Asking Your Boss About Flexible Working: A Complete Guide
The COVID-19 pandemic was a stressful time of change for nearly everyone. One of the biggest shifts that took place was that more people and companies began to engage in remote working. For many people, working remotely allowed them to balance child care, reduce or eliminate their commute, work flexible hours, or possibly even reduce the number of hours worked per week.
As the pandemic slows, many people have returned to the office or have gone from part-time work back to full-time. However, many people who have had a taste of flexible working or working from home want to continue with this arrangement. This is especially the case for working moms and dads who enjoyed the extra time with their kids, saw a reduction in their child-care fees, and experienced a better work-life balance.
If you’re considering asking your boss for a flexible working schedule but are unsure exactly what that entails or how to ask, this guide is for you!
Types of Flexible Work Schedules
Working From Home
Working from home is the flexible work option most of us have become acquainted with due to COVID-19. Some people, like myself, switched to home careers or a new job out of necessity to care for young children or other family members. Other individuals might have switched to working from home because their office was closed.
Regardless of your reason for working from home, you may wish to continue the arrangement. If your company initially asked you to work from home, they may have even provided you with funds or supplies to set up a home office.
There are many benefits for employers and employees when working from home. Some studies have proven that remote workers tend to be more productive.
The Benefits of Working From Home:
- No commuting (saves money and time and is better for the environment)
- Flexibility to care for children and other relatives
- It may reduce the number of hours you work each week
- Improves your work-life balance
- Healthier lifestyle
- Less sick days and less spreading of illnesses
Splitting Home and Office
Some individuals now split their work hours between the office and home. This style of work is called hybrid work. If you have a job that cannot wholly eliminate face-to-face time, this option may give you the type of flexibility you need.
Hybrid work allows parents to be on hand when needed and to head to the office when a deadline is looming, or when they need to be in a space with zero distractions.
Hybrid work also allows employees to meet with team members to hold in-person meetings, brainstorm sessions, or go over things in person rather than on a computer screen.
Benefits of Hybrid Work:
- Less commuting
- More flexibility in your schedule
- Improves work-life balance
- In-person meetings reduce ‘Zoom fatigue’
- Choice of different workspaces can boost productivity
Compressed Work Week
A compressed workweek is a third option for working parents who need some flexibility. A compressed work week means working three or four days a week whilst still producing the workload of a full-time schedule.
Depending on the type of work you do, this could mean working on site for three twelve-hour days and having two days plus the weekend off, or more typically, it involves working four ten-hour workdays with one day off per week, plus the weekend.
If your job doesn’t require you to be on hand all the time or you are a salaried employee, it may simply mean ensuring you have all your assignments done each week. As a result, you may work thirty-six hours one week and only twenty the next.
Compressed work weeks benefit people who need to split childcare duties or need a day to check in on an elderly relative.
The Benefits of a Compressed Work Week:
- Less commuting
- More time off during the week
- More productivity
- Better work-life balance
- Maintained work benefits and full-time status
How Do I Ask For a Flexible Work Arrangement?
The first step in asking for a flexible work arrangement is knowing which type of flexible arrangement you want and why. Now that you’ve read about the different types of flexible working, you should be able to figure out which one suits you best.
Before you approach your boss with the request for a new schedule, sit down and write out your request. Before writing, brainstorm the benefits for both yourself and the company that this new schedule could give you, and detail how you would handle potential hiccups or extenuating circumstances.
For example, you could say:
“While I will be working from home to save childcare costs, I understand that there will be meetings or other occasions I need to be physically present or available without interruption. Therefore, provided I have 24-48 hours' notice of these situations, I can arrange temporary child care so I can devote my full attention to work during that time.”
The Basics of Asking for a Flexible Work Schedule
- • Know what you’re asking for and why.
- “I need a hybrid schedule because my nanny is going back to college, and she can only watch my child three days a week.”
- Detail what’s in it for them.
- “I’ll be more productive, have fewer sick days, and have more time to devote to work because I won’t be commuting.”
- Detail why it will benefit you (and thus make you a happier employee).
- For example, you could talk about reduced stress, a better work-life balance, a more stable financial situation, the ability to care for your child when they are unwell or school is closed without missing out on work.
Things to Consider Before Asking for Flexible Work
Flexible work isn’t for everyone, and it’s not available for every type of job. If a flexjob is something you need out of necessity or merely because you enjoy the freedom it provides, you may need to conduct a job search and consider changing jobs.
Additionally, some people do not work well from home. The distractions of children, dirty dishes in the sink, and lack of someone directly overseeing them can make motivation hard to find. Personally, I find I am typically more motivated when I can create my own schedule. However, my partner hates working from home, and on the few occasions he has tried or been forced into it due to quarantine or COVID-19 contact concerns, he has said it is not for him.
Most people who engage in a flexible work schedule maintain it has benefited their personal lives. However, keep in mind that working from home often comes with work-related apps and emails on your phone, which, if not appropriately handled, gives your employer unlimited access to you 24/7. Therefore, setting and maintaining boundaries for yourself when working from home is essential.
Ways to Set Up Work Boundaries:
- Turn work notifications off at a set time each day.
- Only check work emails during the weekdays.
- Decline picking up the phone after hours when you see a work number calling you.
- Decide your working hours each day and stick to them. Tell your family what your working hours are; kids especially need help understanding that mom or dad is working right now and interruptions need to be kept to a minimum.
- Set up dedicated time for yourself and your family each day or week.
U.S. Flexible Work Regulations
In the U.S., the rules and regulations surrounding flexible workdays are murky and vary state by state. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is slowly changing the flexible workday landscape. Even if there isn’t an explicit law or policy in place by your state, your company may have enacted one. Lastly, the old adage, it can’t hurt to ask, holds true even without an official policy. If you’re unsure where to start, request a meeting with someone from your HR department. For more information about rights and policies regarding requesting a flexible workday, check out the resources below.
- U.S. Department of Labor
- University of Michigan: Federal and State Laws Associated with Flexible Work
- Request for Flexible Schedule Template
- Indeed: Flexible Work Policies
- Work180: Flexible Working Policies
- FlexJobs: States with Flexible Workplace Laws
- Recruiter.com: 8 Little-Known Laws Governing Flexible Work
- Workplace Fairness: Current Laws and Trends in Flexible and Predictable Work Schedules That Allow Workers Better Life Balance
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About L. Elizabeth Forry
L. Elizabeth Forry is an Early Childhood Educator with 15 years of classroom experience.