Alternative work arrangements can help ease the balancing act between your job, family and/or school responsibilities. If you have been wrestling with transportation issues, such as a long commute and the skyrocketing costs of fuel eating at your budget, this arrangement may help alleviate some of the stress. The key to creating the opportunity with your employer involves strategic planning and thoughtful negotiations.

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Types of Arrangements
First, consider the type of arrangement that's ideal not just for your needs, but also for your employer's productivity goal. The most common types of flexible arrangements are flextime, a compressed work week, job sharing, telecommuting or reduced time.

If you prefer not to change your daily work hours, flextime may be the option for you. This plan gives you the chance to rearrange your schedule in order to avoid problems, such as traffic jams or missing your child's Parent Teacher's Association meeting. You can either come in earlier or stay later. This also allows you to tinker with your lunch hours. For example, you might work 7:00 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and cut your lunch hour by 30 minutes. (For more, see Commute Smart: Save Time, Money And The Earth.)

Rather have a longer weekend? A compressed schedule allows you to tack on another day of rest and enjoyment. Most people typically will have a four-day week with 10-hour days.

If your workload is an issue, job sharing allows you to split the responsibilities of a full-time job with another worker. You can fashion it so that the days are divided in half or the week may be split, such as working Monday to Wednesday and having someone else complete the work week.

Drivers with inadequate skills might be encouragement for you to consider telecommuting. This alternative allows you to skip the hustle and bustle of the commute for the ease of walking a couple of feet to your home office either every day or some days.

You could also reduce your time so that you're working less than 40 hours a week, but the challenge is keeping your benefits such as health, vacation, and sick leave intact. (Starting a new job is stressful but you don't need to sweat about setting up a benefits package. Learn more in Employee Benefits: How To Know What To Choose.)

Preparing for the Transition
Before you approach your employer, do the research. Find supporting examples and statistics that show how the arrangement can work. Some benefits you can highlight are:

  • Increased morale, productivity and energy
  • Better employee retention
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • More interest from job candidates
  • Better accessibility for clients and business contacts in different time zones

Identify the areas where the arrangement can pose a problem, such as failure of communication and not being included in the planning of company activities. Prepare solutions to alleviate these concerns.

Job-seekers should identify and investigate companies offering a flexible arrangement and generally wait until they are hired to discuss an understanding. (Learn more in the Top 2010 Job Hunting Tips.)

Approaching the Boss
Once you've done the research, try testing it out. For instance, take a day off and conduct some work responsibilities at home. Keep a log of your progress to show how much you were able to accomplish. This test drive will help support your research when you present your formal proposal to your boss. Discuss having a trail period lasting a few months and make sure to schedule regular reviews to help determine any quirks.

Keep It Flexible
Flexible arrangements alleviate the whirlwind of the occasional stress related to the responsibilities of being a student and/or parent. In order to achieve this arrangement, determine what best fits your schedule, research and practice before you start negotiating with your boss and make sure to check in with your employer to alleviate any possible issues that may arise once you received the go-ahead. (To learn more, check out the Top 4 At-Home Financial Jobs.)

Check out last week's business highlights in Water Cooler Finance: My iPad Beats Your Toyota.

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