convincing your boss to allow flextime schedules

by Ask a Manager on October 23, 2012

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A reader writes:

I’m a manager in a small department and have to get approval of flexible schedules for staff from my boss. Boss wants everyone to be at work during normal business hours, doesn’t like flexible schedules, and sees all requests as the same (trying to get out of work). Yes, I’m confused about this thinking and believe Boss doesn’t really understand flextime and its advantages, but I’m wondering how to best discuss this.

Boss tends to overreact whenever I bring up the topic and gets into the issue of “not trusting the employee to really work and not goof off.” I see a request to temporarily change a schedule by arriving earlier and staying later on some days and leaving early on other days because of family schedules/child care issues to be different from a request to work at home on certain days on an ongoing basis. The first example involves working all hours at the office for a limited amount of time and the second example involves working some days at home with no finite term, but Boss lumps all these requests together and denies all of them. Any suggestions or advice on how I can approach the subject and try to get Boss to logically consider these requests?

You can read my answer to this question over at the Intuit QuickBase blog today.

Plus, three other careers experts are answering this question there today too. Head over there for all four answers…

{ 72 comments… read them below or add one }

Kimberley October 23, 2012 at 10:57 am

Could it be that the boss is against flex time because he feels that he needs to be in the office when there are employees there? I know that I wouldn’t want to be working (or think that I have to work) from 7am to 6pm.

I agree with the suggestions on the Intuit blog. If possible create a visible schedule outlining who is in the office at all times so your boss can see that all employees are indeed working their full days in the office and that there is adequate coverage at all times.

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Jamie October 23, 2012 at 11:18 am

I had the same thought about changing hours at the office.

If the company policy is that a manager needs to be on duty while others are in the office it can complicate what seems like a very reasonable request.

Or, in smaller offices, it can be a question of how the office is locked up. If I’m the one with the key and the code at the end of the day, people wanting to come in/leave early or late changes my schedule or lengthens my day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen this denied for, imo, silly reasons also – but we’d need to know something about the management coverage and procedures for keeping the office open to know if that’s at play here as well.

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class factotum October 23, 2012 at 11:04 am

second example involves working some days at home with no finite term

I think I’ve mentioned it here before, but I have suggested working from home to some of the managers here. The manager of sales was horrified. “How would I know my people are working?” she asked.

“How do you know they’re working now?” I answered.

Honestly. Unless you are standing right over someone, watching every move, you don’t know. Wouldn’t it be better to you know – manage – by setting measureable objectives and then seeing if people meet them?

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KellyK October 23, 2012 at 11:17 am

+1

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Esra October 23, 2012 at 12:19 pm

I hate that question, “How do I know they’re working?”

Is work getting done? Then yes, they’re working. Definitely it can be more difficult with work that isn’t so result/project focused, but as someone who works on design and web teams it drives me nuts. Is the site live? Is the report done? Yes? Then your employees are working, congratulations.

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BW October 23, 2012 at 12:34 pm

When someone assumes a person who wants flex hours or to work from home really just wants to goof off and not work, it says more about them than it does about the person making the request. Just sayin’.

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Jamie October 23, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Devil’s advocate here – but it could be by an employer who’s been burned before.

I’m not saying it’s right – but how often do we see here people having a bad experience with a boss and assuming all like situations will be the same? People extrapolate their negative experiences all the time – it’s not right but it happens.

And there are people who do want flex time to goof off and not work. They are not the majority and they are not a reason to say no unequivocally – but we can’t pretend they aren’t out there.

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Esra October 23, 2012 at 12:47 pm

That could apply to anything really, from chronic lateness to unwillingness to work OT, or just general slacking. A good manager/employer will be able to move past that, or deal with it appropriately.

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scott m October 23, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Yes, this was my first thought also. Either that or he just doesn’t want to be put in a position of having to make a judgment call, by approving one request, but not another. It’s easier to deny them all.

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AnotherAlison October 23, 2012 at 11:14 am

I think this is something that needs to be eased into. I started at my current company when hours were 8-5 with an hour lunch between 12 and 1. Changes were made slowly, with a half hour lunch anytime between 11:30 and 1:30 and leaving at 4:30 being the first option, then expanding possible work hours to 7-4 and 9-6 schedules. The 7 am start option was then stretched to include a 6:30-3:30 option. They’ve recently tried 4-10s on a limited basis, for non-managers only. Officially, employees had to choose set hours that they would work 5-days a week, and management had a spreadsheet with that information for everyone.

