CA

A. Dear Anne,

First of all, in your move from employee to independent contractor (IC), you may want to consult with an accountant or tax attorney regarding whether the work you end up doing for your soon-to-be former employer meet the strict and specific, IRS-defined criteria for "independent contractor." A checklist exists to help make the determination. If you work as an independent contractor for them, but are later discovered to be miscategorized based on the criteria, I understand both parties can get into "hot water" by the IRS.
 
If all is well in that arena, when figuring your hourly rate, take into account what you must now cover yourself, without the help of an employer: the portion of Social Security taxes your employer was paying for you, which will double what you as an employee alone pays (called self-employment tax if you are set up as a sole proprietor); insurance (medical, life, disability); office supplies; equipment (purchase, maintenance and repair); utilities; plus holiday, sick and vacation pay (you must have a rate that allows you to take such days off).
 
If you will be doing work for other clients (this is an important item on the aforementioned checklist), you need to consider sales and marketing expenses, including your time. Time for planning, accounting duties and the like, will also be on your own time. While my expertise is in helping employees set up work from home as an employee (telecommuting and other flexible work arrangements), from my own experience and research, one recommended rule of thumb is to charge about 2-1/2 to 3 times what your hourly rate was as an employee. (Even if you were salaried, figure your hourly.)
 
A pre-contract-signing trip to the library or book store for a crash course on subjects related to your needs (negotiating, fee-setting, business start-ups) will probably yield a valuable payoff for you. If I were you, I would start on the higher side and negotiate down, but have a bottom line figure and hold firm.
Best wishes in your new venture.
 
Pat

Q. I am a work outside mom (33 yrs old). I have one child (6) and one stepdaughter (11). For the past month or so, or at least when I purchased my new computer and started surfing the web, I have been seeking a way that I can stay at home w/ my children but yet
contribute to the household finances. At this point I am trying to
decide if we can afford for me to quit my job and maintain our budget. I am planning on searching more sties and links to look for more answers.

 
I just hope there is something out there for me to do to help support my family by working at home, so that I can spend more time with my family. The stress of working outside the home is making a monster of me, and the constant rushing after work hours (supper, baths, homework, etc...), is creating an unhealthy homelife.
 
At this point, I admire all those who manage a family, marriage and a career from home!!! I just hope I can find a way to be a part of that type of group. Do you have any advice you can send my way?
 
Take care and God Bless you and your family and all your efforts to help those like me!
 
Donna Gorenflo

A. Dear Donna,

I sense your strong motivation, which is a powerful ingredient as you plow through the necessary steps to transition to an at-home career. As you are researching at-home career possibilities while continuing your outside work, you may want to "practice" living on only your husband's income for a few months to see if leaving your outside job is financially feasible in the near future. This will likely involve developing a stricter household budget while cutting discretionary spending. Savings can usually be found in the eating out, wardrobe and recreation categories, among others.
 
You might find Quicken Deluxe 98 useful for its handy budgeting tools features. You'll find some helpful family budgeting resources at http://catalog.cfcministry.org/catalog/, and ongoing money management features at www.cheapskatemonthly.com/ and www.familymoney.com.
 
As you do your cost-cutting, use your current job income to pay off any consumer debt you might have and to save up for your start-up business costs. Remember, in terms of income and profits, a new business is often characterized by lean months (or years) in the early stages, so you want to have a financial cushion to keep you going through to the growing and thriving stages of your at-home enterprise.
 
Many mothers I've worked with have found relief in the work/family time conflict by successfully negotiating a flexible work arrangement at their current job. Such an arrangement allows for a steady income as you plan for your transition to at-home career status.
 
Developing a solid plan and written proposal to "pitch" to your boss is the first step to securing the new work arrangement, whether it be a shortened work day, shortened work week or telecommuting. Since your children are in school, a shortened work day of say, six hours a day, may help tame the "monster" that rears its head due to rushing, stress and fatigue. With more "breathing space" between work and home responsibilities, you can enjoy more time with your family during the dinner and evening hours, plus carve out more time and energy to research, plan -- and even start -- your new career working at home.
 
Once you and your husband agree that your finances and your business plan are well in place, you can be confident that the time for leaving your outside job and completing the transition to an at-home career will have arrived.
 
