The Harvard Business Review has a new blog entry called Winning Support for Flexible Work. Why, nearing the end of 2010, are most of us still on 9-to-5 desk duty? They say it's because few companies have an official policy or program in place, and even fewer managers are open to or equipped to handle employees with alternative schedules.
Bosses who trust employees worry about the appearance of favoritism or allowing a slide in productivity, but focusing on the upsides and framing your request correctly can help your chances of achieving an alternative work arrangement. In addition to several case studies, they offer the following tips.
Define what you want. Is your goal to spend more time with family? Or do you want to remove distractions in order to be able to focus on bigger, more long-term projects? Decide what arrangement will best help you achieve your goal - a compressed work week, a job share, reduced hours, working from home, taking a month-long sabbatical - and consider whether you could still do your job effectively. Be sure to understand the impact your wished-for schedule will have on your boss, your team and your performance.
Design it as an experiment. Allay management fears by positioning your proposal as an experiment. Gradually introduce flexibility, and provide an out for you and your boss. Explain that if it doesn't work, you are willing to try a different arrangement or go back to the way things were.
Ask for team input and support. Explain what you are trying to achieve and ask for their input. Be sure to let your boss know that your proposal includes colleague suggestions. Some bosses worry that if they grant one person flexibility, the floodgates will open and everyone will want the same arrangement. This is often an unfounded fear because many prefer a traditional schedule.
Highlight the benefits to the organization. Demonstrate that you have considered the company's needs, that your new schedule will not be disruptive and that it will actually have positive benefits, such as improving your productivity or increasing your relevant knowledge.
Reassess and make adjustments. Once your experiment has been in place three or four months, evaluate its success. Are you reaching your goals? Is the schedule causing problems for anyone? Because you've designed the arrangement as a trial, you will want to report back to your boss.