Even if you do trust 99% of your employees, I think set schedules are better (unless we’re talking about a 10-person office or something where it’s easy to keep track). There has to be some give and take between convenience for employees and convenience for management. We all work with people from other departments, and it’s weird if someone stops in to ask you something at 3:45 one day and your gone, so they come in at 7:30 the next morning only to find you aren’t coming in until 9 that day. Additionally, it would be preferred to have management cover the hours employees are working. Some peers will always be suspicious that someone else is getting away with something. Yeah, with email, IM, etc. we can work whenever, wherever, but it’s hard to force a culture shift overnight.

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Jamie October 23, 2012 at 11:31 am

I agree – flexible schedules aren’t always feasible as it depends on the nature of the work and the availability needed for different departments.

And this may be an unpopular opinion, but as wrong as I think it is to have a knee jerk reaction against flex time it’s just as wrong, imo, to assume it’s workable for everyone (not that anyone was doing that here.)

It is a great perk and can absolutely increase productivity among conscientious workers – there is no question. It will also definitely be abused by those prone to slacking – so you definitely want measurable objectives that you will really monitor if you implement thing.

Trying to keep track of someone’s “time” while working remotely is like trying to count baby seahorses – it’s impossible. Too slippery. You have to be able to track actual accomplishment for it to work.

And you have to be ready to pull the plug if it’s not working – and not being a coward about it by doing things unilaterally. If it’s working beautifully for employee A and you’re happy with the results they shouldn’t lose the privilege because it turns out employee B will only be productive if in the office.

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Anon October 23, 2012 at 11:55 am

Agreed. And it’s not just slacking – I think a lot of people don’t understand how disruptive, for instance, working at home can be in a lot of jobs. They see themselves able to focus on projects and get a lot done, and assume they’re just as productive as if they are in the office. What they don’t see is all the in-person tasks they would have handled that are picked up by people in the office instead to the detriment of their projects. It can really interfere with reasonable division of labor when only part of your staff is in the office.

Obviously that’s not true in all jobs, but I suspect it’s true in more than a lot of people realize.

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Jamie October 23, 2012 at 12:03 pm

It’s important for people to know themselves, and how they work best, as well.

I work from home sometimes, in addition to my time in the office, but I couldn’t do it instead of the office. I don’t like it. I like the compartmentalization of coming into work, just the difference of working amidst other working people as opposed to my family and pets.

I am more productive at the office – without question. I’m most productive after hours and on weekends in the office, to be honest. I like the feeling of working at home being an extra, kind of a favor – rather than a perk. At the end of the day I leave the office and unless I choose to work from home I’m on emergency status only.

Guaranteed if I worked from home even a couple days a week I’d blur the line and always be working because I threw some laundry in or ran an errand during office hours earlier in the week.

Yet some people work from home beautifully – so employees need to know how and where they work best. It’s not for everyone.

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Anon October 23, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Yeah, I’m another one who prefers the separation between work and home (I’ll work from home occasionally, but my preference is to come into the office even on a weekend if something needs to be done). One thing I think offices should be careful about, though, is making sure extra duties don’t fall on the non-telecommuters just because they’re in the office. For instance, I’m a law firm associate with a colleague who telecommutes a lot (for medical reasons, so I’m sympathetic), and I end up covering a lot of her work just because I happen to be in the office – coordinating with paralegals and secretaries, taking calls from clients, dealing with documents that need to be dealt with in physical form, etc. Again, it’s for medical reasons; I’m sympathetic. But I think when setting up general policies for your office, it’s a good idea to make sure people who telecommute aren’t going to end up slipping those kinds of tasks onto co-workers on a regular basis (unless dictated by their respective job titles, obviously); it’s just not good for morale.

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KellyK October 23, 2012 at 12:13 pm

That’s an important thing too. If in-person tasks are part of someone’s responsibilities, they need to be explicitly spelled out. If there’s in-person stuff that falls to “whoever’s there,” then some more formal scheduling might be needed to make sure that “whoever’s there” isn’t always the same person.

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Anon October 23, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Hah, yes; ignore my longer and more rambling comment saying this right above. I think that basically sums it up.

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Jamie October 23, 2012 at 12:20 pm

+1 to this as well.

Coming into work to work shouldn’t be punished with extra tasks outside your wheelhouse.

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Vicki October 23, 2012 at 10:26 pm

For me, it’s different. I’m productive at home. I’m not “just as productive” as when I’m in the office. I finally gave up on trying to be productive in the office at all.