Best wishes,
Pat
Q. I am a full-time working mom. My husband and I are wanting to start planning another child. With the career I have now, I cannot possibly have a newborn and work ten hours a day, so I am interested in a part-time job.
 
For years I have made special gifts for people for birthdays, christmas, etc. I love working with flowers, making wreaths, swags, baskets, and recently I did a wedding and loved it. I would like to get started in setting up booths at craft and bazaar shows and maybe working part-time in a floral or craft store. But I don't know how to get started.
 
What kind of criteria does one need -- how much money will I make -- will I have to pay taxes or is it legal to be paid under the table -- how can I advertise -- is this type of business booming?
 
Can you help lead me in the right direction? Perhaps you know of some good resources and others that I can talk to.
 
Thank you in advance for your assistance.
 
Tara Holliday

A. Dear Tara:

It sounds as if you have a passion and a talent, plus indications of a "market", i.e., people who are willing to pay for your crafts. Those are all good raw ingredients for exploring the possibility of starting a business.
 
A logical next step might be to do research on setting up a business and then developing a business plan. This process will help you answer some of the many questions about business start-up, including those about legal and tax requirements, advertising, sales projections, costs and profits, and more.
 
Home business author Barbara Brabec has written a few books on starting and running a successful crafts home business, including Creative Cash: How to Profit from Your Special Artistry, Creativity, Hand Skills and Related Know-How. Click on that title to see her other titles, pricing and ordering information. They look like the perfect "first course" for your interests.
 
Meanwhile, you can explore job openings and expected pay at local crafts or floral shops. If the outlook for that possibility is not good in the near-term, (either in terms of availability or financially) you may want to negotiate a shortened work week or work day at your current job. My web site, Work Options.com, has more information on this topic. This would allow you some work/family balance even as you do business research and start up.
 
Going through a whole year of holidays, craft fairs, and the wedding season would give you a good gauge of your business's potential and give you a better idea whether you could then transition completely out of your outside employment.
 
Best wishes,
Pat
Q.  I am a working full time Mom of four. I currently hold a management position at a small bank as Operations Officer, with 20 years banking experience. I am interested in finding out about working at home as a "fiduciary" but don't know where to start to look for info.

A. You'll find lots of helpful information among the EP Experts here.

Is your need related to starting a business in general, or for developing a business specifically as a fiduciary?

If it's the former, take a look at EP Expert Terry Lonier's information, especially, "The Top Ten FAQs About Starting a Business." This will help you develop a framework for starting your business and give you an idea of what steps to take.
 
If you are wondering about being in business specifically as a fiduciary, you'll want to do market research. Who is filling that role in your community now? How many are there? How busy are they? Who are their main clients? Consider, will potential clients be comfortable and confident working with someone out of their home, or will the nature of fiduciary duties have them seek an institutional setting? If so, can you overcome this with some sort of competitive advantage?
 
The book, Getting Business to Come to You, is another helpful and comprehensive resource written by EP Experts, Paul and Sarah Edwards.
 
Is your business something you can start from your home on a part-time basis? Because acting as a fiduciary is a professional service based on relationships and trust, you can expect that it will take more time and ongoing marketing efforts to build your clientele and income than it would for a product.
 
Setting up a job sharing arrangement or other flexible work schedule for your current role at the bank would allow you more time to explore and develop your home business plan. For more information on that approach, visit my web site at www.workoptions.com.
 
NationsBank is a progressive example to show your employer of a banking company which promotes alternative work schedules, even for management level employees (see the October issue of Working Mother magazine for more details).
 
Meanwhile, keep exploring the EP site for valuable information and inspiration. You are sure to find more guidance as you move toward making your home business idea a reality.
 
Pat

Q. Dear Pat,

I've lived in my community for scarcely over a year, and I've just been terminated from my first job in this area (our office moved beyond commuting distance). My supervisor kept me employed from home so I would qualify for the severance pay applicable to 1-year employment.

