“Modified-Time Arrangements” Meet with Greater Acceptance
“Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed”
– Peter Drucker
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ACTUAL CASE HISTORIES: We don’t often report “Breaking News,” but here’s a “Workplace Bulletin” for you: Just as “Remote Location” and “Hybrid Location” are meeting with greater acceptance from employers, so too are we seeing “Modified-Time Arrangements” becoming more and more common in both initial work negotiations and re-negotiations. While not yet a norm of work relations, Modified-Time Arrangements – when (a) requested by job candidates and employees, and (b) found in the interests of employers, are more commonly meeting with approval.
What is “Modified-Time?” It is a term we use to mean “an agreement between employee and employer regarding the time each week the employee is expected to regularly be devoted to her or his job – as distinct from (a) “Total-Time,” (b) “Full-Time,” (c) “Flex-Time,” or (d) “Part-Time” – most often – but not always – initiated by the employee. In our practice, 2022 has been the “birth year” of “Modified-Time Arrangements” in the evolving workplace relation.
A FEW THOUGHTS:
–Is “Modified-Time” a temporary fad or a long-term trend? Time will tell, but we view “Modified-Time” as part of a larger cultural shift, suggesting that many job candidates and employees have greater comfort in openly seeking and requesting reasonable modifications in their employment relations to better address issues in their personal lives, consistent with their values and goals. In guiding, counseling and advising employees, we are seeing a startling increase in the number of clients requesting – and receiving – “Modified-Time” as part of their work arrangements.
–“Modified-Time” is increasingly viewed by employers as something to seriously consider, provided: (i) the employee is perceived as of outstanding value, and (ii) corresponding issues are resolvable. If a job candidate is viewed as a potentially valuable addition to staff, the fact that she insists on limiting her work time to 75% of the usual weekly schedule to attend religious services may not necessarily eliminate her resumé from the pile, as it may have in times past. To the contrary, such openness for diversity reasons may just be mentioned in company diversity initiatives, quite possibly to be found attractive to other job candidates.
Likewise, if an existing employee wants to limit his work to the equivalent of 2.5 days per week for two years to pursue added Artificial Intelligence capabilities, if it suggests an enhancement of his likely future workplace contributions, the response may well be positive. Where and when the idea makes sense, and the “details” can be worked out, it truly may be a significant win-win step to take.
–Darwin said that the species that tend to survive are not the smartest, or the strongest, but the most adaptable. One C-Suite executive client, 65 years of age, told me, “I have all the money I need. But I’m not confident I have all the time I need to be a truly good grandfather.” To retain his valuable industry relations, his employer readily agreed to his half-time request, with a written memo spelling out the details and requiring mutual flexibility in the event of exigencies. Another Senior Manager client, soon to start IVF treatments, had us prepare, propose and negotiate a Modified-Time Agreement to secure a Modified-Time Arrangement that permitted what her physician found to be sufficient time for both her treatments and additional rest.
We have helped clients obtain Modified-Time Arrangements for many reasons, among them requests related to (i) chemical dependency, (ii) fertility treatment (both women and men), (iii) to attend courses to increase job skills, (iv) children or parents with special needs, (v) career changes, and (vi) even a pending offer for an adjunct professorship that was the client’s lifetime dream.
–There is nothing “magical” about 20, 40, 60 or more hours of work a week. The most meaningful focus on workplace attendance is surely not on any abstract number, but rather, on what is (i) productive and rewarding, and (ii) conducive to working relations with colleagues, clients and other constituencies. For more and more people, and for more and more reasons, (a) a lesser number, or (b) a flexible number, or (c) no preordained maximum number at all, of hours devoted to company needs each payroll period, is becoming a reality for many.
Although the manufacturing sector is presently struggling with supply-chain issues, might it nonetheless be the right time to get serious about “human capital logistics?”
Working relations have actually been trending in this direction for a while, in different, though analogous, ways. Unlimited PTO – becoming more and more common – did not bring an end to the world. Nor did “open offices,” without walls between employees. One large communications company did away with titles without a significant problem doing so. I’d include the societal trend of employers being legally required to increase paid parental leave following childbirth or adoption. So, too, regarding more and more liberal “accommodations” to “disability,” broadly defined as a “limitation on a basic life function.” Most recently, working primarily from home for health and safety became for many not only popular, but conducive as well, to significantly greater productivity.
WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOURSELF: Consider these five (5) SkloverWorkingWisdom™ thoughts:
1. Your starting point – and ending point, too – in requesting a Modified-Time Arrangement is your own “end goal.” If you have a goal of returning to school to change careers, then the time you need to do so out of your weekly or monthly schedule is the request you will need to make. If it is simply to achieve a healthier work/life balance, it is likely you will have greater flexibility in the Modified-Time Arrangement you request.