At home it’s me, spouse in another room, and sleeping cats.

At the office it was the hallway on the left, the hallway on the right, the short corridor behind my back, the nearby elevator bank disgorging chatty people, the open staircase, the busy breakroom, the meeting room with speaker phone bleed through the walls, the “call center” office with radio bleed through the walls, the people on cell phones who thought stepping into the corridor was more polite somehow…

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KellyK October 23, 2012 at 11:42 am

I think one thing that’s important with differing schedules is managing expectations (like your example of trying to talk to someone at 3:45 and at 7:30 and not getting them). People should be clear about what they need from other people, what kind of turn-around time is actually necessary and realistic, and how to get a hold of them (or who else to go to instead) if it’s an emergency. If that’s all laid out, then people are less likely to see it as a problem if they can’t get a hold of someone right when they want to.

I think sometimes alternate schedules become more of a problem than they need to be because of unrealistic expectations. It’s convenient to pop over to someone’s office and ask them a quick question right when you’re thinking of it, and if they’re not on the same schedule you are, that’s less convenient. But it’s also less convenient if they’re out sick, in a meeting, in the restroom, at a doctor’s appointment, or working on something else somewhere else in the building. In any of those situations, you could drop them an email and they could get back to you, so it should be the same with flexible schedules.

It’s also worth considering that constant availability means constant interruptions and lower productivity. Someone who wants to work 6-2 may be doing this deliberately to have a couple uninterrupted hours in the morning to work on things that take a lot of concentration. Insisting that they work 8-4 in the office to be available actually makes it harder for them to get their work done.

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Anon October 23, 2012 at 11:58 am

I think that’s right, but I also think in a lot of cases, it’s entirely reasonable to expect that your employees will be available during business hours most days to answer questions you have about their work. Of course doctor’s appointments and sick days and conflicting meetings happen, but that’s different than saying that you will never have access to them for X time every day.

Whether them not being available for X time is a problem depends on the job, of course. But I think a lot of times things do go more smoothly when people are in the office together; the question is then how much disruption of that provides reasonable flexibility while still getting important work done.

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KellyK October 23, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I think that’s right, but I also think in a lot of cases, it’s entirely reasonable to expect that your employees will be available during business hours most days to answer questions you have about their work.

You’re talking about bosses rather than coworkers (“your employees”), right?

I was thinking more in terms of coworkers who need things from each other. If someone can’t get me something right when I want it, that’s not a catastrophe, it’s just them having other priorities than my stuff.

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AnotherAlison October 23, 2012 at 12:16 pm

We do make accommodations for travel, sick, meetings, etc., but when you are already working with people who are constantly traveling or in meetings, adding the extra inconvenience of random office hours makes working together that much harder. Just this morning I had to send 4 separate emails to 5 people to coordinate one task due to travel. If we were all here, we could have a 5 minute meeting to hammer out the issue. This is necessary for me and my coworkers, but I wouldn’t build this inefficiency into our system. As for the coworkers who get more done when uninterrupted, I am definitely familiar with that mode of Zen working, but I’m not sure it has a net payoff to the company when you factor in the people who needed something from Bill from 2-4 and have to wait till the next day. (I have a job where issues pop up instantly and you can’t plan to talk to Bill before 2:00 about it.)

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KellyK October 24, 2012 at 9:22 am

I totally agree that in a job where issues pop up instantly and need that speed of response, things need to be set up to allow that. That might mean that you all work the same hours, or it might mean you call people at home or on a cell phone, or IM them. “Everybody works the exact same schedule” is one way of dealing with that, but I don’t think it’s necessarily the only way.

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anna October 23, 2012 at 11:27 am

I think flex time is great, especially for employees with parents… I know someday I will really want and appreciate flex time! But my peeve about flex time is that it basically caters to those with children and families, and the “single, not married with children employees” never get a chance to work flex time. (atleast in the 2 companies I’ve worked in the past 5 years). God forbid I want to leave early once a week to take a yoga class, and all hell breaks lose. But if merry coworker wants to leave early once a week to go to junior’s soccer game, its A-ok! Allison, how do you balance flex time to keep happy the employees who don’t have family commitments?

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anna October 23, 2012 at 11:27 am

(i meant employees with children, not parents!) – in my first sentence above :-)

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Ask a Manager October 23, 2012 at 11:33 am

By not judging the reasons people ask for flextime schedules or prioritizing one type of reason over another!

