Q: I would like to convince my boss that I should have more flexibility in my work. More specifically, I'd like him to authorize some flex hours and give me permission to work from home when I think it's appropriate. How can I make my case?
A: Know what you want, understand his possible concerns and develop solutions in advance.
The inner game
Flexibility is a much-sought-after feature in the workplace. However, since it's become more common, most bosses can easily think of cases in which it hasn't worked out, and these can overshadow the many successes. To address this, spend most of your planning time looking at your ideas from his perspective.
What are the concerns that a rational boss might have? He may be worried that you won't be accessible to him or your teammates. He might like predictability or prefer face-to-face interactions. Using your experiences with him, make as complete a list as you can. Be forewarned: this activity may cause you to get frustrated or defensive, as though he actually were raising these concerns. If this happens, learn from it so that it doesn't show up when you actually discuss your proposal.
Now think about the benefits — for him, not you. If that doesn't come easily, you definitely have some thinking to do.
The benefits to the company could include your availability during nonstandard work hours; for example, evenings or weekends. Having an even more satisfied and loyal employee is good, too, but you don't want it to sound like blackmail to earn your loyalty.
Take your co-workers into consideration next, and the effects on them day-to-day. Will the changes you propose put more burdens on them or cause any resentment?
Finally, think about yourself. Exactly what would you like — what does "some flex hours" mean in practice? How would you determine that it's "appropriate" to work from home? Also be able to express the reasons that this is important to you.
The outer game
Before you talk with your manager, draft a plan that concisely lays out your request. For example, you might say that you'd like to start work at 9 each day, or that you would like to be able to work from home every Tuesday. Or, it may be somewhat less defined: that you'd like to be able to work from home if there is a task that requires intense concentration, or have the flexibility to volunteer at your child's school when needed.
Request a meeting with him and bring your plan. Also prepare some talking points that address his concerns before he even brings them up. You might say, "I'd like to work from home on Monday and Wednesday afternoon. I know that it's important that I be available, so I will be online and available by phone."
If there are successful examples in your company, by all means mention them. If you're breaking new territory, suggest a six-month trial period. If either of you are dissatisfied, then you could go back to a more traditional schedule. This substantially reduces any risk that he may perceive.
The last word
Put your company's needs first in order to gain the flexibility you're hoping for.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at email@example.com.