For most job seekers, the art of negotiation comes into play at two specific times in their careers: during an initial job negotiation and at their performance evaluation. Some negotiations operate on a grand scale, with discussion about company cars and relocation allowances. But most of us focus on one thing in our negotiations: salary.
There are, however, a number of possible negotiation points for new and existing workers. And with many employers delaying or deferring raises because of tough economic challenges, hiring managers are more open to discussions about alternatives. Here are just a few of the possibilities that many workers are not aware of.
Time off. For many of us, time off is as important (if not more important) as monetary compensation. But workers may not be aware that they can negotiate for time off.
· Paid vacation time is an extra benefit that is often negotiated at the time a job offer is made. Companies often use extra vacation with pay as an incentive to bring new talent onboard. They may also use it as a retention tool if an employee is considering leaving. You can negotiate for a few more days or even weeks than you were originally offered.
· Companies may be also open to allowing workers who are seeking more time away from the office an option to take unpaid time. Some employees may be able to negotiate an extended unpaid leave, which allows them more time to spend with family, take an extended trip, do volunteer work or take a class.
· If extended time out of the office is not available, consider negotiating for time off on specific days that are important to you, such as a birthday or anniversary.
Let your company know how important time out of the office is to you, and develop a plan for how work will be done in your absence.
Dress code. Many workplaces have casual Fridays, but you may be able to negotiate a more relaxed dress code for every day of the week.
Your company may be open to talking about this perk, but their willingness to change the dress code may depend on how much you and your co-workers interact with the public.
Education and career enhancement. Many workplaces have programs in place for tuition reimbursement if employees are attending a college or university. But those programs do not always automatically cover classes, workshops and seminars that are not part of an undergraduate or graduate program.
Discuss your interest in career-enhancing courses. This may include continuing courses in your field or in a related field. They may also be willing to pay for attendance at seminars on time management and organization. Remind your company that they will reap the benefits of what you learn.
Environmental friendliness. You may also be able to negotiate for perks or rebates for adhering to a company's "green" guidelines or for developing more environmentally friendly ideas. Employees might receive a bonus for giving up a parking space, biking to work, or carpooling with co-workers.
Companies are eager to explore ideas on how to be green at work, so approach your company with your ideas. They may coordinate a meeting with the buildings and grounds manager to review your ideas.
Flexible schedules. Many employees have successfully negotiated this perk at work. Employers are more open to providing flexible schedules to retain the worker. And employees have been seeking out this benefit for several reasons, including a desire to commute less and a need for work/life balance. Among the possible options:
· Compressed scheduling, where employees work their allotted hours in a work week or pay period in a compressed time frame.
· Family-friendly flexible time, which allows workers to come in late or leave early to attend activities with their child.
· Working from home, either as one of several scheduling options or as a full-time location for work.
It's important that any scheduling changes take place without impacting productivity, so work with your manager to ensure that your department has appropriate coverage when you're not there.
Wellness. One concept that companies have focused on in recent years is employee wellness. Many companies offer information and resources about wellness programs at the office. Management and HR may be open to working with employees and negotiating additional perks that are wellness-related. Those perks could include:
· Paying for a portion of your gym membership, or offering employees discounts and rebates when they purchase fitness equipment.
· Supplying employees with pedometers, water bottles and other items that support wellness initiatives. In addition to providing a perk to employees, companies can emblazon those items with the company logo.
· Changing or improving on-site vending machines and providing filtered water or access to a water cooler with filtered water.
· Having a massage therapist or yoga instructor come to the workplace to lead programs that reduce stress.
· Providing on-site access to fitness equipment, and scheduling flexibility to exercise during the day.
Like environmental benefits, many companies are actively trying to find ways to incorporate wellness initiatives into the workplace, so be proactive about your ideas and a possible plan of action.
Patrick Erwin is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com. He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.
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