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Jamie October 23, 2012 at 11:35 am

I know this was directed at Alison – but the way you balance it is to make sure it’s available based on the requirements of the position and not family, etc.

My employer is just as cool with people needing to flex some time to go to the dentist, take their dog to the vet, be with an ailing relative, or wait for the plumber for single people as they are for parents who need to get off for soccer games and ballet.

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KellyK October 23, 2012 at 11:45 am

See, this is perfect.

The only time the person’s reasons for needing flex time should matter is if the scheduling request creates a problem or conflict, and someone needs to make a judgment call on whether it’s a big enough deal to allow it anyway. And even then, it shouldn’t be about parents vs. single people, but about the actual urgency of the situation.

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Jamie October 23, 2012 at 11:56 am

Yep – if possible fine. If two conflicting requests the urgency wins.

Oh, and if your employer is decent enough to allow this because they truly understand that sometimes life needs to be attended to during office hours – it’s really important not to take advantage of it.

I.e. not saying to need the time to take your mom to the doctor and then update facebook from the pro-baseball game you’re attending. If your company is cool enough to treat you like an adult and trust you, it’s important to return the favor because abusing it not only pisses off your bosses, but your co-workers who are your Facebook friends and don’t appreciate you taking advantage of them.

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Bridgette October 23, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Absolutely. Some of my coworkers stretch the definition of flex time and it gets on my nerves, like coming in 2 hours early just because they feel like it. Successful flex scheduling and telecommuting requires respect and compromise from all involved parties.

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KellyK October 23, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Are you not getting stuff from them that you need? Or getting saddled with their work? (Going back to the “reasons don’t matter unless it affects other people” aspect of the discussion.)

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Bridgette October 23, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Not getting saddled with their work, but they aren’t getting some things done as efficiently as I would like, and it just backs up our queue. I’m not their manager though. I think it’s one of those situations where I’m just annoyed but not really affected.

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Anonymous October 23, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Curious – are they just less efficient than you in general? I highly doubt the person coming in two hours earlier spends all morning on facebook, so maybe it’s just their level of productivity in general.

Bridgette October 23, 2012 at 2:11 pm

@Anon 1:30pm: I think she is just less efficient in general. I don’t think she’s spending 2 hours on FB either, but our schedules are set the way they are so we can have maximum office coverage, so when she randomly comes in early, it cuts the coverage short for the day.

KellyK October 23, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Wow. I think, in all seriousness, that that’s a fireable offense.

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AnotherAlison October 23, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Okay, I don’t want to start a battle here, but I do want to point out something. My comment isn’t about flextime policies, but more about work flexibility.

Here’s where I’m frustrated with anna’s comment. I do agree with fairness & flexibility for everyone in general.

But, sometimes I feel like trying to give younger employees the same flexibility as senior employees is *unfair* to the senior employees. In general, the people who are married with kids are the senior employees. Those of us who are more senior have more work responsibility, so often leaving the office at 2:00 means we are balls to the wall to get something done before we leave, or working on it in the evening. It doesn’t mean we are necessarily enjoying an afternoon of leisure. Even when working normal hours, senior people do a lot of off-hours work, and they’re usually salaried so it’s without OT pay.

I feel like young people *sometimes* look at these things in a vacuum. Yeah, someone might leave at 4:00 to see their kid’s game, but that same person might have been traveling all last week for company business. The luxury to leave early is a tradeoff for all the other BS. In some work situations, it does matter when people work (other people in my company really do have to be in the office at the same time as their project teammates), and the limited flexibility available should be for those who contribute the most AND who need it to make their lives work.

Let’s say Susan is really talented as a project manager, but her kid has a therapy appointment at 4:00 each Tuesday. She needs to go at 3:00 to make it work. The company is willing to make this happen because she’s very good, makes many other tradeoffs by working late and traveling all the team, and she has a solid team there till 5, reliably, every day. I see the junior person might resent that Susan gets to leave at 3:oo, but I don’t see why the company now has to accomodate every employee’s wish to leave at 3:00 1 day per week now. Different people have different value and should be rewarded appropriately.

Obviously, there are junior employees in many industries who have to pay dues by working 60 hr weeks when they start off, childless 45 year olds who have horrendous amounts of responsibility but no kids to rush off to, and 22 year olds who are married with kids, but I just wanted to put a view out there from the other side for your consideration.

