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How to Negotiate Flexible Work Hours

It’s okay to ask for what you want. In fact, we recommend it

Cara Hutto
Contributor

Neil Patrick Harris

We all have different needs, so there’s no shame in requesting a flexible work schedule.

As you’ve probably seen before, the 9-to-5 workday is a productivity killer. There’s plenty of research out there that shows that humans can only concentrate for 20 minutes at a time, meaning that the eight-hour workday is definitely not conducive to productivity. And regardless of whether or not you have a traditional 9-to-5 job, everyone working full-time jobs deserves the freedom to adjust their schedules without fear of judgment or retribution.

So how do we ensure workers can receive the freedom they deserve?

That’s where flexible work schedules come in. We all have different work habits and preferences. Flexible working schedules are becoming increasingly popular, and for good reason. For working parents, flexible schedules can be incredibly helpful when they need to take care of their kids—after all, we can’t control when our kids need us. When we grant employees the right to decide when and where they work, we’re allowing them the chance to better balance their work and home lives. And if a worker is taking care of their wellbeing, they’ll most likely be happier, which in turn increases productivity. A win-win for all!

So, how do you begin negotiating with your boss that you want a flexible schedule?

Check in with yourself and contemplate your needs

First, check in with yourself and think about what you need in order to be more productive and balance your home life. What are the most important things in your life outside work and how is work hindering you from getting those things done? Why do you want a flexible schedule—do you need more time to take care of your kids? Do you want fewer distractions? What would you like for your hours to be? Write out your specific request and reasoning so your boss is clear on what you’re asking for.

Make sure your flexible hours requests are within reason. Picking up your kid from school? Totally reasonable. Leaving work early because you love to watch Ellen every day? Mmm, not so much.

Write out a plan that answers any anticipated questions from your boss

Create a list of anticipated questions and your responses to them. Read your employee handbook to understand the rules already in place. Here are a few that come up often:

  • What will be your communication plan?
  • How do you plan to reach your goals?
  • Do you need any extra equipment at home to carry out your responsibilities?
  • What support will you need from your boss? 

Try to tackle all of these questions so your boss will easily understand your request.

Schedule a meeting with your boss to talk about your proposal in person

You’ll need to work out your schedule together, and it’s clearly best to do that in person. In addition to just agreeing on your hours, you’ll need to set and agree on an efficient feedback system, communication expectations, goal assessments, and ways to evaluate progress with your boss and coworkers. Come to the meeting prepared with your proposed plan and an open mindset.

Read more: Never Say...When Negotiating a Raise

Suggest a trial period for your schedule

If your boss is skeptical, offer to try out your new schedule and see if it works for you both. Whether it’s a later start time, earlier end time, or a few days working from home, it’s important to see if your new schedule is actually as beneficial as you hoped. Check in after a month and discuss how it’s working out. If you’re finding that you’re still overwhelmed, you can both try to work out a new arrangement together.

Graciously navigate conversations with coworkers

There’s sometimes a certain stigma attached to a flexible schedule—your coworkers might view your arrangement as special treatment or not understand why they’re working until 5, and you’re scooting out early.

First things first, clear up any confusion. Your coworkers might be imagining your new schedule is very different from reality. If you feel comfortable sharing the reasoning behind your new schedule, enlighten your coworkers and reassure them that you’re not skipping out on work early to get spa treatments.

If you’re not comfortable sharing, no worries, you can simply say you’re going through a transition period in your life and will need to attend to a few more things outside the office. With that said, whatever agreement you make with your boss is between you and your boss, so if a coworker is responding negatively, remember who you report to and go on your merry way.

Just because you have flexible hours does not mean you’re any less capable or dedicated than your peers. It’s equally important to establish open communication with your coworkers, especially if you work in a very collaborative environment. Overall, it’s best to set a precedent of honesty and open feedback with your coworkers to prevent any squabbles.

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