How to Negotiate for a Flexible Work Schedule

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As we round the corner on the pandemic, negotiating for a flexible work schedule seems like a no-brainer after a year spent working, well, flexibly. But somehow, it still feels daunting to raise the issue with your boss. A lot depends on your company (Are they open to testing a non-traditional work week? Have they ever had remote employees?), but post-COVID, there’s no better time to bring it up. Here’s why: Flexibility at work is top of mind right now and the benefits don’t just apply to working moms. A flexible work schedule is appealing to anyone responsible for any type of dependent care (say, an elderly relative), but also for employees seeking a healthier work-life balance than what they had before. So, how do you approach your ask? Here, exactly how to negotiate for a flexible work schedule.

1. Start by Analyzing the Impact of a Flex Schedule on Your Work

Flexibility is often granted based on your job responsibilities, and how it does or does not affect the company’s bottom line. For example, can you work remotely with minimal impact on the team at large? If your hours shift from 9-5 to 7-3, will you miss meetings? If your work can be handled solo, that’s in your favor. But if it requires a lot of internal and external logistics and communication, you may need to make a stronger case. Bottom line: Think through how feasible flexibility is for your workload before you broach the subject with your boss, and come to the table with an action plan.

2. Do Your Research About Company Policies

Peep your company handbook to see if there’s a work from home policy that’s already been spelled out. Even if the organization says it’s forbidden, that doesn’t mean you can’t color outside the lines, but it’s good to get a sense of where the company stands on the matter. From there, learn about other colleagues or teams in the office that have been allowed a flex schedule and, if possible, ask about their circumstances and negotiations. For instance, if Peter in Finance had to take 20 percent pay cut in order to WFH, that’s worth knowing.

3. Next, Stress-Test Your Plan

What would happen if you were a time-zone behind your colleagues? How would you “attend” the monthly recap meeting if you weren’t in the room? Break it down, then think about specific people your flex arrangement might impact. (Can you manage someone effectively while working from four states away?) Make a list of any probelms you may need to troubleshoot and do your best to come up with a solution-based approach for each. (For instance, maybe you propose to come in one day a month to have face-to-face time with your direct reports.)

4. Make COVID-19 a Case Study for Why Flexibility Is a Good Idea

The upshot of a pandemic is that you now have loads of evidence to demonstrate your effectiveness of working remotely. Be prepared to share examples, like how your management style improved or that your productivity increased. (If you parlayed your pre-Covid 90-minute commute into extra sales for the company, your boss should know about that!) What were the benefits to the team at large and how will they continue with your new flex arrangement?

5. When Talking About Flexibility, Stay Flexible

It’s easy to go in feeling like you need to play hardball, but with an ask like this, stay open-minded and willing to see all sides of the equation. For instance, if you want to work half-day Fridays, but your boss is concerned that you’ll miss client meetings, stay open to things like coming in on occasion, or switching your half-day to a Tuesday when needed. After all, true flexibility is a two-way street.

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Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...