How to Ask for Flexible Work Arrangements

 herc   March 14, 2017  Career Planning

A flexible work schedule is the cornerstone of your work-life balance. Flexible work arrangements can accommodate temporary life needs, such as caring for school age children during summer vacation, the care of a loved one after a hospital stay, college course work during the academic school year, or peak periods of work. They may also be part of a negotiated on-boarding, particularly if you are working from home or working part-time. When you are able to vary your work schedule to accommodate life needs, you are likely to be more focused and productive at work.

Types of Flexible Work Arrangements

Flexible work options include telecommuting, compressed workweek, job sharing, reduced seasonal hours, change to part-time status and phased retirement. These arrangements should meet business needs, taking into account how, when and where the work is done. Supervisors may hesitate to grant flexible schedules because they fear that your productivity will suffer, leaving your colleagues or co-workers to pick up the slack. They may also lack the knowledge of how to monitor these types of arrangements. Contrary to bias, when implemented correctly, flexible work arrangements actually increases your productivity and engagement.

How to Ask for Flexible Schedule

Step 1: Advocate for a flexible work arrangement by first understanding your unit’s business needs and the kinds of flex schedule options that best suit them. Keep in mind the formal work structure and the informal work culture. For example, if faculty and staff typically stop by your office without appointments, then telecommuting is not a good fit. Instead, you consider varying up the start or end time of your day or a compressed workweek should drops-in seldom take place on certain days, such as Fridays. Suggest a colleague cover for you on Fridays in exchange for your coverage for her on Mondays, as long as the work is evenly distributed.

Step 2: Assure your supervisor that you will take responsibility for a successful arrangement. Provide your supervisor with a written proposal that includes the type of flex arrangement you desire; your plans for continuous communication with your supervisor, colleagues and customers; and outcomes or evidence of your productivity.

Step 3: Suggest a trial period and be willing to re-negotiate the arrangement to ensure that everyone’s needs are met. Savvy supervisors will engage the entire work unit in identifying the type of flexible work arrangements that are best suited for their work units AND ask the staff to create the schedule. Working together improves everyone’s accountability for the arrangements.

Step 4: Periodically review your flexible work arrangement with your supervisor, ensuring that it aligns with current business needs, staffing patterns and expected outcomes.

Flexible work arrangements can significantly help you accommodate your many work-life demands and can boost engagement of an entire work unit if implemented successfully. Many employers are integrating them into their organizational work culture, using them as effective talent recruitment and retention strategies. Check with your organization’s Human Resources department for more information.

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Robynn M. Pease, Ph.D. has over 20 years of related experience in the field of work-life and is the former director of the Greater Oregon Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (GO HERC). Prior to her current position as Faculty Ombudsman at Oregon State University (OSU), Robynn served as the Coordinator of Work-Life at OSU and the Director of Work-Life at the University of Kentucky. She holds a doctorate in Sociology from the University of Kentucky, with an emphasis in gerontology.