How to Ask for Flex Time

Alternative work schedule. The federal government and many private employers allow some employees to select arrival and departure times that suit their personal needs within the working day. For example, some people might want to avoid a heavy commute, while others may benefit from seeing their kids off to school in the morning. These employees are still putting in the same number of hours in the office as their peers, but they're not necessarily the traditional 9 to 5 hours.

Access to concierge services. Many employers recognize that life happens while we're at work, and they're offering benefits that help the rank and file to better manage career and home simultaneously. Among the concierge services offered: dinner-to-go via their on-site cafeterias to help parents who work a bit later avoid the rat race of getting home to cook for their families; help with dog walking, routine car maintenance, a fill-in at home who can wait for the cable guy to show up; and other tasks that would normally take you away from work during the week or away from kids on the weekend.

Part-time work. Some women would gladly accept reduced pay and benefits to receive a reduced work schedule. Many companies will honor this arrangement for high achievers because it's more cost-effective than losing them altogether. Some employers recognize that you already have the knowledge and training, which would enable you to achieve the same (or better) results on a part-time basis as someone else could on a full-time basis without the same training.

Job sharing. This is perhaps the most difficult of all scenarios to secure because it requires the moon and the stars to align in ways that aren't always realistic. Even though some job-sharing relationships work successfully, the jury is out on the overall effectiveness of such arrangements.

Fixed overtime. Often employees are happy with their core hours, but the real killer comes when they're asked to perform overtime, especially with little to no notice. The ability to determine how much -- if any -- overtime you're expected to perform is another form of flexibility.

Spontaneous requests. Sometimes life can't be planned. Doctors appointments must be made, an elderly parent needs your attention, a child's teacher wants to see you, and so on -- all with little to no notice. While employees must usually request time off well in advance, a boss who is willing to work with you on last-minute requests is also extending a form of flexibility. There's great peace of mind in knowing you can ask for an hour or two off the day before you need it, not just weeks or months ahead of time.

Once you've figured out what would make your life feel more balanced, consider these steps:

1) Reality check. Can your desired plan really work with your job responsibilities? If you're going to ask about working from home one day a week, how will your work get done when you're not in the office? How will people reach you? Do you have the necessary setup at home to handle the work properly?

2) Research. Research other departments within your company. If someone else has had success with flexible work arrangements, it could help to persuade your boss to give it a shot too. The same is true for other employers in your area and in your industry. Those precedents can be very powerful in your favor.

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