Tech and many other industries are embracing work from home policies to give employees more flexibility. Companies also benefit with improved worker retention, reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, and improved health, studies show.
“People have been advocating for change in this area for decades, and for a long time, those conversations have been siloed,” said Emma Plumb, director of the advocacy organization 1 Million for Work Flexibility (1MFWF). But more recently, there has been a push to allow flexible schedules for parents, to save on transportation costs, and a variety of other reasons, Plumb said.
The term “flexibility” is broad, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer for every workplace and every employee, Plumb said.
While many companies have implemented work from home policies and other flexible arrangements, many companies still operate in a more traditional, 8-hour office day model. Here is a three-phase roadmap from 1MFWF to follow if you’re interested in negotiating a more flexible schedule with your employer.
Phase 1: Preparation
- Evaluate yourself and your job.
Negotiating a flexible schedule means thinking about your personal needs, and what you would hope to gain from this arrangement with your employer. Then, think about which of your tasks can or cannot be completed outside of the office, and make a specific, detailed list.
- Do some reconnaissance with your coworkers.
Get a grasp of your company’s current landscape when it comes to flexible schedules, before going to HR. If you have colleagues that already have this arrangement, talk to them about it, and find out how they negotiated it and how it works for them.
- Choose the flex that will work for you.
Determine what kind of schedule you are seeking, whether it’s working from home every day, shifting your hours to avoid traffic, telecommuting once or twice a week, or some other arrangement. Also, consider what kind of flexibility will make the most sense for you and your particular job.
Phase 2: Proposal
- Check with human resources.
Your company’s HR department can tell you if your company has formal flexwork policies, which can help you determine how to tailor your message and what to expect as feedback.
- Draft a proposal.
Determine what you think your ideal flex situation is, and what the best alternatives would be to help you discuss some options with your employer. In a proposal, detail what kind of flexwork you want, how you’ll stay connected to your colleagues, how you’ll complete your daily tasks and larger projects, and how your plan will benefit your work and the company as a whole.
Do not spend time discussing the personal reasons that you want flexibility; instead, treat this as a business proposal, Plumb said. “It’s about formalizing all of these things, and moving away from what your personal needs are and focusing very strongly on the business side, of what the business benefits of your flex will be,” she added.
It’s also key to practice your proposal with a coworker or friend, and ask them to bring up any questions that arise to hone your answers.
- Plan for a trial run.
Along with your proposal, create a plan for a four- to six-week trial period, outlining the specifics of what you would do, and how you and your manager can measure success.
SEE: Why a shift toward remote work could help solve tech’s gender gap (TechRepublic)
Phase 3: Discussion
- Set up a formal meeting with your boss.
Choose a time that will fit your manager’s schedule and will allow for a detailed discussion of your proposal.
- Make your pitch.
The focus of your pitch should be how a flex work arrangement will help both your boss and your company. Share the details, and how you will complete your tasks. Then, propose your temporary trial, and emphasize elements of communication, collaboration, and trust.
You should also offer your boss time to think about your proposal to avoid putting pressure on them. Finally, thank your boss for taking the time to discuss the issue with you, whether or not they ultimately approve it.
“It’s an involved process, but we want folks to be successful in this,” Plumb said. “Chances are if the company doesn’t have a plan in place, you will need to expect some pushback, and be able to answer some tough questions. So having thought all of this out in advance is only to your advantage.”
Hopefully, the information you present will lead your manager to say yes to your flex work proposal, Plumb said. However, if they say no, you should maintain your professionalism and not take it personally–there are many reasons why they may have turned you down, which may not be a reflection of you or your work. You can also look for other opportunities in the future to highlight the value of a flexible schedule, such as asking to work from home during a storm to avoid the bad weather, and showing your boss that you can do so while keeping up your work and communicating well.
Overall, don’t give up, Plumb advises: continue to work hard, and consider revisiting the conversation in a few months to see if anything has changed.