How to Ask for Flexibility at Work

ByKate Kelly

At a glance

  • A flexible schedule can be helpful for parents of kids who learn and think differently.

  • If you want to request a flexible schedule, figure out the schedule you want and how your plan would work.

  • When you make your request, focus on how you can continue to meet your employer’s needs.

Raising a child who learns and thinks differently can put extra demands on your time. Teachers and caseworkers may call meetings without much notice to talk about your child’s IEP and other issues. Or maybe you want to be around to oversee your child’s homework and chores. 

Depending on where you work, it may not be possible to ask for a schedule that works better for you and your child. But if you have a job or career where flexibility is possible, here’s how to ask for the schedule you need.   

Figure out what arrangement would work best. 

It’s important to know exactly what you want before talking to your employer. Here are a few questions to keep in mind as you think about what your ideal schedule would be.

  • Do you want to keep the same job, but work fewer or different hours?
  • Do you want to switch to a role that has different hours? 
  • Do you want a full-time schedule but to work one or two days a week from home? 
  • Do you already have another job to consider? 

Do your research. Does your company have a formal policy regarding flextime? Does anyone else work a nontraditional schedule? Are people allowed to work from home sometimes? If so, your company may be open to your request.

Be ready for questions. 

Be sure you have answers to the questions your boss is likely to ask. Will others have to pick up the slack when you’re not there? Will you attend important meetings or events when you’re not normally supposed to be in the office? Will you check email when you aren’t scheduled to work?

You may even want to write a proposal. Come up with a plan that describes what you’re asking for and how it will work. Lay out the schedule. If you want to work fewer hours, figure out what your adjusted salary would be. Be ready to answer any concerns your manager may have.

And it’s not just about you. List the ways the company will benefit from this idea. For example, if your proposal saves the company salary or benefits, point that out. A flexible schedule may even allow you to be less distracted and more productive.

Make your pitch.

When you request a meeting, tell your boss what it’s about. Be clear that you’re committed to your job and focused on your employer’s needs. You may want to tell your boss that your child learns and thinks differently. Give your boss time to look at your proposal.

Keep in mind that you can ask for a trial period. If your boss doesn’t love your proposal, ask if you can try the new arrangement for a short time. Three months is generally best, but try to get at least one month. Then you and your manager can see how well the flexible hours work.

If your boss says no, the answer may not be final. Keep the conversation going, but use your judgment on timing. Things might change and your company might be more open to a more flexible schedule when you ask again.

Key takeaways

  • Your manager cares most about whether you can meet your company’s needs.

  • Consider writing a proposal that states your case.

  • Be ready for questions, and see if your boss will let you try out your plan on a trial basis.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Kate Kelly has been writing and editing for more than 20 years, with a focus on parenting.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Jim Rein, MA has lectured on postsecondary options and summer programs for kids and young adults with learning and thinking differences.