How to negotiate with your employer to achieve work/life goals
Guest post by Amanda Augustine
For many parents, balancing the demands of parenthood and the pressures of the workplace can be an emotionally draining experience. When you’re constantly trying to juggle the roles of both the dedicated parent and the committed professional, it’s inevitable that your focus will be disproportionately placed on one part of your life versus the other at times. Advocating for yourself at work can feel like a daunting task, but it’s a necessary evil if you want to achieve greater balance.
The good news is that there are simple and effective steps you can take to negotiate with your employer to improve your working life and still progress your career. Here’s how to get started:
Identify what matters most to you
Before you have a chat with your manager, it’s important to prioritise your needs at this stage of your personal life and work life. While some working parents are seeking more flexibility to navigate childcare issues or simply spend more time with their children, others may be more interested in gaining access to career progression opportunities to advance their careers.
Explore your options
Once you’ve considered your priorities, take a look at your employee handbook, the vacancies your company has recently posted, and the Employment or Careers section of its website to determine if there are any existing benefits or programmes that would suit your needs. Also, take a look at the perks your company’s competitors offer to prospective employees. While it’s easier to negotiate for a benefit your company already offers to others, knowing what the competition provides can help you build the case to establish something similar with your employer.
Think through objections
If you plan to negotiate for something that isn’t currently offered by your employer, be ready to reference competitors or other companies your employer admires who offer something similar. Look for research that supports your proposal and boasts of its benefits to the employer, and consider offering a trial period to test the new arrangement. The idea is to be prepared for whatever objections your manager might bring up.
For example, before you ask to work from home more often, make any necessary adjustments to your home office. This could be anything from boosting your internet router, to improving your lighting and mic for video conferences.
Demonstrate your value
It’s easier to negotiate changes to your working arrangements when you’re a top performer. It goes without saying that you should be meeting or exceeding your work goals before you start asking for new perks or opportunities. To help remind your employer of the value you bring to the table, review and update your brag book — the place where you record your work achievements — so you can reference it during the discussion with your manager.
Be strategic, not emotional
Whether you’re negotiating a promotion, entrance into a leadership programme, or a more flexible working arrangement, it’s important to set your emotions aside and focus on the business at hand. Remember, negotiation is not about winning or losing; it’s about finding a solution that benefits both you and your employer.
Take cues from your manager’s personality and communication style when deciding how to broach the topic. Ask yourself whether your boss would prefer you to be straightforward and schedule a meeting with a clear objective, e.g., “I’d like to discuss my [career progression/working arrangement]”, or would they prefer you to incorporate the topic into your next one-to-one meeting.
However you decide to start the conversation, opt for an in-person or video meeting so you can watch your manager’s body language and gauge how your proposal is being received.
If you’re not sure what benefits would best suit your current needs, consider the following options:
- Flexible working arrangement: When TopCV asked over 1,000 UK working mothers what matters most when deciding what job to take next, a “flexible schedule” was their No. 1 priority. This flexibility can take many forms, from having the freedom to rearrange your schedule so you can pop out to take your child to the doctor or attend their recital without facing repercussions, to adjusting the start and end time of your working hours, to compressing your hours into a four-day working week.
- Remote work: While it’s not feasible for every job to be completely remote, the past few years have proved that it’s a viable option for more careers than most had initially believed. Working from home on a part-time or permanent basis will allow you to eliminate the commute and spend more quality time on both your job and your family. If some parts of your roles are much easier to perform onsite, consider proposing a hybrid arrangement instead where you’d work from home a certain number of days each week or month.
- Career-progression opportunities: There are numerous ways your employer could help to advance your career. This may include payment for an online course or other accreditation programme to boost your credentials, entrance into an official mentorship programme or an introduction to someone who might become an unofficial mentor, an opportunity to work on a cross-functional project, or the chance to take on greater responsibility.
- Pay rise: If you’ve taken on more responsibilities or have repeatedly exceeded your goals each quarter, then make the case for a pay rise. This could be in the form of your base salary or your bonus earning potential. Be prepared to discuss how you’ve performed since your last compensation change and reference any research you’ve uncovered on the current market rate for the role you’re performing from sites such as Glassdoor and PayScale.
- Childcare: While not every firm can afford to open a nursery or creche on their premises, there are other ways your employer can provide additional support for working parents. For example, you could propose an alternative such as a voucher — or an increase in your current voucher amount — for childcare or in-person tutoring so you can be a more productive employee and your kids are being well cared-for.
In the journey of balancing work and family life, working parents often find themselves at a crossroads where negotiation becomes a powerful tool. Don’t hesitate to initiate that conversation with your manager and advocate for the changes you need. With the right strategy and a focus on your goals, you can create a work-life arrangement that allows you to thrive both professionally and personally.
Amanda Augustine is a careers expert for TopCV, the world’s largest CV-writing service. With more than 15 years of experience in the recruiting and careers industry, she is a certified professional career coach (CPCC) and résumé writer (CPRW), helping professionals improve their careers and find the right job sooner.