How to Talk to Your Boss About Flexible Hours

Amber Shiflett |
additionalText.categories: Flexible, Career Advice

Looking for a more flexible job? Who isn’t! Whether you’re craving flexible hours or pants-optional remote work, flexibility is an important part of work-life balance. It’s so important, in fact, that plenty of businesses are offering workers perks beyond pay and healthcare: they’re embracing the flexibility trend right with you. 

You don’t have to quit your current job to find something more flexible. Before you look at job listings, consider asking your boss for more flexible arrangements. Even if you think it’s a lost cause, you’ll never know unless you ask! 

Follow these four steps to ask for flexible work arrangements  

1. Decide what you want

“Flexible” can mean a lot of things. Before you sit down with your boss, you need to know what, specifically, you need. 

Do you want to go from full-time to part-time hours? Do you want to take on a more junior job title and pay cut for better hours? Do you want to work from home? Set your own schedule?

Be as specific as possible. If you thought, “Yes to all the above!” then prioritize which flexible work arrangements are most important to you. This is important because, if your manager can’t accommodate one request, they may be able to meet you halfway on another. 

2. Adjust for company culture

Take a peek at your list. Does anything on it not fit in with company culture? 

For example, if you work at the front desk of a hotel, it would be silly to ask for remote work. That doesn’t fit with how the company works. 

Have other people at your workplace had flexible work arrangements? Under what conditions? What did their arrangements look like? 

This is important because if you ask for something that comes out of left field, your manager is going to laugh and say, “No way.” Your requests have to align with what’s normal at your company. 

If your company is conservative and you want to rock the boat, do so carefully. If you’re too demanding, it’s going to make you look … weird. You can always suggest flexible work arrangements on a trial basis to help your manager feel more comfortable with it. 

3. Meet in person with your boss

This isn’t something you shoot off in an email. You’ve got to discuss flexible work arrangements in person with your boss. Some folks wait until their annual or quarterly review to talk about this, but you don’t have to do that. You can chat with your manager whenever you feel ready. 

Make sure you know your ask clearly. Define how the flexible work arrangements would benefit not just you, but your employer. You could say something like, “I’d like to go from full-time to part-time. Now that I’m a parent, I need more flexibility for my family. I’d love to keep working here, and part-time hours would help me better serve the company and give my best when I’m at the office.” 

Practice this in front of a mirror if you feel nervous. Think about your boss’s personality and the questions they might have for you. You can practice your answers to their questions ahead of time so you feel less anxious. 

4. Accept the outcome

But guess what? No matter how prepared you are, there’s a chance your boss is going to say, “No,” to flexible work arrangements. Or, if they agree, it may not be for the perks you were looking for. 

Know that you might not get the outcome you were hoping for. This is business, after all.

You can’t force your boss to change their mind, so what are you going to do? If you can’t get flexible arrangements, what does that mean for your future here? Is it time to start hunting for a job? 

The bottom line

You don’t need to change companies to get a more flexible job. Always ask your current employer for flexible work perks before you look for new jobs. Many employers are happy to do what they can to keep you on board. 

But what happens when you need to ask for time off work? The #1 rule is to not be a jerk; follow these do’s and don'ts to stay in your manager’s good graces.