How to Ask for Flexible Work Hours (Without Making it Awkward)by Diane Klementowich on January 7, 2019 in MindSpring News
We’re going to guess you stumbled across this blog for a few reasons. Maybe your commute this morning was exceptionally brutal, all of your friends are off being “digital nomads”, or you desperately wish you could find a work-life balance that allows you to master your professional skills while also pursuing personal goals and passions. Simply put, you’re reading this blog because you want more flexibility at work.
The good news is, every day more employers are drawing a clear line between employee satisfaction and flexible work arrangements. The better news is, you don’t need to find a new job to benefit from this trend. With a well-thought-out plan, you can initiate a tactful conversation with your supervisor about what type of arrangement you’re looking for – without making it awkward. Just follow these steps:
1) Consider the Culture
While employers are becoming more comfortable with the idea of flexible work arrangements, it’s clear that some companies will be more open to it than others. To find where yours likely falls on this scale, consider a few questions:
- Does their employer branding highlight flexibility and work-life balance?
- Is flexibility a focus within internal communications?
- Does the employee handbook have a clear policy for flexible arrangements or does it simply say “According to manager’s discretion”?
- Do current employees have flexible schedules or the option to telecommute?
These questions are meant to inform how you approach the topic, not dissuade you. If after answering these questions the situation looks bleak, just be a touch more careful with your initial ask.
2) Plan Out Your Ideal Arrangement
Before heading into the discussion with your supervisor, you need to have a solid ask in place and be prepared to address any concerns they may have. Carefully draft a sample working arrangement that you think would work best for both you and your employer. Here’s an example:
“To better balance priorities in my personal life along with my professional goals and obligation to perform to the best of my abilities in this role, I’d like to propose the following work arrangement. Ideally, I’d work 7-3 on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from the office. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’d like work from 8-4 from my home office. In the event of a team or client meeting, I will make myself available in person at your discretion.” *
Note, the example explains a reason for the change, provides clear expectations and addresses a potential concern the supervisor may have. If your motivation for requesting the change is something that many other employees encounter (a long commute, conflicting extra-curricular activities, etc.) don’t be discouraged, but do be prepared to defend your reasoning with logic that will appeal to your supervisor. For example, if you work from home and can avoid the hour-long commute, your morning productivity (and mood) will likely improve.
*Disclaimer: While written out for example purposes, this conversation is one you should always have in person. You got this! (see next step)
3) Wait for a Good Time
After you know what you’re going to say, you have to determine a good time to say it. Ideally, topics such as these are discussed during performance reviews when you and your supervisor are already discussing what’s working, what isn’t, and any plans for the future. If there are concerns over your performance, it’s a good idea to wait to have this conversation until you’ve had a chance to show improvement.
That said, sometimes circumstances are out of your control and you can’t wait until a performance review to ask for more flexibility. In this case, schedule a meeting with your supervisor on a day they’re not flooded with work and tactfully make your ask, addressing the points in step number two.
4) Maintain Open Communication
Whew, deep breath. You asked, no turning back now. In the best-case scenario, your supervisor would have no hesitations with your proposed arrangement. Even so, you should regularly send them updates about how the arrangement is working for you. If they had a few concerns, offer to try the arrangement on a trial basis with monthly performance reviews so you have a chance to prove that your productivity won’t suffer as a result. If you received a hard no, politely ask their reasoning and in what circumstances their decision might change.
Even after following these steps, sometimes a hard no is simply a hard no. For a variety of reasons, some employers aren’t willing or able to offer flexible work arrangements on a case-by-case basis. If flexibility is a high priority for you, you may find yourself on the job hunt. In this case, consider partnering with a quality recruiter to make the process a breeze. At MindSpring, our teams of expert recruiters work as objective career advisors to our candidates, connecting them with the ideal position for their unique needs. No awkward conversations here, just tell us what you’re looking for.
Looking for a rewarding position where work-life balance is the name of the game? Let us help! Send us a quick message about what you’re looking for in your next career move.
Diane adds to the balance of work and play at MindSpring. A founding Principal, she manages our temporary staffing group and helps drive strategic initiatives for the firm. She fosters strong relationships with new and long-standing clients, and guides the team as we facilitate placements. Like all MindSpringers, she is quick to celebrate the achievements of others and generates team spirit.
On her off time, her inner child is kept busy playing and running around with her young daughter. Her adult self enjoys cooking and binging the latest Netflix phenomenon. Plus, people naturally treat her like she’s the person secretly writing Dear Abby, coming to her when they need advice both in and out of the office. In a second life, she’d love to host a talk show!