"Work less and achieve more" seems counterintuitive, but a Michigan State University study says it’s the real deal. Researchers found that companies that allow flexible schedules and reduced workloads experience fewer turnovers, greater development and even reduced costs.

“Many employers today are rethinking traditional job arrangements in order to retain good employees with health conditions who can benefit from a shorter workday and less stress, parents who want to spend more time with their kids and people with long commutes,” explains Lynn Berger, a career counselor in New York City.

These trends reflect today’s transitioning work force, says Barry Asin, chief analyst of Staffing Industry Analysts Inc., an employment firm based in Los Altos, Calif. “Many older baby boomers wish to keep working rather than retire, but they don’t necessarily want to maintain a 9-to-5 schedule,” he says.

If you want to scale back, Berger suggests planning your approach carefully. Her advice:

1. Brainstorm. What’s your ideal position? On what areas are you willing to compromise? Would you work 40 hours a week if your employer allowed you to telecommute? Would you turn down a promotion that required occasional weekend work?

2. Play the numbers game. In most cases, less time on the job means lower pay and fewer benefits, such as health insurance, disability and employer-paid 401(k) contributions. Thirty hours per week is usually the cutoff.

3. Put it in writing. Create a document that outlines every detail - from how many hours you would work to how you would communicate with clients and supervisors to how your new position would be evaluated.

4. Keep it positive. “Don’t deliver any ultimatums,” Berger advises. “Instead, say, ‘This is a situation that could be beneficial to both of us, and here’s why.’” Then be prepared to offer several reasons why the arrangement would be good for both you and your company.”