The Way We Work

oDesk’s weekly column brings you the latest news on hiring and managing teams, freelancing and the future of work.

Week of 8/11/2014:

Huffington Post | 6 Things That Will Actually Help You Get A More Flexible Work Schedule

Unless you work for a company that explicitly offers a flexible work program, figuring out whether it’s possible for you to have a flexible schedule — and how to negotiate for it — can be intimidating.

Melissa Fairman, a human resources manager and the blogger behind HR reMix, outlines what to ask for and how to ask for it. Here’s a summary of her recommendations:

  1. “Lead with the company, not your personal life.” Start the conversation with your manager by looking at it from the company’s perspective; explain the benefits a flexible schedule can have on your work, like improved productivity and less stress.
  2. “Be ready with specifics.” Before you make the request, map out what your schedule will look like, how you will communicate with your team, and why this change makes sense for you (and the company).
  3. “Ask early.” If you have a particular timeline in mind, give your manager as much lead time as possible to adjust to and prepare for your new schedule.
  4. “Don’t shy away from talking money or advancement.” Have an open discussion about how a flexible work arrangement might impact your future with the organization, so you’ll be aware of any potential issues.
  5. “Consider the counter.” Be prepared in case your manager says no — or agrees with contingencies. Have a backup plan, and be familiar with your organization’s relevant HR policies.
  6. “Follow-up — in person.” Once your manager agrees to a flexible schedule, check in with them regularly; this will help make sure make sure all issues are identified and resolved early on.

PsychCentral | Online Breaks Enhance Productivity

Taking online breaks during work hours may have a stronger purpose than checking the latest on Facebook. Sung Doo Kim, a doctoral candidate in the Carl H. Lindner College of Business, and colleagues at the University of Cincinnati examined the impact of online breaks on productivity.

Conducting extensive one-on-one interviews with 33 professionals (62 percent female and 38 percent male, with an average 8.6 years of working experience in a variety of industries and occupations), Kim concluded that ubiquitous technology may promote, rather than hinder, employee efficiency.

However, the findings don’t necessarily apply to everyone: the study concluded that online breaks were most rejuvenating for people who generally work away from a computer. They were less effective for those who work in front of a computer for most of their day.

Forbes | The Real Ticket To Work-Life Balance

Highlighting the launch of “Make Life Work,” a campaign focused on work-life balance, freelance journalist Elaine Pofeldt wonders whether encouraging business ownership could counter the rigorous demands on employees’ time and energy that corporations often make without offering adequate compensation.

An entrepreneur can design his or her own lifestyle and schedule to suit their own needs — or the needs of their family. Pofeldt acknowledges that owning a business doesn’t necessarily curb workload, but she says it’s the only way to own your own time.

FastCompany | 7 Best Practice Tips for Successfully Working Remotely

At face value, the idea of working remotely — be it from home, a coworking space or a coffee shop — is appealing to some and appalling to others. As flexible work policies at large companies become commonplace, and with entrepreneurs starting businesses every day, working remotely is increasingly becoming the new normal.

Maren Kate Donovan, an experienced remote worker and CEO of Zirtual, shares her seven tips for being successful and enjoying your time working away from an office.

The first and arguably most important step is choosing the right job. According to Donovan, the right job is typically one where you’re doing what you like to do, what you do best, and something that meaningfully contributes value to an organization.

The right job matched with the proper technology, a positive attitude, and appropriate expectations will help make working remotely your new normal.

What news item caught your attention this past week? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

Amy Partridge

Communications Manager

Amy Partridge is the communications manager at Upwork. In this role, Amy is focused on supporting and accelerating Upwork’s global PR efforts. She brings with her a valuable combination of PR agency and client-side experience. Most recently, Amy was the communications director at tech startup Grubwithus. Amy holds a Bachelors of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Communications.