February 23, 2023

A 5 Step Guide to Negotiate Working Conditions

While companies are returning to the classic (read: before corona) understanding of "the office", the question of the working conditions becomes acute as ever. Some are praising office perks and water cooler chats; others are already missing showering during the morning coffee break. I personally stand somewhere in between. The office provides immediate communication and group problem solving; dressing up to work raises my discipline levels, and, quite frankly, the coffee machine is way better than the one I got at home.

Yet, I still feel I could use some home alone time - it's easier for me to reach a deep work state being alone in my room. Having background music aloud helps me drive my focus to where it matters, instead of half-listening to unrequested updates on my colleague’s cute nephew. 

Being a master of my own time definitely boosts my productivity and life satisfaction in general, so entering my current job I decided to take a proactive approach and negotiate. It took me multiple sit ups with my boss and a 20-minute version of a negotiation book, but the result was achieved. I got two LED screens for my home office, one 10am gym class everyday and zero rigid office hours. 

So how to negotiate your own working conditions?

1. Write down your perfect work terms.

Don't be shy and don't limit yourself with reality checks. Determine your dream standards. This is what you aim for. Your company might be willing to grant you more than you expect. However, it is important to read your environment correctly. If you work in a conservative company with decades of established laws and a business dress code, it might not be realistic to demand pyjama Friday.

2. Write down your BATNA.

At every negotiation table one must know their walk away point a.k.a. BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement). Your last acceptable offer. Thus, you would understand how much space you got for your negotiating process. Preparation is key. Being clear and concise in your terms will convince the other side you'd given your request a proper thought.

3. Schedule a 1-on-1 meeting

Whether your boss is a friendly manager or far up in the company's hierarchy, you better schedule a meeting for a discussion. Last thing you want is catching them at a coffee break and confronting them with your requests. Timing is important. Ensure you book a meeting in advance; plan it on a non-stressful day. It is in your best interest to set a comfortable and relaxed setting.

4. Make the benefits for your employer clear

Hence, you've done your prepping, you already know what benefits you get. Now the task is to make it attractive to the other side. Morning yoga class makes you sharper? Great. You are going to let go of your sunny corner office for whoever wants it? Marvellous. Go through your points and create a mini marketing pitch for each one. Suggest a KPI for your performance or provide already existing data if you can.

5. Give it a trial period

When you've got it all approved or compromised in a few moments, I suggest you give it a shot. Setting a trial period leaves each side an open door for suggestions and helps avoid potential conflicts if the newly set conditions don't work as expected. You might realise you want to notch your schedule here and there; or maybe your employer sees you performing great might grant you even more flexibility. Either way, testing is a great way to find out strong and weak points and work on them. It also brings in more trust and data to prove your arguments valid.

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