How to Request a Flexible Work Schedule

I have a number of working mothers in my marketing department and several have arranged flexible work schedules to accommodate their changing work/life demands. Flexible work schedules are becoming much more common as employers recognize it as valuable tool for retaining their top talent and promoting work/life balance. In my department we have a number of different kinds of arrangements.For instance, “Tanya”* is the mother of two elementary school-age children. During the school year she works shorter work days on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, while working longer days on Mondays and Fridays. Meanwhile, “Rebecca” works from home two days per week. I too have a flexible work schedule that I started when I returned from maternity leave last winter; I work from home every Wednesday.

So how do you go about convincing your boss you won’t lose productivity if you work a flexible schedule? You need to do your homework.

  • Check to see if your company has a written policy about flex time. Educate yourself about your company’s policies before you formally submit your request. You may find that your company leaves the decision to manager discretion. This is the case at my company.
  • Build your case. Develop a sound written argument for why you need a flexible schedule. Kids starting school and want to be available to pick them up? Looking for a more effective way to balance the competing demands of a heavy work load and busy family life? Spell out what you are hoping to achieve and communicate how the company will benefit as a result.
  • Develop multiple options. Key to building your argument is presenting several options to your boss. For example, you might propose a compressed work week (40 hours in four days) or working two six hour days and three nine hour days. The goal is to come up with a few different options that work for you and accommodate your supervisor’s needs of you as an employee.
  • Submit a formal request in writing and then ask to review the request in person. This is too important to be done as a drive-by discussion or for just a written submission with no follow up.  Be prepared to respond to any objections or concerns your supervisor may have by thinking through the kinds of questions you may be asked.
  • Offer a 60 or 90-day trial period. The biggest fear your boss has is that you will be less productive working a flexible schedule. Show you are willing to minimize the risk to the company by offering a trial period after which time you and your supervisor can determine if the arrangement should continue.
  • Be flexible. The most important part of working a flexible schedule is being willing to be flexible. Let your boss know that on days that you are needed (say, for an important meeting or business travel), you’ll change your schedule to be available.

The good news is there are many ways to make a flexible schedule work for you and your company but it’s up to you to make the case.  Do you work a flexible schedule? What do you know now that you wish you had known before making the change?

*All names have been changed.

Showing 3 comments
  • Optimistic Mom

    Great post! I am in need of a very flex schedule and have had a lot of difficulty. I think when you are already in the system it helps. For me getting in the door looking for a flex schedule has been really hard.
    You have some great tips here and I can see them working. The trial period option is awesome!

    Thanks for sharing.

    • bossmomonline

      Thanks, Optimistic Mom! I’ve found that the trial period has really helped both me as a manager and my team member adjust to the new schedule. I highly recommend this route. You are right that I think if you are looking for a job getting a flex schedule may be harder. However, have you thought about trying a job share? I don’t have anyone doing this in my company now but I’m hearing about it more and more as a trend especially for women who are looking for a greater amount of flexibility.

      • Optimistic Mom

        Very interesting concept for a job share. I will definitely keep that in mind! Thanks for the reply. 🙂

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