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How to Negotiate a Flexible Schedule

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Your Flex Schedules Must Also Help Your Employer

Catherine Yeulet

Have you dreamed about a flexible schedule which allows you to miss that rough commute to work? Have you wished for a compressed work week that allows you to work four days instead of five? Or, luxury of luxuries, have you thought about telecommuting from home – even if only part time? If you share these dreams, don’t wait, get ready to negotiate. You can negotiate a flexible work schedule.

The advantages of a flexible work schedule for employees are clear and well-documented. So, plan to negotiate a flexible work schedule with your employer in mind. The negotiation is not about you. It’s not about what works best for you and your family. The negotiation is about the advantages to the employer for allowing you to work a flex schedule. With thoughtfulness and a little creativity, you can turn every advantage to you and your family into an advantage for your employer.

Will You Need to Negotiate?

Increasingly, employee friendly workplaces have flexible work arrangements written into their policies and procedures. Check your employee handbook and talk with Human Resources staff.

In one New York publishing company, employees can work from home two days a week. In a large computer company, 55% of the employees telecommute, most of them full-time. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Seventy percent of Cisco Systems employees regularly work from home at least 20% of the time. So do 34% of workers at Booz Allen Hamilton and 32% at S.C. Johnson & Sons.”

Ask around in your organization to see if other employees have flexible schedules. Find out what they did to negotiate the schedule and heed their tips for making the schedule work.

Organizations with flexible work schedule policies also have guidelines. These often include that employees must have alternative childcare arrangements made so telecommuting parents are free to work. Others define the availability of the employee for frequent communication and require attendance electronically at meetings. Some stipulate the length of time required to respond to a communication.

Make a Plan to Negotiate a Flexible Schedule

Don’t approach your boss about a flexible schedule without a plan. You have just one chance to negotiate, if your company does not have a policy. Make it easy for the boss to say, "yes."

Think about what you want to negotiate. What work schedule will provide the work-life balance you’d like to achieve? Think about your life and your job. Can you work components of the job from home? If so, how many days would be ideal? Or, will a later start time allow you to drop the kids at day care?

Take a serious look at your life and work habits. Some employees cannot work from home. The laundry is always calling or bills need to be paid. They find the company of coworkers stimulating and would miss office banter. Ask yourself if you are able to compartmentalize your life. Employees who do this well are the best candidates for telecommuting.

Determine How the Flexible Schedule Will Benefit Your Employer

Once you’ve created your plan for what you want to negotiate for your flexible schedule, think about how the flexible schedule will benefit your employer. Perhaps you will be able to work the two hours you now spend commuting. Less stress will make you a better employee. Knowing that you can drop the children at daycare and pick them up will make you less concerned about their welfare.

Many employees find they get more work accomplished by starting early or staying late or telecommuting. Employees find they can accomplish more work when there are fewer interruptions. If telecommuting is your flexible work solution, negotiate around the fact that your employer won't need to supply daily space or an office for you.

When you are ready to negotiate, make your case. Offer to try the flexible schedule on a trial basis to reassure the boss, coworkers, and customers that the arrangement benefits all parties.

Write a Plan to Negotiate With Your Employer

Your written proposal should include the following:

  • Why you want a flexible schedule;
  • How a flexible schedule will benefit your employer;
  • If telecommuting, describe your home work station and equipment;
  • How you will maintain frequent communication with your boss, customers, and coworkers;
  • How you will accomplish the work and attain your goals;
  • How you and your manager can regularly review the effectiveness of the flexible work schedule with a periodic evaluation;
  • The support you will need from your manager to make the flexible arrangement successful; and
  • Any needs you have specific to your position and job responsibilities.

Negotiate With Your Supervisor

Assuming you have created a viable plan that benefits both you and your employer, set up a meeting with your supervisor to request a flexible schedule. Keep in mind that your supervisor has the responsibility to carry out existing company policy and to ensure fairness and consistency across his or her department and other company departments. When you negotiate for a flexible schedule, you are not the only consideration.

  • Your written plan, shared with the supervisor, will help your cause.
  • Seek to agree on communication standards, goal achievement assessment, performance evaluation markers and assessment of success, and ways to evaluate ongoing success with your manager, customers, and coworkers.
  • Especially important is the feedback loop you establish with your manager so that his or her concerns are addressed. Your manager needs to be able to defend and support your flexible work schedule in your work community. Trust me. Other employees will soon request the same or similar accommodations.

A flexible work schedule can work successfully for all parties. You need to negotiate your case, reassure your employer that you are working and contributing in his best interests, and find ways to measure and publicize the success of the arrangement.

You need to assure that communication with coworkers and customers is as successful as prior to the flexible work schedule. Measure your results. Communicate results. Keep in touch. Attend your weekly meetings. Work the core required business hours. Understand that the responsibility to succeed, when you negotiate and work a flexible schedule, lies squarely in your court. Good luck.

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