How to Get a Flexible Work Schedule

How many times have you sat in rush hour traffic cursing your 9-to-5 schedule?

Or pondered how much more productive you’d be if you could finish your work from home at 8:00 p.m. after the kids are asleep instead being stuck at the office when they get home from school?

For many women, a little flexibility would go a long way toward increasing job satisfaction. So, how do you sell your boss on the idea?

“You’re not going to march in and say, ‘This isn’t working for me because my child has ballet lessons three times a week,’” Northbrook career consultant Marilyn Fettner says. “That is not going to be motivating for your employer.”

But, with solid talking points and a little finesse, you may be able to find a win-win solution. First, Fettner advises, figure out what kind of flexibility you’re seeking. Do you want a full-time telecommute position or are you simply hoping to come in and leave one hour early?

Whatever the case, Chicago executive coach Jody Michael says to frame your request in terms of how it will benefit your company. Explain how a flexible schedule will enhance your performance. For example, maybe you’ll actually work more hours from home because you aren’t commuting. Or, perhaps you’d be more productive if you came in at 7:00 a.m. because you’d have fewer interruptions.

If you sense your boss will be reluctant to approve a flexible work arrangement, Michael says to ask for a three-month trial. If you want to keep your flexible arrangement, it’s crucial to over-communicate and over-deliver during that period.

“Work more hours than when you were in the office,” Michael says. “Be proactive by asking your boss what her concerns are so you can actively address them.”

Kyra Cavanaugh is the president of Life Meets Work, a Park Ridge-based consultancy that helps corporations build successful flex cultures. She says most managers’ concern is that employees will take advantage of flexibility. Make it clear that you understand flexibility is a two-way street, she says. If you want to work from home on Fridays, for example, but your division president typically visits the first Friday of every month, assure your boss you’ll be at the office for those meetings.

Finally, Cavanaugh says not to apologize. While flexible work arrangements may be a privilege, you’re not asking your boss for a personal favor.

“Managers are used to making business decisions, so if you can keep it in their realm of making business decisions, they are more likely to grant your request,” Cavanaugh says.