Article by Pat Katepoo, updated March 8, 2018: Step by step to a flexible work arrangement.
My 79-year-old widowed mother has a part-time job aiding elderly people in their homes. I used to be amused by saying that; I mean, 79 is elderly, isn’t it?
The fact is, her paid work is a mere four hours a week, a small piece of her portfolio of several self-chosen activities which keep her vibrantly engaged with life. My mom is an admirable example of the “new old.”
But I’m no longer amused at the irony of her employment since I read about an 89-year-old former airline pilot who works 25 hours or more a week helping older adults find jobs. Yikes!
Meanwhile, following this great generation are baby boomers bracing for a future that will have them working beyond the standard retirement age. If it looks like you’ll be working into your 60s, 70s or beyond, here’s a twist on telecommuting that can give you a retirement vibe without retiring.
Try telecommuting as a way to get out of town and still earn a living.
Am I suggesting you take your laptop computer on your vacation? No, not that. Definitely not!
Instead, consider a seasonal escape where you do your usual work in the salubrious setting of your choice for six to eight weeks.
Imagine the following temporary work set-ups:
February and March at your Sunshine Coast apartment
July and August at a holiday rental in Ubud or Ireland
Sounds lovely, you say? But how is it possible?
I’ve outlined 5 steps, below.
This flexible work life tactic assumes you are a “knowledge worker,” i.e., a professional who commutes daily to reach a computer and a phone to do your job. We’ll turn it around so that the laptop and phone goes to the worker (you) instead.
It’s a progression of steps over six months. Why not start today?
STEP 1: Change your thinking about how your job gets done.
Begin to recognize that you can work from anywhere. This may be a new idea for you so the biggest obstacles are probably in your mind. (We’ll deal with your manager separately.)
Most telecommuters work remotely one to three days a week. While not widespread, there are employees who work full time from home. Your intended gig is working full time from (a temporary, faraway) home for only a season.
STEP 2: Arrange to telecommute from your home.
First, redesign your job into telecommuting.
Don’t be put off if there are some job tasks that you can’t imagine being done from thousands of miles away. We’ll get to that further down.
Set up remote access to your work computer through your employer’s network or using remote access software.
Over a period of weeks, work an hour or so on a few job tasks in the evening or a Saturday from home. Don’t make it a habit; your goal is to prove to yourself-and eventually your manager-that you can perform your job well from home.
After you’ve proven to yourself it can be done, present a proposal to your manager to work from home two or three days of each five-day workweek.
Assuming approval of your request (most long-term, trusted employees get the green light for at least a trial period), you’ll move to Step 3.
STEP 3: Nudge telecommuting from home up to the next level.
After three months of telecommuting two or three days a week, request to work four days a week from home.
STEP 4: Arrange an in-person meeting with your manager to assess your telecommuting arrangement.
Your mission is to gauge your manager’s true comfort and confidence level about your work set-up.With six months or more of solid telecommuting experience, you will have likely improved your output.
Most remote workers see double-digit productivity increases; with fewer interruptions and no socializing, what’s to do but work?
This foundation, paired with your positioning as a reliable, well-performing employee your manager doesn’t want to lose (right?), sets you up to get approval of your request.
Yet, you need to get a clearer view of the situation from your manager’s perspective.
Is your he or she blown away at your productivity output (at which time you can reinforce the value of remote work and how it adds to your job satisfaction and achievements)?
Or is your manager suggesting that four days a week working away from the office is excessive?
What else? Listen carefully (especially between the lines). Do a subtle probe of the attitude environment so you can figure your next move.
STEP 5: Request your seasonal remote work arrangement.
Based on the outcome of Step 4, you’ll know (or sense) if and when it’s a wise move to go forward with your request.
Let’s say you have a good vibe about it and you’re planning to ask.
Make your request at least two months before your anticipated start date; given approval, you’ll need the time to make travel and accommodation arrangements.
Ask for eight weeks of long-distance telecommuting so you have room to negotiate for fewer.
If you meet little resistance and you really only want three to six weeks, confirm your travel arrangements first, then immediately alert your manager to the adjusted dates.
Fine-Tune Step 2
Looking back at Step 2, are there job tasks that can not be performed from a remote location? Let’s tackle that issue by considering the possibilities.
Could those particular job tasks:
- be skipped during the weeks that you’re away from the office?
- be deferred until your return?
- be delegated?
- be done in a collaborative way via telework tools?
- be given work-around treatment*?
If you’ve set up a job sharing arrangement, Step Two has fewer obstacles.
Imagine you had to take several weeks of leave to be with your elderly parent in a faraway state during his or her hip replacement surgery, rehab and recuperation. Beyond your ability to access your office computer from your parent’s home to do some work, how would you and your employer manage the other aspects of your job? There’s no perfect solution, but there’s usually a work-it-out solution. Think in those terms.
Make it Happen
Is this an unusual arrangement? Yes.
Is it really possible? Yes, if you follow the steps above over a sufficient chunk of time, you may be surprised at the flexible work lifestyle you can craft for yourself that has hints of a retirement vibe.
About the Author:
Flexible work adviser and pay raise coach Pat Katepoo equips career professionals to negotiate for more time and money at their current job. Will your boss say YES to your request for a flexible work arrangement? Find out using this quick 3-question quiz. Find more tools and tactics for a flexible work life after 50 at WorkOptions.com.