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fposte October 23, 2012 at 12:24 pm

That’s not what I was reading in anna’s post, though. To me it sounded like she was arguing that the notion that flex is only for family accommodation (which is kind of how the OP framed it) is really narrow and can take a morale toll, and I’d agree. It’s a benefit that’s helpful to people for a lot of reasons–I’m remembering, for instance, the post awhile back about the employee whose bus schedule worked really well with a slightly offset workday.

If you want to argue that flextime should be only a senior-level perk, that’s fine, but I don’t think “senior-level” really does equate to “for families,” and if a workplace is using it to mean that they’re going to annoy both the junior people who can’t take time off for their families and the senior people who’d like to go to the DMV on a weekday.

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Jamie October 23, 2012 at 12:27 pm

I think I’m probably in the senior level range and I almost never need flex time because of my kids – because they are older teens.

If I had been working when they were small at a lower level it would have been far more beneficial to work from home when they were sick, get off early for games, etc.

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AnotherAlison October 23, 2012 at 12:38 pm

I have been juggling work & kids since I was 21, so I definitely am aware that families exist in the junior ranks. But what I see is the crowd that takes Friday off for MLB games is a bunch of single 25 year olds. I have a teenager and an elementary age kid, but my husband takes care of most of the kid stuff (self employeed-no coworkers have been harmed in the process). I am rarely off work for anything – fun or family related (so I guess I’m a sucker). I wanted to take off last Thursday & Friday, but ended up stuck here till 7:30 pm Friday instead. . .traveling this week, so sometimes stuff just happens & you can’t make work accommodate your life.

I guess I just have a hard time seeing where the childless single people have ever gotten the short end and I’ve gotten lots of extra time off for my parental duties at my place. That’s my life & work, obviously Anna & others mileage may vary.

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fposte October 23, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I don’t think it’s about people getting the short end or not–it’s that a flex policy is its most attractive and effective when it’s not judging you based on what you need flexibility for. If everybody at the workplace is getting their job done, it doesn’t really matter if Beth was out Friday afternoon for the ball game, Raj was attending his daughter’s play, and Kevin was cleaning his mother’s house while she was in the hospital.

Flextime isn’t Nirvana and it has its drawbacks, as has been discussed upthread; it’s not workable for everybody. But I think making the family/not family issue the acceptability threshold would be untenable and unfair.

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AnotherAlison October 23, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Actually my first comment was that my peeve was specifically NOT about flextime, but work flexibility.

“My comment isn’t about flextime policies, but more about work flexibility.”

But I think my view holds with either case.

A policy could allow everyone to work 7-4, 8-5, 9-6, whatever, no matter what their personal reason. Seems reasonable, I agree. But I disagree that the policy has to be the same for all employees to be fair. My example dragged families into the issue, which has clouded what I’m saying. (I said that because Anna brought that practice at her work.) I would say the company can let a senior and junior employee have different levels of flexibility or flextime. On the outside looking in, it could end up looking like a family-friendly policy when it IS a senior level perk because of who got the perk & what they do with their time.

In reality, my company offers more flex time to junior and hourly employees (some are older, so it’s not an age thing, it’s about the position they hold). Management can’t take the 4-10 option, but everyone else can. I don’t want to work those hours because it would be a horrible fit for my j-o-b tasks, but I’m not complaining that no one else should be able to because I can’t.

(Really, I’d rather just drop the whole thing. . .I am not going to agree that everyone should be treated the same all the time, & others will disagree and believe a single policy should be for everyone. Fair enough.)

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fposte October 23, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Yeah, I looked back and saw that junior-perk-only thing in your first post, and I did find that surprising–I’m not quite sure what they’re trying to achieve with that. I actually don’t feel that everybody needs to be treated the same–I just think that family status isn’t a good reason for dividing it, which was where we ended up going conversationally and why I wandered into the topic.

I suspect also that employees have different degrees of self-permission that can complicate the situation–I’m guessing that you feel you have to meet a pretty high threshold before you would be willing to leave the office early and that’s another thing that you find frustrating about other people’s flextime. Whereas I can’t really take much vacation and couldn’t see doing the hours I do if they weren’t flexible.

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Mike C. October 23, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Why does it bother you when you see a bunch of 25 year old single people taking work off to see a ballgame?

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AnotherAlison October 23, 2012 at 5:01 pm

It doesn’t. It bothers me that people on this site imply that working parents get all types of time off that other people don’t get when what I see is the opposite. While at their companies (the people making these comments, I mean), the young & single might be putting in extra time while the parents are off at piano recitals, it’s not true everywhere.

