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How to ask for a flexible working arrangement

Published on: Feb 25, 2020

Flexible Working

You want a flexible working schedule. Because of course, you do. Less commuting, complete control over your environment and the ability to work at the times you’re most inspired — what’s not to love?

The good news is employers increasingly recognize the benefits. If you’ve dreamed of punching the clock in your pajamas, now’s the perfect time to ask for flexible hours.

Know what you’re requesting

Do you want to work from home a few days a week? What about working in the office from 11 to 7 instead of 9 to 5? Or does a compressed workweek with four 10-hour days sound better?

Before asking for a flexible schedule, you need to decide what sort of arrangement best suits your working habits, your professional responsibilities and your work-life balance.

Your next step is to find out if your company already has flexible working policies. Consult your employee handbook and HR department, and ask other employees if they have explored the possibilities. Some of the heavy lifting may have already been done.

In a best-case scenario, your organization will have a clear flex policy that lines up with your needs. But even if it doesn’t, you can still bring up flex hours with your boss, so long as you do your homework before making the pitch.

What’s in it for them?

Your boss knows you want flexible hours. Everyone wants flexible hours: a recent study showed nearly 50% of employees would take a pay cut for more flexibility. What your boss needs to hear is why flexibility would be good for your work at your organization.

Start broad. Point out the numerous studies that show employees who work flexible hours put in longer shifts, take less time off and are overall happier and more productive.

This increase in employee morale leads to a much higher retention rate. Eighty percent of surveyed employees reported feeling more loyalty towards organizations that offer flexible hours.

And between low unemployment rates and younger workers demanding flexible schedules, companies must offer flex hours to attract the best new talent.

What’s in it for you?

Be frank about what you hope to gain. Many workers find they can focus better when they’re not stuck in a busy office from 9 to 5. Others want a less rigid schedule so they can spend more quality time with their families. Some collaborate with colleagues in different time zones and want to get on the same clock.

Whatever your motivations, share them with your employer. You’re asking for more autonomy, so your boss needs to know they can trust you to make the best use of your time. Requesting a flexible schedule so you can binge-watch Netflix isn’t a great pitch.

Acknowledge the potential complications

While a flexible working arrangement can benefit you and your employer, you should recognize the weaknesses as well as the strengths.

You’re likely to have more interactions with your colleagues when you’re in the office, and not just during in-person meetings. A chance conversation by the coffee machine can lead to an aha moment you’d never have had when working at home.

Therein lies the biggest drawback of remote work: The less time you spend around your teammates, the less you feel like an indispensable part of the team. You’ll have to put in more effort to stay connected with your peers.

If you’re not working at the office, it can also be tricky to draw a hard line between work and home, both for you and your family.

When you mention flexible working, acknowledge these factors and discuss how you’ll account for them. You want to demonstrate that you’ve considered all the angles.

Flexibility goes both ways

As you negotiate a flexible schedule, stay open to compromise. Suggest a trial period, so your boss can gauge your performance before committing to a permanent change. The less demanding you are upfront, the more likely you are to ultimately get what you want.

Will a flexible working arrangement work for you and your organization? You won’t know until you try.


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