How to Ask for Flex Time

Many employers are agreeing to flexible work schedules. Here's what you can do to increase the odds of "yes."

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Flex time

When Dawn Corrado was out taking her maternity leave from her full-time sales-support job at Office Resources, in Boston, she assumed she'd seen the last of her office since the company offered no part-time options. But while Corrado was out, her coworker Susan Taft approached her about doing a job share, which would allow both of them to work part-time. The two women took the proposal to their manager. "We had job performance backing us up," Corrado says. "And the company saw it as a chance to retain two of its employees instead of losing both." Now Corrado works in the office on Mondays and Fridays, while Taft works Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

Flexible work situations such as part-time, job sharing, a compressed workweek, telecommuting, or extended maternity leave are becoming the norm rather than the exception. Flexibility is as important to today's workers as salary and benefits packages are. But what if this great enlightenment hasn't yet reached your company or your manager? "Sometimes it has to be that one person who makes the change," says Adria Alpert-Romm, senior executive vice president of human resources for Discovery Communications, in Silver Spring, Maryland. Getting what you want isn't a matter of asking nicely; rather, it's a matter of crafting a smart proposal that makes a compelling argument by looking at the situation through the eyes of the human resources department.

Know What You Want

Before you can determine what kind of flexibility you need, you first have to assess what it is you're after, says Karol Rose, chief marketing officer of FlexPaths.com, a site devoted to educating employees and companies about flexibility. Evaluate, for example, what financial trade-offs you're willing to make, whether a new work scenario will slow down your ability to advance (and how important that is to you), and if it's feasible to work at home without having additional childcare.

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