As an example, if you need to attend, say, 10 hours a week of online classes for a period of two years, and your employer cannot or will not give you sufficient time modification, going back to school now, or while employed by this employer, just might not work. Two of my clients faced just such a predicament. One gave up his dream of a new career; the other found another employer who agreed to use her services just 25 hours a week, so she could take pre-Med courses. She was formerly a Marketing Manager; today she is in Medical School, on her way to becoming a pediatrician.
2. Second, your success in requesting a Modified-Time Arrangement will be determined in good measure by your “perceived value” to your employer and manager. We counsel that enhancing your “perceived value” to them is a matter of your “Three R’s”, namely (a) your proximity to Revenue production, (b) the number and strength of your valuable working Relations, and (c) your contribution, if any, to the company’s overall Reputation.
Yet perceived value at work is a fluid concept, as well, in that it may go up or go down in a moment, without your doing a thing. As just a few examples, it may change significantly (a) when new Senior Management arrives on the scene, (b) when critical colleagues depart the company, (c) when company policies are modified to mandate a type of diversity you represent, or (d) upon announcement of major “corporate events,” including sale, merger or reorganization of your employer.
3. Third, “Sales 101” teaches us that the best sales presentations start off (i) not with what you want, need, or deserve, but, rather, (ii) what the person(s) you are presenting to want, need or deserve. Manufacturers of tooth paste do not say in their TV commercials, “Buy our tooth paste; we need your money.” Rather, “Buy our tooth paste; it will make you sexy.” It’s no different with “selling” a Modified-Time Arrangement: how helpful will it likely be viewed by those you are “pitching” it to? In presentations, your goal is important; their goals are more important . . . at least at this moment.
4. Fourth, anticipate that a Modified-Time Arrangement will likely entail modification of “rewards,” including salary, benefits, deferred rewards, PTO, equity vesting, and the like. So, carefully review and consider each of your employment agreements, plans, and policies to assess how your Modified-Time Arrangement may affect you. While these matters can be negotiated, they cannot be negotiated if you are not aware of them.
5. We view Modified-Term Agreements as a positive step in the evolution of workplace relations, though in its infancy. Sure, there are lots of issues, numerous policy questions, compensation and benefit matters to look into, and other “wrinkles” to “iron out,” but we will take progress in working relations any day, in any way, without dismay. So, don’t worry or fret, as among the issues out there to be concerned about, there’s also a lot to look forward to, in what seems to be this one positive step for us all.
In Summary . . .
Whether you’re a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker, you might just have entirely valid reasons – and the leverage you need – to make successful request for a Modified-Time Arrangement better suited to your overall needs and betterment. Is it guaranteed? No. Will all employers sign on? Of course not. But the requests and the grants are becoming more commonplace and more a part of the “norm” at work.
P.S.: If you would like to speak directly about this or other subjects, I am available for 30-minute, 60-minute, or 120-minute telephone consultations, just [click here.] Evenings and weekends can often be accommodated.
SkloverWorkingWisdom™ emphasizes smart negotiating – and navigating – for yourself at work. Negotiation and navigation of work and career issues requires that you think “out of the box,” and build value and avoid risks at every point in your career. We strive to help you understand what is commonly before you – traps and pitfalls, included – and to avoid the likely bumps in the road. In the event your life events and circumstances suggest a Modified-Time Arrangement is of interest, we are here to assist and guide.
Always be proactive. Always be creative. Always be persistent. Always be vigilant. And always do what you can to achieve for yourself, your family, and your career. Take all available steps to increase and secure employment “rewards” and eliminate or reduce employment “risks.” That’s what SkloverWorkingWisdom™ is all about.
*A note about our Actual Case Histories: In order to preserve client confidences, and protect client identities, we alter certain facts, including the name, age, gender, position, date, geographical location, and industry of our clients. The essential facts, the point illustrated and the lesson to be learned, remain actual.
Please Note: This Email Newsletter is not legal advice, but only an effort to provide generalized information about important topics related to employment and the law. Legal advice can only be rendered after formal retention of counsel and must take into account the facts and circumstances of a particular case. Those in need of legal advice, counsel or representation should retain competent legal counsel licensed to practice law in their locale.
Sklover Working Wisdom™ is a trademarked newsletter publication of Alan L. Sklover, of Sklover & Company, LLC, a law firm dedicated to the counsel and representation of employees in matters of their employment, compensation and severance. Nothing expressed in this material constitutes legal advice. Please note that Mr. Sklover is admitted to practice in the State of New York, only. When representing clients in other jurisdictions, he retains the assistance of local counsel and/or obtains permission of local Courts to appear. Copying, use and/or reproduction of this material in any form or media without prior written permission is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved. For further information, contact Sklover & Company, LLC, 45 Rockefeller Plaza, Suite 2000, New York, New York 10111 (212) 757-5000.
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