An aging parent. School-age children. Being there to tuck your kids into bed at night. Going back to school. There are a myriad of reasons why someone would need to have a flexible schedule.

But it’s one thing to know why you need flex, and another to know how to ask for it. In the third installment in the video series “Stop the Clock: Flexibility at Work, Part 3,” ways in which to ask for a flexible schedule (and ways not to ask for it) are depicted by actors in a traditional office (to watch the complete video, please visit YouTube.)

Three workers desperately need flex, but are not sure how to ask for it. Carol, a woman whose aging mother is not well, needs to have a flexible schedule. She mentions to her boss that she is considering early retirement as a way to take care of her. The boss, disappointed with potentially losing one of his best employees, responds by saying that he’d hate to lose her, but if that’s what she wants, he’ll grant the request. Carol, who actually does not want to retire, is not pleased with the outcome of her meeting.

A working mother needs to start her workday earlier and end it earlier so that she can drop off her twins at school and pick them up. The idea doesn’t go over well with her boss.

A third employee mentions to his boss that if he came in earlier he would be able to keep up better. Before he can say that he, in turn, would like to leave at a decent hour, his boss says that it’s a great idea—and that he’s noticed that the employee has been slipping.

Each of the three employees needs a different type of work flexibility in order to continue working in the job but still have some much-needed work-life balance. The narrator of the video suggests that you need to carefully think about the type of flex you need first before setting up a meeting with your boss. You have to consider the impact it will have on you, your colleagues, and the business as a whole. She suggests doing some research to find out what types of flex are available, and what others who have been in a similar situation have done. She suggests speaking to colleagues first, to determine what type of flex you really want and need.

Carol realizes that she needs to break up her workday so she can spend a few hours in the afternoon with her mum. Sally, the working mother, needs to have flexibility in the hours she works, and thinks she might need to reduce her working hours entirely.

Upon further reflection, Carol believes that if she were able to work from home in the evenings, she would be able to get her job done. She would need a computer to do the work, though. Another option would be to job share her position with someone else in the company. So when she meets with her boss a second time, she tells him in an assertive manner that if she is to continue in her job that adjustments need to be made. She offers the various options that would benefit her as well as the company (which shows how her work flex would still be a win/win both for her and the organization.) Instead of shooting her request down, her boss says that he would need to discuss it, presumably with his boss.

The working mom also speaks with her boss and mentions that she needs to reduce her hours. When her boss asks about who will cover her job, she mentions job sharing with another employee and offers to train her.

The working dad is the last to meet with his boss and gets to finally finish what he originally planned to say. He states that if he were to come in earlier, around 8:00 a.m., he would be more productive, and still be able to leave on time. Before his boss can balk at his request, he says that if something urgent were to come up, he would stay, but that he doesn’t want any more 6:00 p.m. meetings.

While it can be difficult to ask for work flex, it’s every employee’s right to do so. So do your research ahead of time, have a plan of how your workload will be covered, and have options in case your boss doesn’t agree to your original request. Keep in mind that your boss might not be amenable to the idea at the onset, but if you know what you want, and why you want it, according to the video, you’re likely to get some type of work flexibility that will benefit the company, your colleagues—and you.

Check out the full four-part “Stop the clock” video series.

photo credit: istockphoto.com