Career Woman

4 Tips for asking for flexibility at work


It seems that each year, Americans find themselves working longer hours than ever before. For women, the combination of office work and a second shift of childcare and housework can be even more draining.

Given this reality, it’s no wonder flexibility is such an appealing perk for today’s employees. Approximately 1 in 10 workers say flexibility is the most important factor when evaluating a job offer, according to a new survey of recently hired employees.

That statistic differs between the sexes, with 13% of women ranking flexibility first, compared to 8% of men.

If you don’t have a flexible work schedule but think your employer might be open to one, you can use this article to learn 4 tips for making a smooth transition.

1. Evaluate your options

There are a wide range of options for flexibility at work, so start by exploring all of them.

For example, if you’re primarily looking for a way to be home in time to greet your children after school, you might want to try flex-time, in which you could start your workday earlier and finish earlier, too.

If you have a recurring commitment that occurs on the same day each week or month, you may be able to negotiate a compressed schedule. On weeks when you need to take an aging parent to a doctor’s appointment, for example, you could work more hours for four days in exchange for a day off.

You might even be able to work remotely if your job can be completed online.

Whatever your needs might be, chances are you can find a flexible arrangement that matches them. 

2. Ask for a trial period

Your boss might be hesitant to give you the green light for a flexible schedule right away, but most bosses are happy to test the waters.

Before asking to go fully remote or make a similarly drastic change to your work schedule, ask for a trial period of several weeks or months so your boss can get used to the idea and troubleshoot any unexpected snags.

Career experts urge employees to be extra proactive during these trial periods.

“Use the time to take initiative on a new project, get ahead on your timelines, and check in more than usual,” The Muse advises. “If you’re far more productive during your trial period, your boss will have a much harder time telling you no.” 

Before asking for flexibility, make an action plan to make sure you can hit the ground running on day one of your trial. Sustain that momentum throughout the trial period through excellent communication and honest reflection on how you can make the most of a flexible schedule. 

3. Show how flexibility will help you meet your goals

Your boss wants to make sure that you’re aligned with her goals – not just your own schedule. By delivering great work and tracking the metrics that back up your results, you can demonstrate just how valuable a flexible schedule is for your business.

TopResume, a resume-writing service, points out that employers value employees who have a problem-solving mindset.

For example, if your company recently began work with a client in another time zone, that client’s local time might align with your flex hours. Not only would flex hours be more convenient for your personal schedule, but it might allow your company to forge stronger client relationships, too.

Beyond that, companies that offer flexible scheduling may be able to increase employee retention and boost morale. If a lack of flexibility will cause you to leave your company, your boss may prefer to avoid the time and expense of recruiting your replacement.

If you can build a case for how your flexible schedule will support your company’s goals, it will be much easier to work out an arrangement that works for both you and your employer. 

4. Keep your boss in the loop

Once you’ve successfully negotiated for a flexible schedule, the best thing you can do is maintain open, frequent communication with your boss.

If you don’t have regular one-on-one meetings, start scheduling them now. In these meetings, you can make up for your time out of the office by keeping your boss up to date on your goals, progress, and any challenges that pop up.

Additionally, consider using your flexible arrangement to build your reputation for providing quick, accurate responses to emails or other communication channels. If your office uses instant messaging like Slack, take extra care to reply quickly during your time out of the office.

Finally, keep careful notes of your progress so it will be easy to periodically share these updates when asked. You could even ask your boss if she’d be interested in receiving weekly email updates or sharing a spreadsheet tracker to monitor your progress during your trial period.

Overall, it’s much more comfortable for managers to grant highly responsive employees flexibility at work.

Final thoughts

In today’s tight job market, it’s becoming more difficult for businesses to hire new employees – increasing their desire to retain current ones. New technology such as instant messaging, shared documents, and video calls make flexible work arrangements easier and less disruptive than ever.

In general, you’ll have a better chance of persuading your company to consider granting you flexibility at work if you have a track record of dependable success and clear communication. It also helps if a flexible arrangement will advance your company’s business goals.

Before proposing a transition to a flexible arrangement, start by requesting a trial period. Before long, you might just have the flex hours, telecommuting, or compressed schedule of your dreams.

About Michelle Delgado

Michelle Delgado is a content developer and marketer at Clutch, a B2B ratings and reviews firm based in Washington DC. She covers recruiting and human resources

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