When No Could Mean Yes: How to Negotiate a Flexible Schedule.

By Paige Hobey

 

 

Ready to make a change at work? Whether you want to work from home or cut back to part-time, it’s never easy to approach your management with a request. Start by writing a proposal that includes your ideal job responsibilities and schedule, your communication plan, the benefits of your proposal from your manager’s perspective (such as continued productivity with reduced costs), and your suggested next steps.

 

Anticipate resistance? Propose a trial period to ensure everyone is comfortable with the change. Or if you want to work from home, begin with one to two days a week away from the office.

 

Even with a well-written proposal, some managers may still need an extra push. Before you present your pitch, check out these common employer concerns and our recommended responses so you’re ready to make your case.

 

"If we approve your request, it will set a difficult precedent."

 

Some employers take the long view, fearing any alternative work arrangement may lead to an avalanche of similar requests. Explain every position in the company is unique, so your work arrangement will not necessarily set a new precedent. Other employees should understand that management evaluates every request on an individual basis.

 

"A flexible/shortened schedule just won’t work for your job."

 

This knee-jerk management reaction tends to result from a lack of imagination. Certain aspects of your job may require face-time, but you could break out the discrete tasks and demonstrate how each one can still be accomplished in your new arrangement. Don’t let your boss get off this easy.

 

"The team is already swamped, and no one can take over any of your work."

 

Head off this objection by suggesting projects that could be eliminated or completed less frequently. Once you’ve exhausted opportunities for reducing your weekly workload, lay out a plan for delegating some tasks without putting too much burden on anyone. Is there a junior employee on your team who wants more responsibility? Offer to train her and slowly transition some projects. How about someone at your level who wants additional client exposure? She might be happy to take over some client service responsibilities.

 

"During busy periods we need everyone to work longer hours, so we can’t approve a shortened schedule like this. It’s unrealistic."

 

Crunch times are inevitable, with some jobs more than others, but the occasional busy period doesn’t preclude an alternative schedule. You may be able to negotiate a flextime schedule that ends at 4 p.m., but offer to take work home or come in early during particularly crazy weeks. And as a part-timer, you could work full weeks a few times a year. Be creative—you want to maintain boundaries between work and home, but you also want your request approved. Good luck finding a manageable compromise.

 

"We need to be able to reach you at all times, so this just won’t work."

 

Corbinmama
02.23.09

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mls2008
09.19.08

Paige, you've pointed out some truths in your article, setting expectations as to what management may say to shoot down the idea of flex-time (I mean this in all arenas of flex-time and telecommuting).

However, I think that if these objections arise, it just might not be "the right company." Leaving that company for another company with a fresh perspective may send a signal to the outdated managers that their methods of control are not working. Let's call it what it is: 1) they fear jealousy in the ranks causing more people to ask for time off (as they should). 2) they may get the resentment from others esp. singles who offer up something trite such as well if i had a kid then i get time off (Hand them your child all day and night long while you observe them trying to work:). 3) They do not get that flexibility themselves and they'll be darned if you will. 4) They don't know how to ''sell it" up the chain and fear a backlash from Senior Management trying to sell it. 5) They are not savvy to know just how much more work you will want to do for them if they give you just a tiny piece of your life.

This issue is broader than the one-on-one level at work. This issue ought to be addressed by X and Y working generation at the corporate level from companies like this, evangelizing it for others. :)I'm in.

mls2008
09.19.08

To me, it sounds like your new manager is jealous and is attempting to control you and your schedule. I don't get why management is fighting the enivitable - we are working towards a four-day work week because people need flexibility. There are too many people trying to do too many things on the weekend causing distress in families. Families want to be there for their children's events and to pick them up from school or to be home for dinner. With the internet's fascinating capabilities to reduce work loads, it's obvious that telecommuting and flex-schedules define happy workers in todays' society.

Personally, I'd rather take a few thousand less and have wonderful, amazing, succulent Freedom...

krivera
09.05.08

I live in California and work for a large corporation. For almost a year my manager allowed me to work from home 1 day a week since the nature of my work is largely writing and can be accomplished with all of the technology we have today. Then I got a new manager and suddenly HR has said there are liabilities with an employee working out of the office, especially at home. Not sure if this is a California thing or a cop-out. Does anyone have any visibility on how to counter this concern? Would appreciate your insights.

krivera
09.05.08

I live in California and work for a large corporation. For almost a year my manager allowed me to work from home 1 day a week since the nature of my work is largely writing and can be accomplished with all of the technology we have today. Then I got a new manager and suddenly HR has said there are liabilities with an employee working out of the office, especially at home. Not sure if this is a California thing or a cop-out. Does anyone have any visibility on how to counter this concern? Would appreciate your insights.