Perhaps I've been spoiled, but after tasting work-from-home and noticing the difference in our family life, I am determined to be at home when my children are here. I have been a single mom of two for 8 years, and have re-married this year. I feel I can finally make my family the priority by being the mom I should be, and the mom my children deserve.
Although I've been interviewing for full-time work, I make it a point to be honest with my potential employer regarding the flexibility I need for my family. My most recent employer hired me on-the-spot with the knowledge of my need for flexibility, although that job still required me in the office for 8 hours. The telecommuting aspect really intrigues me, and would allow me to be at home when my children are home from school, yet be in the office daily for 5-6 hours.
 
When asked about my plan by a recent interviewer (who seemed positive on the idea of flexibility), I wasn't very specific, other than starting work later and the ability to leave earlier. I realized I need a concrete plan and to be prepared for more specific questions.

What information might a potential employer seek when faced with the issue in an interview? How can I prepare myself to field all the questions a potential employer may ask?

Sincerely,
Lorraine Brecka
A. Dear Lorraine,
 
Any potential employer would want to know the specifics you have in mind, so it's a good idea to be well-prepared to discuss how you would get the required work done within the context of the flexible work schedule you are proposing. Detail your intended schedule and when/how specific job responsibilities would be completed with that schedule.
 
If you are planning to propose telecommuting or a shortened work day, you'll also want to present a strategy for how you will maintain regular communication with your subordinates, colleagues and/or superior(s) when you are off-site during traditional work hours.
 
Also, be ready for possible objections from your potential employer. These may include:
  • "We've never done this before; it's not our policy, so I'm not sure how it would work."
  • "If I let you do it, everyone else may want to do the same."
  • "Your type of job can't be turned into part-time (or telecommuting)."
Scripted replies to these and other objections can be found in my document, Flex Success: A Proposal Blueprint for Getting a Family-Friendly Work Schedule. For more information, please visit my web site at www.workoptions.com.
 
These preparation steps highlight the challenge of proposing a flexible work arrangement going into a new position. Virtually all of my clients are redefining their current position, as you did during your transition out of your former job.
 
Since you don't have that option now, you may be better off, in my opinion, to establish yourself in a new position for a length of time and then propose the arrangement you desire. (Even when employers have formal telecommuting policies, they often include criteria such as the employee must have worked in their position for a minimum duration, usually six months to two years. You can understand that a manager of a newly-hired employee would want to have a sufficient degree of confidence and comfort in the employee's capabilities and character before letting him or her work off-site.)
 
I can't blame you if putting off workplace flexibility is an undesirable approach. In that case, your best alternative, in my opinion, (and depending on the nature of the position, of course), is to propose to a new employer a thirty-hour work week, with six hour days, emphasizing the cost savings, among other employer benefits of part-time. Although that might mean a re-working of your household budget, it is more in line with your vision of work and family balance.
 
I hope these suggestions are helpful to you.
 
Sincerely,
Pat

 

 Q. Dear Pat,

I am a new mom and I have always worked outside the home full time. Now that my daughter is born, I am having a terrible time transitioning even to a part-time job. I feel that the only way that I will be able to manage is to find work out of the home.
I have looked on the Internet and I am afraid that a lot of the opportunities are scams. I don't particularly want to sell anything or have to be gone in the evenings. Do you know of any opportunities that may be legitimate that I could net $1,000 per month? My income is necessary just to make ends meet.
 
I am college educated and have mortgage banking experience, however, nothing that I could "freelance" and provide a service to people.
Please advise. Thank you for your time.

Alisa Panek

A. Dear Alisa,

While my expertise is mainly focused on converting one's current job into something more flexible, I believe I can steer you to a few places where you might find the help you are seeking.
 
One excellent overview and interesting perspective of "business
opportunities" is found right here on the
EP site. It's called "Finding Your Work-at-Home "Opportunity", written by EP Co-Founder, Lisa Roberts. There are two parts: one helps you crystallize your marketable skills; the other provides ideas for creative application of your skills for a viable home business opportunity. I think the material will speak directly to your needs.
 
Also, head over to EP Experts Paul and Sarah Edwards' page for information on choosing the right home career.
 
Finally, you may also get some viable ideas by spending some time at the About.com's Telecommuting site. The "Job Spot" link might be of particular interest.
 
Best wishes on finding the right combination of work and family balance.
 
Sincerely,
Pat

 

 
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