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Liz Taurasi @LizTaurasi

How to Ask for (and Get) More Flexibility at Work

Want more flexibility at work? You’re not alone. A recent study found 50 percent of U.S. adults rank flexible hours as their most important work perk. But how do you get the flex work arrangement you crave?

“It is easy to identify why you ‘need’ flexibility, but more difficult to articulate how this can be a win-win for you and the organization,” says Jennifer Sabatini Fraone, associate director, communications and programming for the Boston College Center for Work & Family. “If you are seeking a long-term, formal arrangement, take the time to honestly think through what you would like to propose and the potential impact this will have on your manager, team and customers.”

So how do you ask for -- and get -- more flexibility at work? We talked to some experts to compile this list of tips to help employees as they prepare to ask for a flexible work arrangement.  

1. Explain How It Can Help You and the Company
Outline how the flexibility you are seeking will help you manage your responsibilities and accomplish your goals. Also discuss how it can also benefit your employer. “If there’s a neutral or positive business effect, at the end of the day the companies offering flexible work environments will be the successful ones in competitive marketplaces - especially in competitive labor markets,” says James Morrissey, senior human resources business partner with Oasis Outsourcing. 

2. Craft Your Proposal and Expectations
Put all of this information into a well-crafted proposal and set a time to discuss it with your manager. Offer to begin on a trial basis and review with your manager after 60 or 90 days to evaluate how the arrangement is working, Fraone suggests.

3. Suggest a Trial Period
A manager may initially be reluctant, so propose a 2-month trial period, says Work together to set goals and to give your manager the tools they need to measure performance. It is likely things will go really well, and at the end of two months, you can make your arrangement more permanent. 

4. Put the Solution First
When making your proposal be sure to emphasize why this new arrangement makes good business sense.r. For example, Scott Behson, a professor of management at Fairleigh Dickinson University and author of The Working Dad’s Survival Guide, suggests saying “My job requires long stretches of concentration, and this is easier to do at home then in the busy office. Working from home 1-2 days a week would help me do a better job and help me. Here’s how it could work…” is far better than saying, “Working from home would help me with child care.” By addressing work needs as well as your own, it’s more likely they’ll say yes.

5. Be Flexible in Your Request
Depending on the type of business you work for, you may be limited in how much flexibility that’s available to you. Be willing to compromise. Perhaps that’s starting out working from home one day a week, or having more of a flexible schedule on Fridays because that may be a slower day in the office. By being flexible yourself, it may allow your employer to feel more confident in granting your request.