Even if you’re confident that a flexible schedule will lead to a more balanced life for you and boost your productivity for your company, it can still be difficult to ask your boss for flex. Some managers have minimal experience with flexibility, and they may think someone who isn’t sitting in a cubicle from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each workday can’t really get the job done.
To help alleviate those concerns, prepare both yourself and your manager before making your request, and then take the right steps when you broach the subject.
Here are a few suggestions to help ask for flexible working hours:
Understand your motivation.
Why do you want flexibility, really? Are you hoping to shift your working hours earlier or later in order to avoid a nasty commute? Would you like to work from home a couple of days each week in order to be there for your family and avoid office distractions? Before you ask for flex, know why you’re asking.
Do your homework.
This can be especially important if your boss or your company hasn’t done much with flex. Check with your HR department to find out whether your company already has a flex policy and, if so, what it includes. Spend some time researching the pros and cons of flexibility for both employees and employers. Be prepared to explain why it will work well for you and your company.
Put yourself in your manager’s shoes.
Try to anticipate what questions your boss might have about flex work or why she might be skeptical of it. Looking at the situation from her perspective, it will help you craft your proposal in the most effective way.
Create a plan.
Your request for work flexibility is significant, and you should treat it accordingly. Take time to develop a specific, written proposal. Outline your reasons for requesting flex and why you think it will work for you. If you’re hoping to work from home, provide information about your home office and how you will avoid distractions. Describe how you’ll stay connected to colleagues, how you’ll complete your daily tasks and larger projects, and—most importantly—how your plan will help the company.
Make an appointment.
This isn’t the kind of request you can make when unexpectedly dropping by your manager’s office. Instead, make an appointment with them well in advance, and make it clear that you’d like to talk about flexible work options. You could even provide a one-page document in advance with some background about your request, to save time and make sure you’ll both be on the same page from the start of the conversation.
Rehearse your pitch.
This suggestion comes from a Fairygodboss article, which says, “If this is the first time you’ve asserted yourself in your career, take a deep breath and just DO IT! Get prepared for the meeting by: practicing your pitch in front of a trusted friend or colleague; anticipating pushback and having responses ready; double-checking your math and being ready to recite the facts; knowing your non-negotiables.”
Propose a trial.
If this is something new for your company, suggest a test run before making your new flex arrangement official. An article from Today’s Parent shows why this can be valuable. “As a long-time manager, I understand how bosses worry that every accommodation is a permanent one, even if it doesn’t work well for everyone. To help you over this stress point, suggest your new schedule as a 90-day trial, at which point you can both reassess whether it works for both of you.”
Follow through and follow up.
Once your proposal for a trial is approved, the onus is on you to prove that your plan will work. Show your boss that your flexible work arrangement is helping the company by maintaining or increasing your productivity. Document what works and what doesn’t work, and share that information with your manager. Be transparent, and show you are wiling to work with her to tweak your flex plan, if necessary, to ensure you are meeting company goals.
Express your gratitude.
Even if your initial request is denied, make a point of thanking your manager for taking the time to talk to you about your desire for flexibility. Then go back to the drawing board and figure out how you can address their concerns and try again. If you leave them with a positive feeling about your conversation, you’ll have a better chance of success the next time around.
Asking for flexibility may not be easy, even as more companies choose to offer such options to employees. But if you approach your request by preparing, practicing, and focusing on the potential benefits to the business, you’ll be more likely to receive a positive response. And that will be better for both you and your employer in the long run.
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