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Ask a Manager October 23, 2012 at 5:13 pm

You’re hearing that because it’s often the case. Sounds like it isn’t at your office though.

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fposte October 23, 2012 at 5:36 pm

I think we’re often more aware of somebody else’s opportunities than our own.

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Mike C. October 23, 2012 at 4:30 pm

What if Susan isn’t very talented but does enough to get her work done. Does her kid still get to make the therapy appointment?

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AnotherAlison October 23, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Nope. Sorry kid. You’re s.o.l. ; )

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Laura L October 23, 2012 at 5:09 pm

“but her kid has a therapy appointment at 4:00 each Tuesday”

But what if I, a single, childless, young person, have a therapy appointment during work hours every week? Why should I be denied flex time for that when Susan gets it for her kid?

Plus, lots of junior people have families they need to take care of (whether that be kids, parents, or other) and some senior people don’t have kids (and I bet that number grows as my generation gets older).

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fposte October 23, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Laws are relevant here as well, and there now in fact *are* more legally protected opportunities for parents to take time off than for nonparents. And I’m fine with that–I don’t have children, but I’ve seen the benefits that these policies bring to a workplace, and I remember how hard some simple things were before the law stepped in. I don’t feel like parents work less hard than nonparents, and I know plenty of nonparents who take more time off than parents anyway.

But I think that’s all the more reason why a workplace flexibility policy or flextime (they mean pretty much the same thing to me anyway) should take a different tack and benefit people regardless of their family situation. I don’t really care whether it’s a universal perk or not (give it to C-level, high producers, twenty-year veterans, whatever), just don’t divide up the haves and have nots based on their non-work lives.

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ooloncoluphid October 23, 2012 at 11:59 am

Your boss is a dinosaur, but you’re not alone. My boss is a dinosaur too. My boss has a fully equipped office in his house, where he can do anything he needs, but he still comes in to the office on the weekends to do spreadsheets or reporting for some reason. He has made the statement that “you’d have to be a wizard to work from home”, despite the fact that many people obviously do it successfully.

Maybe they’re projecting their own limitations onto everyone else. Some people just don’t think it’s really work unless you’re waking up at a specified time, arriving at a specific time, and sitting at a desk in a building where lots of other people have done the same.

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Jamie October 23, 2012 at 12:06 pm

It’s not a limitation, it’s a preferred work style. I agree that one shouldn’t project their preferences onto other people and many people do work from home very successfully – but it’s not a limitation.

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Carrie October 23, 2012 at 11:59 am

It has been my experience that no matter what logical rationale you present to management who operates with this type of thinking, it is going to be hard to change. Especially since he has already turned down the idea and apparently has an emotional reaction to it. Management who like to keep a thumb on their employees in an regular office environment are not going to be open to letting people self manage in the office or out. These types of work schedules only work with people who are open minded and have good relationships with their employees.

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Mike October 23, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Last year we started telecommuting and doing a minor amount of flexing. Some pointers from that:
1) Know the laws. We are in CA and are non-exempt employees so we had to take into account all the rules surround it.
2) Create a detailed proposal. In it include things such as communication, knowing who’s in/out of the office, how to handle meetings, etc. The more areas you can cover the better.
3) Suggest a trial period. We did a three month trial, then extended it another three months before it became permanent.
4) Make sure to explain how you can still do your job from home or during non-standard hours.
5) Figure out a way to handle reporting and tracking of work to show that work is still being performed

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KayDay October 23, 2012 at 12:07 pm

As for teleworking – the best time to bring this is when a real benefit can be shown. For example, if you have an important personal appointment during the day, for example, a plumber, ask if you can work from home while waiting on the plumber. If you boss says no, you will have to take personal time off. Point out to your boss that it is a question of you working or you not working.

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fposte October 23, 2012 at 12:08 pm

It doesn’t sound to me like you’re going to get the kind of flextime approval you seek, and that your boss is sufficiently set against it that the more your proposal sounds like flextime the less likely it is to be granted. (It also sounds like you might have exceeded his/her threshold on the subject.)

So try a small step, a clearly limited step. Would it help to have, say, an 8-4 option for Tuesdays, and you’d come in at 8 to make sure it worked? Don’t talk about it in terms of flexibility, just that there’s an option for employees to work a different set of hours that gets you out earlier if you’re willing to start earlier. Then document the heck out of the productivity for anybody who takes it to use as a support for subsequent steps. Stay away from telecommuting for as long as possible, because that’s what’s really ringing the “slacker” bell for your boss–just see if you can gain specific hours-in-workplace options that provide more flexibility without being noisily called “flexible.”

