The Do’s and Don’ts of Asking for a Flexible Work Schedule

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A flexible work arrangement can offer many freedoms. A recent survey by technology staffing firm Modis found that flexibility is the most sought after job perk. However, this perk can be hard to come by as some employers are still hesitant to loosen the reins. They fear their employees will become intoxicated by the sweet taste of freedom and start to abuse the arrangement. So how do you get your boss to agree to flex time? We posed this question to Jack Cullen, president of Modis, to get some answers. The Cheat Sheet and Cullen teamed up to offer you this guide. Here are our tips for asking your boss for a flexible work arrangement.


1. Do a reality check

Before you even think about proposing flex time to your boss, take a look at your overall work ethic. Are you often late to work? Do you frequently call in sick when you’re not? Do you take long lunches? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, don’t ask for this perk. You haven’t earned it. Clean up your act and try again. Once you’ve mastered self-management for at least six months, consider making the ask. Until then, save yourself the embarrassment and sit tight on that request.


2. Don’t be too demanding

You work for your boss — not the other way around. Don’t force your request or act entitled. At the end of the day, it’s his or her choice whether to accept your request. So take it down a notch. Instead of making demands, show your boss how responsible you are and that you can be trusted. You can do this by demonstrating an excellent work ethic. Arrive to work on time every day, have a good attitude, be a good team player, and show a genuine enthusiasm for your work, not just the perks you can obtain. Cullen advises employees to work on making a strong case for an adjusted work arrangement well in advance of submitting a request:

I’d encourage employees to build their case ahead of the conversation with their manager. As a first step, they should determine exactly what type of flexibility they’d like — is it working five days’ worth of hours in four, coming in late or leaving early, or working from home on certain days? Once you have a sense of what you’d like, think about the business implications and how you can guarantee that all your responsibilities will be met and all deadlines will be kept. This can help you build your case when speaking with your employer. It’s important to keep in mind that you’ll potentially need to be flexible in your request and may need to meet your employer halfway. And convincing your boss that better results will be delivered will certainly be a deciding factor in his/her decision.

3. Be a good sport

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

If your supervisor declines your request, respect the decision by demonstrating a good attitude. Acting cold or angry will get you nowhere. Remain professional and think about proposing the arrangement at a later date. Cullen recommends proposing the idea of a test period:

If your boss initially says no, you can propose a trial period to try the flexible arrangement. If he or she agrees, make sure you’re staying responsive, not missing deadlines, and remaining accountable in all your work. If your boss is resistant to the idea as a whole, it may not be a work environment where flex time is possible. You can also point to examples of highly successful companies that employ a flex time program and the improvements in productivity that were made when the program was launched. If you are still unsuccessful, revisit the conversation in 6 to 9 months with more evidence of positive trends that competitors are offering to attract and retain top talent.


4. Don’t get complacent

Don’t start to slack off once you get what you want. It’s vital for you to continue to produce work that you and your managers can be proud of.

“It’s important to make sure that all your responsibilities are being met and that your work is at, and preferably above, the standard and expectations of the role,” Cullen said.


5. Show respect

Just because you have a flexible arrangement, such as working from home, it does not mean that you can disregard the needs of your co-workers. Cullen says you should make sure that your work environment does not clash with others if you have to engage in a video or conference call.

“Be respectful of your colleagues. For example, if you’re on conference calls, make sure you’re in a quiet, distraction free environment. If you have children, ensure they are either being watched or are able to take care of themselves away from your work area.”


6. Don’t brag

Yes, you’re over the moon that your request was accepted, but you’ll need to do a good job of not flaunting your new arrangement. Stay quiet about the details and do your best not to brag about how good you have it. Bragging will cause friction among your teammates. And if your boss gets wind of your bad behavior, it’s possible your newfound luck could be reversed.

“It is also important to recognize that your role and function may allow for a flex time privilege while others may not have this opportunity,” Cullen said. “Be careful not to make this a distraction for those who don’t receive this benefit.”

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