How To Get More Flexibility At Work

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Everyone could use more time. What else could you accomplish if you had more flexibility in your schedule?

Flex time, also referred to as alternate working arrangements, give you more options when it comes to where and what hours and/or days of the week you work. It could mean that you can step away from your desk for a few hours during the normal workday and pick things up again in the evening.

It’s tempting for any busy professional who has a plate full of commitments. But not all managers or companies are on board with this idea.

As someone who worked for years at corporations that valued precise start times (but not end times, of course) and “facetime”, the idea that they need to see your face to believe that you’re working, I know how restricting a lack of flexibility can be.

Once, early in my career, I was seven minutes late to work (yes, I do remember this precisely) because of subway delays. As I walked toward my desk, I thought I saw a pair of feet propped up. I rounded a corner and saw that my boss was sitting in my chair, with his feet up and his arms crossed behind his head.

“If your butt was in this chair, mine wouldn’t have to be,” he said. 

When you’re faced with such old fashioned thinking, how can you request more flexibility?

Benchmark

There are two types of benchmarking you need to do to make your case: internal and external. First, start asking around with your colleagues in other departments. Does anyone else have flex time? How do they manage it? How long have they had it, and does it work well? Talk to the managers of people with flex time, if possible, to get their perspective as well.

In particular, make sure to ask if there have been any horror stories or situations that have gone particularly poorly. You’ll be better prepared if you have more information, even if it’s not what you’re hoping to hear.

Once you know whether anyone else is doing it — and it’s better for you if they are, so you can point to some other examples — you can move on to external research.

If you are part of an employee resource group (ERG), this would be a great time to enlist their help. If you’re interested in flex time, chances are others will be, too. Making it a bigger initiative can give you more bargaining power than asking as an individual, where it might be perceived as asking for a favor.

Are there other companies in your industry who have flex policies? Request details about how many employees take advantage of flex time, and any studies or anecdotes about how it relates to overall productivity. Your ERG could consider putting together a case study to share with your HR department as a formal proposal.

Anticipate Objections

“How will I know you’re working if you’re not here?”

“I don’t want everyone on the team thinking they can just take off whenever they feel like it.”

“What if I need you here for meetings?”

These are actual objections that my clients have faced when proposing flex time to reluctant managers. A bit of advanced planning and technology easily makes these concerns obsolete, so when you talk to your manager, ask probing questions that get to the heart of what their real concerns are. Once you understand their point of view, you’ll be able to tailor your message points accordingly.

Trial Period

Finally, suggest a trial period of anywhere from a week to a month, depending on their comfort level. Be proactive by sharing a plan of how you’ll communicate your whereabouts and report out on your deliverables.

This post originally appeared in Women@Forbes, where Alexandra Dickinson is a contributor. She writes about how to use a negotiation mindset to achieve your goals.

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Alexandra Dickinson

Alexandra Dickinson is the CEO and founder of Ask For It, a boutique consulting company working to close the gender wage gap by effecting change at both the institutional and individual level. We work with companies, schools, organizations and individuals through a combination of trainings, workshops and consulting. Our goal is for women and men to be paid based on their talents and skills, regardless of gender, and for our company to have been an important part of that change.