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Mika Brzezinski: How to ask your boss for more flexibility amid Covid-19 return to work

The “Morning Joe” co-host and Know Your Value founder gives her best advice to women who want to continue working from home, adjust their hours or completely change careers.
MSNBC "Morning Joe" co-host and Know Your Value founder Mika Brzezinski.
MSNBC "Morning Joe" co-host and Know Your Value founder Mika Brzezinski.Miller Hawkins

For those of us lucky enough to still have our jobs during this pandemic, work-life balance has taken on an entirely new meaning.

For many women, that balance has gone out the window as we work from home while caring for our families. So, what happens when we go back to the office? How do you ask your employer for more flexibility or help managing your new life’s responsibilities?

MSNBC “Morning Joe” co-host and Know Your Value founder Mika Brzezinski recently appeared on NBC News NOW to give her best advice to women who want to continue working from home, adjust their hours or completely change careers. Here’s what she said:

Focus on how the company will benefit.

During your “big ask,” make sure you’re zeroing in on why your request will benefit the company (and not just you).

“You want to create a scenario where you can put your best performance forward and bring your best value to the company,” Brzezinski told NBC News NOW host Alison Morris. “You want to, in that conversation, give the benefit that the company would have out of maybe adjusting your hours, working on weekends, or working at night. Talk about why it would be better for them.”

Remember that ‘no’ is not a death sentence.

Your boss may say “no,” but you will never find out if you don’t ask.

“If the ‘no’ is really a non-constructive ‘no,’ then you have a bigger issue with the job itself,” said Brzezinski. “But chances are, if you’re good, and you bring value to the table, they want to hear what it is they can do to retain you.”

She continued, “What’s the worst that can happen? You can always ask. But, you have to really get comfortable talking to your boss and your manager about your life, without it being too much information, but about what works, about what you love, about what more you want to do.”

Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone.

Congratulations, your boss said you can continue to work from home. But how do you stay involved and not feel like you’re missing out on valuable facetime with your colleagues and bosses?

Brzezinski said it’s important to regularly stay in touch with your manager. Maybe it’s a weekly or monthly e-mail update or a monthly Zoom catchup. You should also consider virtually meeting with people above and below you, from all different backgrounds.

“When you’re starting out in that first, second, third job, and you’re in the middle of your career, start thinking of people that would meet with you that you wouldn’t necessarily immediately think of,” said Brzezinski. “And practice having conversations, understanding their background, their point of view, where they come from … You want to really establish yourself in your company and for people to know you. [To do that,] you have to step outside your comfort zone and start those conversations.”

Don’t be afraid to press reset.

There are more than 1.5 million fewer moms of school-aged children working in March 2021 than there were in February 2020. So, what do you do if you’re out of a job and starting from scratch?

“A reset often involves not getting the same job you had,” explained Brzezinski. “And while that may not be fair, when you have left the workforce and you are trying to get back in, there’s many different ways you can get back in and none of them are going to be perfect.”

Brzezinski, who noted she had to essentially start all over after being fired from CBS in 2006, urged women to catch a wide net and be open to all possibilities. It’s important to “not be encumbered by what you had -- and having that stilt your language. You have to be ready, open and willing to work, and willing to start all over again.”