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Remote work arrangements have gained a lot of traction over the last decade. Employees praise them for their flexibility and contribution to stress reduction, while a growing number of nonprofits are implementing them to save money and boost employee engagement and loyalty. Such arrangements even have positive effects beyond the workplace, from reduced traffic congestion and pollution to creating more quality time for parents and their children.
Working remotely is not only convenient, it's constructive: recent surveys indicate that 77 percent of telecommuters believe working from home enables them to be more productive, and two-thirds of their managers agree. And with 68 percent of millennial job seekers saying that the option to work remotely would significantly increase their interest in a specific employer, it seems like remote work arrangements are here to stay. In fact, many employees are already giving it a shot, if only on occasion: today, nearly 37 percent of American employees say they have worked remotely at some point.
The future of work isn't just about being able to work remotely. Organizations are experimenting with a variety of alternative work arrangements, from paternity leave and on-site child care, to sabbaticals and unlimited vacation days, to flex schedules, with the aim of creating a better work-life balance for employees.
As the third-largest industry, in terms of number of people employed, in the U.S., the nonprofit sector has lots of reasons to feel good about itself. But the relatively high turnover rate in the sector can be a hindrance to recruiting and retaining top talent. With that in mind, nonprofits may want to consider more flexible work arrangements for their employees as a way to address employee burnout and even inspire more creativity and innovation among their employees.
If your organization has been thinking about introducing alternative work arrangements, here are four things you can do today to set the table for a productive conversation with your manager:
1. Understand what makes you productive. Make a list of what it is you need to be productive. Reflect on those moments when you've been fully immersed in your work, actively engaged in problem-solving, and/or able to easily channel your creativity. What did those moments have in common? A good place to start is time of day: Are you a morning person? A night owl? Or an interval worker (three hours on, one hour off)? Then think about your workplace environment: Are you most productive and creative when working alone? Do you prefer a shared office space? Group meetings? Or some combination of the above? Finally, consider some of the other external factors that may affect your productivity and performance. Does having more flexible time with your pet or children contribute to your productivity, or do you find it distracting? Does your commute take up too much of your time and energy, or is it the part of your day you use to think and solve problems?
2. Examine how you allocate time to your key responsibilities. Next, revisit your job description and divide your responsibilities into three categories: 1) responsibilities that require you to be on site working with a team; 2) responsibilities that can be managed through email, video conferencing, and phone calls; and 3) responsibilities that you can take care of alone, from anywhere.
Then, estimate the percentage of your weekly hours spent on each of these categories. This will give you an idea of what kind of remote work schedule is feasible. On-site responsibilities - 100 percent? You might want to explore the possibility of a flex schedule (i.e., 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., to accommodate for rush-hour traffic), or to ask for more flexibility in the use of your vacation time. On-site responsibilities – 80 percent? Try working from home one day a week. On-site responsibilities – 50 percent? You may want to explore an alternative schedule (i.e., working on-site from 11:00 to 3:00 p.m. and from home in the early morning and late afternoon, or working 2.5 days a week in the office and 2.5 days at home).
3. Create a scenarios list. Once you have a better understanding of your needs (productivity requirements) and your employer's needs (responsibility requirements), take some time to list scenarios that accommodate both sets of needs. Then prioritize two or three different scenarios that could meet your needs while also meeting those of your employer; this will give you options to explore in the meeting you have your manager or boss to discuss a different work arrangement.
4. Talk with your manager. Schedule a meeting with your manager or boss to discuss the possibility of a remote work arrangement and focus on the "win-win" that such arrangements are supposed to deliver: a happier and more productive employee. Keep these dual goals in mind as you discuss each of the scenarios with your manager. Remember, this is likely to be a learning process for both you and your employer, so it's best to approach the design of any alternative work schedule as a proof case. You might even want to suggest trying out one of your scenarios for a month or two and then meeting to review how it worked out. And when you walk out of the meeting, make sure you have these three things in place:
- a set of clearly formulated questions that both you and your employer would like to see answered by the trial arrangement (i.e., Do weekly team meetings work as well over video chat as they do in person?);
- a pre-scheduled follow-up meeting to discuss the effectiveness of the new arrangement; and
- a commitment by you and your manager to keep the lines of communication open, so that both sides feel comfortable providing honest feedback as you explore the possibility of a new work arrangement.
Ready to join the millions of people enjoying a flexible and less stressful way of working? Learn more about remote work for social impact and browse short-term, contract, and full-time remote positions right now on Enact Impact, where we're focused on helping people find meaningful work whenever, wherever.
Kelly Behrend is a social impact strategist and co-founder of Enact Impact, an online platform that connects people with paid, flexible, and remote social change work.