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books October 24, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Was I the only one who read this as “employee who supervises staff” has requests from “staff” that he needs to have approved by his “boss”?

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Long Time Admin October 23, 2012 at 12:41 pm

My company has received the Governor’s award as a family-friendly company, and we have both flextime and teleworking. I think one thing that helps us is that we are used to “billing time” and see everything in 6 minute increments. When you’re working on a project for a client, everything you do that’s billable is accounted for. Most people work in the office, though, and only do telework when they can’t get into work.

As for flextime, everyone loves it because we have such horrible commuting traffic. Some people come in early, some come in at 8:00, and other come in later. There are “core” hours that everyone is supposed to be in the office, to be available for meetings and such.

In my former department, I came in earlier and a co-worker (the trouble making kind) came in later. During a meeting she stressed that she stayed 2 hours longer than I did, which might have been impressive except that I came 2 hours earlier than she did. Hah!

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Jamie October 23, 2012 at 1:12 pm

This is where communication is important.

For a while I was coming in about 9:00-10:00 am and someone complained that I “come and go as I please.” She had no idea that I was working on a project for which I needed to be here for second shift as well, so I was coming in late but not leaving until 11:00-11:30 pm and getting home well after midnight.

Coming and going as I please was an effort for me to get enough sleep to safely drive in the next day.

Now, did I owe her an explanation? No. She was in a completely unrelated department and it wasn’t her business if I worked 15 minutes a day. I told her anyway, because one I wanted her to realize she shouldn’t jump to conclusions but also because I knew resentment was festering and it needed to stop.

People who think others are getting away with something really need to reserve judgment if they don’t know the whole deal. There are people here who leave hours before I do and I don’t care – glad they can get here at 5:00 to kick off the day so I don’t have to.

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Bb October 24, 2012 at 8:26 am

Yeah, I get this resentment due to being a part timer. Doesn’t mean I do any less work than I should or than is necessary and I try to make it less noticeable when I start and leave but there is always someone complaining about me “swanning in when I can be bothered”.

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Aggie October 23, 2012 at 1:02 pm

The DOL just posted a Workplace Flexibility Toolkit for employers, workers, policymakers, and researchers: http://www.dol.gov/odep/workplaceflexibility/

What I like about this tool is that it organizes the resources by type of flexibility – time, location, and task – instead of treating these requests as blanket inquiries. Every situation is different, and requires targeted information-gathering in order to make the case for a flexible work arrangement.

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Anon October 23, 2012 at 1:35 pm

The thing that finally convinced my manager to be less rigid was some article in Fortune, probably in like 2009 or so, that talked about how many jobs that involve data analysis and reporting require large blocks of uninterrupted time, and too many meetings really hurts productivity. That convinced him that we didn’t all need to be in the office at the same time, or at all.

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doreen October 23, 2012 at 2:17 pm

I’m wondering if “flextime” or “flexible schedule” means something very different to the OP and the boss. I’ve had two different employers that offered ” flextime” – and in neither case was it a matter of being permitted to work from 7-3 instead of 8-4 as a regular schedule or on particular days. No, it was much more flexible than that. In one job, I could start anywhere between 7 and 9 , work my required hours and leave between 3 and5. With absolutely no advance notice required to my supervisor. In the other, I essentially proposed a schedule to my supervisor each week. As long as I was in the office 8:30am -8 pm one day, the rest of the hours could be literally anytime.

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Anonymous October 23, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Flex time can be extremely beneficial. My boss has two small babies. Because of his family commitments, he likes to come in early (7 am) and thus leave early.

I like to come in later but stay late. Our setup works perfect because we cover for each other. And we are more productive! I will have lunch at my desk if necessary. In my old job, where I was micro-managed and my time was scrutinized, I would punch out for an hour for lunch. That meant if you needed something done at 12:01 you were out of luck because I had punched out. It really didn’t help that I punched in at 8:30 am because nobody needed me at 8:30 (couldn’t punch in a minute later) and it hurt that very often around noon I was needed but I was off duty. It was wasted time but whenever I brought it up with my former supervisor, she said only supervisors had time flexibility. The grunts had to punch in and out. That left the department supervisors many times waiting for an hour to catch me when I came back from lunch, but hey, I was following policy.

