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How to ask your boss about benefits, work from home and more
CareerBuilder | September 1, 2021
It’s time to see what your job can do for you.
We spend a lot of time talking about what we as workers can offer employers. We list our skills and our professional accomplishments and our certifications, pack our resumes full of concrete details about work wins, rehearse answers to common job interview questions with our friends. But it’s time to flip the script and ask hiring managers what they have to offer us.
What does your job do for you?
Together with our data genius friends at The Harris Poll, we recently surveyed thousands of workers and hiring managers about how they are rolling with the punches of today’s topsy-turvy working world. The full breakdown of data is sure to raise your eyebrows, but for now, let’s focus on a few specific points:
- COVID-19 has undeniably reshaped workplace expectations.
- Both 78% of workers and 75% of hiring managers report that their workplaces have made long-term changes in response to employee requests.
- Though such changes aren’t always easy to make, hiring managers believe they are necessary in order to retain good employees; 80% of hiring managers expect higher turnover if they don’t accommodate their employees’ personal lives.
Those are some big percentages, and they tell us that workers are going to get a bigger say in, well, how they work. Businesses that want to hire and keep good employees must consider their needs. So, just what are those needs?
What workers want
The workers who participated in our survey identified five key perks they look for in a job:
- 45% look for work-from-home and remote work options.
- 43% want flex time, so that they can take charge of their schedules.
- 43% want a short commute. (Those long podcasts will have to wait for road-trips.)
- 41% need paid parental leave to spend time on what’s truly important in life. This is also true for caretakers who help out aging parents and other family members.
- 31% are hungry for regular, on-the-job training that will enhance their professional development.
Does that list look familiar? Good. There’s strength and safety in numbers, so you should go into job interviews (or professional negotiations at your current job) feeling empowered to ask about these points. You’re not alone, and if your employer wants to stay relevant in today’s market, they’ll listen.
How to ask about work-from home and remote work opportunities
Just because this is the number one priority for so many workers doesn’t mean everyone can achieve it. Truck drivers can’t exactly work from home, and we don’t even want to know what remote work would look like for a chef. (We’re picturing a scary, condiment-wielding robot with cleavers for hands.) But if you are working in an industry that could benefit from remote work, like customer service or communications or possibly even retail, there is a right way to talk to your (potential) manager about it.
1. Do a little research about the prevalence of work-from-home opportunities in your line of work. If it’s common, share that information and talk about how it’s benefited your industry. If it’s rare, make a list of reasons why remote work would be helpful for your particular business. It’s OK to talk about how it would help you personally, but try to relate your arguments back to the work itself. Maybe skipping your commute on the two busiest days of the week would increase productivity. Maybe remote work would help you avoid getting distracted with requests from your coworkers while you dig into a hefty solo project.
2. Create an easy-to-follow plan for what remote work would look like for you. How would you interface with your coworkers? What would you do to keep projects on track? Which tools and pieces of software would you use to complete your work? Having a clear blueprint for working from home will ease managers’ worries about keeping everything on track.
3. If your boss or boss-to-be still isn’t sure, pitch them a trial period. Work from home for a couple days a week, or for just one week to start. Make a plan to track work progress during this trial period and arm yourself with stats on your productivity so that you can argue for stronger work-from-home policies down the road.
How to talk about parental leave
If you’ve made it far enough into the interview process that you can smell a job offer cooking, or if you’re already established at work and have a rapport with your manager or HR team, it’s time to talk about employee benefits -- and paid parental or caretaker leave in particular.
- Many businesses already have clear policies in place for parents and caretakers; your HR partner should be able to explain these to you as clearly as your work hours and compensation. But if parental leave is a bit of a question mark at work, you might need to have a conversation with an HR representative or your manager. Here are the most important things to keep in mind: There are federal, state and local laws mandating minimum paid leave policies for parents. Make sure to do some research and find out what your state and town has on the books. The goal isn’t to put your employer on trial here. Don’t start from a confrontational mindset. Instead, prepare to educate yourself and your employer about legal requirements.
- The International Labor Organization has long called for at least 12 weeks of maternity leave for new mothers, and recommends 14 weeks. Parents of all genders who are looking for at least 12 weeks when negotiating parental leave have solid research at their fingertips.
- Offering fair parental leave is good for businesses, according to a joint committee of the United States Congress. Use their findings as a cheat sheet to make arguments to your manager.
What about salary and pay?
Don’t worry, we didn’t forget to factor your paycheck into all of this. Avoiding high turnover costs might encourage your (next) employer to offer better wages as well. As for your fellow workers, here’s what they’re thinking:
- 36% expect an annual raise of more than 5%.
- When looking for a new job, 67% look for more than a 5% pay increase.
Need more info for your salary negotiations? Our Salary Search tool has you covered. You can browse salary data based on your job title and location in a few easy clicks.
What else you should know
- Does all this talk about employee accommodations have you wondering how to approach work-life balance? We’ve outlined 10 ways to tilt the scale in your favor.
- If you’re part of that 67% looking for more than a 5% pay bump at a new job, check out our list of the highest-paying entry level jobs. Your new career awaits!
- Working on your resume? These 10 skills will get you noticed.