When thinking about approaching your boss for a flexible work schedule, don't be casual or informal.
Thorough and thoughtful planning from your perspective and your employer's perspective will increase your chances of success.
Think accommodation, not entitlement. While your employer no doubt wants you to be happy and satisfied with your work, that doesn't mean the boss has to honor your every wish. Flexible work arrangements are not entitlements, they are accommodations that we must earn. Nothing irks a manager more than the person who barges in thinking he or she can make demands that the employer must meet. It's definitely the wrong way to approach flexibility.
Focus on solutions. Every employer is more apt to consider a well thought out request that offers solutions, not just a laundry list of problems.
Just saying, "I hate my commute" or "I don't like my hours" or "My child care ends at 5 p.m. sharp so I must leave" isn't the way to approach flexibility, says Michele Brown Davis, executive director of staffing for Verizon Wireless.
"You woke up this morning, and thought, 'Ah, I could really use a flexible schedule.' What do you do? You don't walk in and say, 'Boss, I want a flexible schedule.' You sit down and develop what is essentially a business plan. What are your needs? That's one column. The second column is understand your job responsibilities, understand the business," Davis said.
For example, your proposal might address your desire to avoid an arduous commute. Because your request to work from home one day a week would save you four hours of commuting time, you might offer to devote some of that time to your work, thereby potentially increasing your productivity.
Offer benchmarks. No matter what the size of your company, the boss wants to know that your responsibilities will be met successfully.
Offer specific ways to measure the success of your proposal. Think in terms of a time frame and measurable results. One option: "I propose a three-month trial during which I'd like to spend 15 minutes talking every other week on how we both perceive the flow of information and communication, as well as my overall performance under this new plan."
Remember the key word here is flexibility: That means not being rigid, but rather demonstrating a willingness to shift gears if needed to tweak the daily realities of your work. Maybe your proposal is to telecommute every Friday, but if an important meeting requires your physical presence, you should be willing to alter your schedule if needed. This goes a long way in demonstrating that you're committed to making it work and to fulfilling the responsibilities of your job.
Be patient. We turn in a proposal and we want an immediate answer! But just because you've been plotting and planning for a while, doesn't mean the boss will be Johnny-on-the-spot with a response. Be patient and expect to wait for feedback on your proposal. It could be several weeks before you hear anything.
To help manage your own expectations, ask for a possible timetable for feedback when you submit the document, i.e., "Would you kindly let me know when I might hear some feedback on my proposal, so I'll know how to follow up appropriately?"
And if you're rejected, do not give up. Plan to understand the manager's hesitation and offer to negotiate a middle ground. What's impossible today may be quite plausible tomorrow.
At the end of the day, Maryella Gockel, a flexibility strategy leader for global accounting firm Ernst & Young, said, "What's in it for the firm or the company is that people who feel they can succeed both personally and professionally will be more motivated. When they're at work, they won't be worrying about what's going on at home, and hopefully when they're home, they won't be worried about what's going on at work."
Tory Johnson is the workplace contributor for "Good Morning America" and the CEO of Women for Hire. Connect with her at www.womenforhire.com.