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The OP October 23, 2012 at 4:41 pm

I wish my work would invent task flex time. Eg. If I finish all my work for today by 11 am, I can go home. It would save them money on their Internet bill, and they would learn very quickly that the only reason my office slacks off is because we are forced have bums on seats for 9 hours a day. Ugh.
I’m dreaming, I know.

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jesicka309 October 23, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Shoot. I’m not the OP, and the post above was written by me. I posted this from my phone, and it still had my name set from when I was an OP. Darn it!

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BCW October 23, 2012 at 10:13 pm

That would be great. I have a certain amount of tasks on a given day. So sometimes I’m literally done with my tasks 3 hours before my “hours” are done. Add to that the fact that I in general work faster than the other person who does my job. So yeah, I would love the ability to leave when that is done, but companies like to feel that you are doing a certain number of “hours” worth of work, even if that means you purposely take more time to do things than normal. Kind of a dumb way to do business.

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Rana October 23, 2012 at 11:45 pm

That was the hardest part of temping for me: it rewards inefficiency. It’s also why I love freelancing; the more efficiently I work, the more “me” time I earn, and – bonus – it impresses my clients.

I can understand some positions need butt-in-seat coverage (any that deal with answering customer questions, for example, or addressing round-the-clock emergencies) but for so many others…

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Jillian October 23, 2012 at 5:59 pm

I work for a large (1,000) government department, which is spread out over a large geographic area (~40,000 square miles). There are ten people in my office. Myself and another worker cover one region. We have asked for flex time, and been denied. Our department/government allows flex/compressed time, but our particular department got rid of compressed to maximize productivity and coverage.

I wanted to work 8-4 (instead of 8:30-4:30) and my coworker wanted to work 9-5. We were denied as ‘flex time is approved only with the understanding that the workday begins at 8:30.’

Figure that one out.

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Emily October 23, 2012 at 11:46 pm

I think there is probably a tipping point beyond which flextime seems like too unwieldy and risky a policy to implement. I’m thinking of size in particular. I work for a company with around 5,000 people in various divisions and locations in the U.S. and many more in different divisions abroad. In my five-person department, I think my boss thinks we have enough flexibility, unofficially, that an official flextime policy is unnecessary. But the majority of the U.S. and European divisions have summer hours from Memorial Day through Labor Day every year (extended hours M-T and half days on Fridays). Back at the department level, many arrange “unofficially” for employees to split their summer Fridays as full days, working half of them and taking half of them off. In fact, when HR introduced a new timekeeping system this year and realized just how many departments were operating that way, they had to go back and reprogram the software to accommodate. So, obviously it’s possible to make that kind of a change on a large scale, and apparently it can implement itself, little by little.

But if you don’t want to wait for flextime to gain acceptance at the rate of evolution, one thing you might point out to your boss is any position your city’s Department of Transportation has on the benefits of flextime schedules. Some have been encouraging it because it eases the transit burdens of rush hours.

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Anonymous October 24, 2012 at 1:51 am

I’m in IT at a Fortune 500, and depending on the position (developers/analysts – yes; help desk – no), we have extremely flexible hours. Most of the people in my current department are also full-time telecommuters (even help desk) in widely disparate time zones across countries, so we’re most definitely judged on our results and not our “face time” (since that face time only exist in our IM client status or attendance at meetings).

We make that work whether it’s getting up really early to meet with co-workers in India or their staying late to meet with us. If I need to go get my hair cut and colored, I just schedule it, block off the time on my calendar and change my status to Away when I leave. My manager neither knows nor cares where I am at any given moment unless there’s a crisis as long as I make my deliverables and show up in meetings with progress. For problems when I’m offline, he has my cell number.

Every company I’ve worked for since the early 90′s has been like this except one (and I didn’t stay there long since I felt like I was in a straight jacket). As you can imagine, I’m pretty amused reading tales of people in the same physical office who can’t seem to manage their schedules cooperatively.

Does that mean that we don’t get the occasional slacker? No, but those problems become evident Really Fast when that person doesn’t deliver results, and they are handled (out the door).

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Andy Lester October 24, 2012 at 12:30 pm

The answer to any question in this form is “You explain to her the benefits to her and the company of flextime, which are A, B and C.”

I’m wary of any request for “How do I convince my boss X?” because it tells me that the person asking doesn’t know what A, B and C are. OP says “Boss doesn’t really understand flextime and its advantages”, but doesn’t explain to us what the advantages are to the company, only to her.

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