The Key To Asking For Job Flexibility

Corporate Culture Guru Susan Lucas-Conwell Says The Key To Asking For Job Flexibility Is Confidence

by Lindsay Cross of The Grindstone

Susan Lucas-Conwell is very concerned with your job satisfaction. In fact, her entire company is formed around the premise that everyone should love their place of employment.

Susan is the Global and US CEO of Great Place To Work, a consulting company that helps big and small companies create a positive corporate culture and happy, productive employees. Her company has been helping make the work world better for over 20 years and in more than 40 different countries.

So we sat down with Susan to talk about the aspects of a great company, how you can help make your business work with your life, and the growing concern of the 24/7 work culture.

According to Susan, the hallmarks of a great place to work don’t always revolve around perks and luxuries. Like Google recently realized when they regained their position as “Happiest Company,” it’s not all about the bonuses. Really happy employees feel respected by their bosses, confident in their job security and valued for their expertise. Susan tells me, “We use something called the ‘Trust Index’ and it’s two-thirds of the score we give companies. That index really is back to basics, and it’s about the trust between the individual and the company.”

I think as professionals, we all know the insecurity that comes when you don’t trust that your company wants to take care of you, or has the same goals as you. That’s a difficult way to work. It makes sense that trust is an important part of creating a positive work culture. But there’s even more than that.

“It’s important for employees to feel like, ‘I can be myself’,” Susan explains. “If you’re a mother, it’s important that you feel like you can be a mom without it hurting your standing at work.” And that concept goes far beyond parenthood. Every employee needs to feel like they’re accepted for the person that they are. They shouldn’t be hiding anything or putting on a show when they’re in the office. Accepting people for who they are seems like an easy and inexpensive way to create happy employees.

And it shouldn’t be overlooked that much of Susan’s advice won’t cost too much for companies to implement. “We work with large, medium and small companies,” Susan tells me, “And the expense of perks can be daunting.” Small businesses assume that they can’t compete with the likes of Google when it comes to making their teams happy, but that’s why it’s important to think about more than just the day cares and fitness centers. There’s so much you can do.

One big way to increase job satisfaction is to increase work flexibility, and it’s a topic that Susan is particularly passionate about. “Flexibility is good for the bottom line,” Susan states matter-of-factly. And she has some convincing research on her side. “85 of the Top 100 businesses in this country provide flexible work arrangements,” she informed me.

So how can an employee approach their boss about incorporating flexibility into their work schedule? We got all the tips from a woman who knows. “Well you need to establish trust,” she began, and it seems like the logical first step. Bosses need to trust that employees who aren’t always in the office during regular business hours will still be responsible and get their work done. But even more than that, Susan suggests employees, “Come at it with confidence. Don’t think of it as justifying your request. Think of it as a win-win.”

Happier employees and ones who can tailor their work schedule to meet their needs really are going to be more productive. There’s data backing these points up. So employees, and women especially, need to sell those positives if they’re trying to get more job flexibility. “Assure your boss that your performance will not drop. Use research. Use examples, and not just in the tech industry,” Susan says. There are lots of companies out there, big, small, and from every industry that successfully incorporate flexible work schedules. There’s no reason your’s can’t be one of them.

All this talk about flexibility seemed like the perfect segue to ask Susan about the growing pressure of the 24/7 work culture. We’re expected to be plugged in all the time, answering emails at every hour of the night. Does she think that pressure is helping or hurting corporate culture?

“This is actually a conversation we had to have here at Great Place to Work,” she admitted to me. “We’re an international company but we have about 60 employees. We’re really devoted people, but we needed to be able to turn it off. There was a constant temptation to answer that email immediately.” It shows that every company has to deal with this work life balance issue, even those who pride themselves on creating great corporate cultures.

“There was a great piece in the Wall Street Journal about sleep and how we aren’t getting enough of it. It was this insidious badge of courage. People were bragging about not sleeping. But we need sleep. We need time to rest,”  Susan explained. I think all of us are hoping that our company’s CEOs jump on Susan’s bandwagon. We would all love to hear our bosses admit that we need time to recharge, away from the office.

I think, more than anything I learned from talking to Susan, her advice made it really clear that employees have an active role in making their companies better places to work. By having conversations with your management, by suggesting solutions that will help you, we can make it easier for our businesses to serve our needs as employees. That’s an empowering thought, especially when employees often feel like pawns in the corporate game. If we want our businesses to be better, we need to show them the way.

Article originally published on The Grindstone.