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Negotiating a Flexible Work Schedule

One of the major stressors in people’s lives is balancing time between work and home.  With all of the recent articles about the “Mommy Wars” (stay at home vs working), fathers wanting more time with their children, and people needing more personal time for well-being, it is clear that it is time to re-look at the way America goes to work.

Technology is amazing.  In many ways, it has surpassed companies’ ability to update job descriptions, have the most current program/device, or realize the advantages new technology holds for business.  As an employee, technology can open up a world of opportunities to re-evaluate and re-balance your work and home life.

With the economy as it is, many people have not seen a raise in several years.  Instead of seeking more money from a company reluctant to give it (or possibly even “frozen” due to budget constraints), negotiating a flexible work schedule can be a great option.


1. Do your research–and do it thoroughly.

Has your company/business ever had an employee telecommute?  If so, get as much information as you can about the conditions approved/set forth by HR.  You might be surprised.  If not, scour the internet for examples of people who are telecommuting and in your line of work.  You will need to make your employer absolutely confident that the work can/will be done at a distance.  Examples help.

2. Write up a proposal.

A formal proposal looks professional, answers questions, and demonstrates initiative.  Anticipate as many questions as you possibly can and try to answer them with your proposal.  Make sure to provide any evidence of precedence (either within your companies current HR policies or via examples you found from other companies). You may even be able to find sample clauses from other big companies that have a telecommuting workforce.  Sometimes it can be helpful to show that telecommuting is done by Fortune 500 companies.  Make sure your proposal is extrememly well written and error free.  Get help if you need it.

3. Offer a trail period.

People can be scared of change.  They can also be scared of starting something the will spiral out of control.  Proposing a 90-day trial period can set your employer’s mind at ease.

4. Demonstrate your ability to pull it off!

A telecommuter needs to be able to: multi-task, work independently, be completely reliable, efficient, problem-solving, accurate, and deadline-oriented.  If you have a history of needing “a push” to complete assignments correctly or on time, you will not be approved.  If you know that you will be seeking a telecommuting schedule make sure to demonstrate the above qualities on a regular basis.  Record/document your abilities so you can provide examples during review time and come time to present your proposal.

5. Timing is everything.

The best time to ask for a more flexible schedule is after a demonstrated success.  You want your employers to have your abilities fresh in their minds.  Your boss needs to remember why you need to be kept around!  Also, are you due for a raise?  If your company has a tight budget,  and you have been patient and loyal without a raise–now might be a perfect time to approach.  If you are new to the job, now might not be the best time.  Keep your plan in mind and make sure you are proving yourself for when the time is right.

6. Be reasonable with your expectations!  

Some jobs are more inclined to telecommuting than others.  If your job requires a lot of face-time with clients or co-workers, make sure to include a plan for that in your proposal.  Maybe a partial distance schedule would be best–where you work from home one or two days a week.  I suggest not picking Monday or Friday for your telecommute days, unless those days are particularly slow or low-traffic times.  You do not want to look like you are seeking vacation!

7. Keep technology in mind. 

If your company is strapped for cash, they might not be willing to provide you with the necessary equipment for distance work: laptop with secure connection (like a VPN), dedicated cell phone, printer, scanner, software.  Would you be willing to provide your own?  If so, how would you guarantee security?  You would also need to provide your own troubleshooting and maintenance.  This is not impossible to overcome, but is essential to have a plan for this in place when you design your proposal.  The idea is that your telecommuting would be saving the company money.

Perhaps you don’t even need to telecommute in order to achieve some balance.  Sometimes, having adjusted work hours can mean all the difference to your situation.  Evaluate your needs closely.  

Negotiating a flexible schedule might require finesse.  Do not give up if your first attempt doesn’t go as planned.  Reassess your companies need. You are in charge of creating the life you want to live.  If you NEED a flexible work schedule to thrive, and your current company isn’t willing to work with you on any level, it is time to look for a company that will.  They exist.


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