There are countless ways to make your job better fit your family life, whether it’s compressing your workweek (completing 40 hours in four days), shifting your hours (i.e., from 9 to 5 to 7 to 3), or going part-time. We don’t pretend to know which setup is best for you, but the tricky part is indisputable: getting your company to sign off. Give yourself the best chance for success by following this blueprint.
1. Read up. Scan your employee handbook or portal for the deets on your company’s flex policies, says Simon Salt, author of Out of Office: How to Work From Home, Telecommute, or Workshift Successfully. Check for benefits that might disappear if your hours drop (read: health insurance!)
2. Ask around. Find out how coworkers got their flexible work situations approved, advises Brie Reynolds, director of online content for the work-search site FlexJobs. If you don’t know someone at your office who’s done it, pick the brain of industry contacts and friends who have flexible hours.
3. Think before you ask. Your proposed work schedule needs to be manageable for your employer. If you suggest a 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift when important meetings tend to happen in the afternoon, that’s likely to give your manager pause. “The key question you need to answer is, How will you get your job done with your arrangement?” says Pat Katepoo, a negotiations coach with WorkOptions.com.
4. Come prepared. Put together a thorough outline of your plan as well as some talking points for your meeting. Some good ones, says Reynolds: “I’m in this for the long haul” and “This will enable me to manage my time better.”
5. Make it about them. Point out how your employer will gain from the setup. When Marie Levey-Pabst, a mom of two from Medford, Massachusetts, pitched job sharing with a fellow teacher, they emphasized that the students would profit from having two different voices in the classroom. “In teaching, collaboration is seen as a positive,” says Levey-Pabst. Their proposal was approved and ran smoothly for two years until Levey-Pabst’s co-teacher returned to a full-time position.
6. Be a model employee. The more your company values you, the greater leverage you’ll have in asking for flextime. Amy Kendall, a marketing communications and content manager from Provo, Utah, had proven her worth in 2 1/2 years on the job. So when she requested to work from home during afternoons to be with her baby, “My managers said ‘Yes,’ ” she reports. Kendall now has three children and logs 30 hours per week—from 8 a.m. to noon in the office, plus another two hours daily at home whenever she can fit it in.
7. Consider trading in your raise. At your next review, ask if you can have a work-at-home day instead of a salary bump. “The flexibility may be as valuable as extra pay,” says Dan Schawbel, a millennial career expert and author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success. Telecommuting saves gas and wear and tear on your car, and it might even reduce your child-care expenses (if the arrangement lets you pay for fewer hours).
8. Be ready to bolt. When Katie Laird could no longer stomach the 70-hour work weeks as a strategic advisor, the Houston mom researched area businesses to see which were rated the highest by employees. Ultimately she found a position at an e-commerce company that had no problem with her using Skype or working from home at times. “If you find a place where the people are happy and engaged, it probably has a flexible working environment and a family-focused spirit,” she says.
Have a ready response for every potential employer objection to flextime, suggests negotiations coach Pat Katepoo.