How to ask for flexibility in your job? — Andy Sto

One of the things that people want most from a job is flexibility. This has become an even more in-demand employment perk since the start of the pandemic. People are now increasingly working from home (WFH) and many also work flexible hours.

But now that many people are starting to go back to the office, some would prefer to continue working from home or only spend a few days a month in the office. Many are also keen for other types of job flexibility. But broaching the topic with your boss can seem daunting. It can be tricky to know what to ask for and how to ask for it.

You may have been told that your company will be transitioning back to being office-based. This can be stressful, especially if you still feel you need or would like more job flexibility. You may not know how your company or your boss feels about the possibility of flexible work hours, or flexibility in terms of remote work. You also may not know how other employees feel about job flexibility and whether any feel similarly to you.

And while many people are debating personal rights in the workplace, you may be nervous about asking your boss for job flexibility. Especially if you know they would prefer everyone to return to the office, or not work flexible hours.

There may be a variety of reasons why your company and your boss don’t want to allow flexibility at work. This could be based on their experience with workplace flexibility, or their assumptions about it. Some bosses may fear that flexibility will bring about a loss in productivity, engagement and motivation.

For employers, there have also been many challenges associated with this new flexibility of working from home and remotely. It’s important to recognise these difficulties as you approach your boss asking for continued or increased flexibility.

Showing that you’ve considered the implications of your request, will go a long way to being able to rebut any negative assumptions or misconceptions. And being prepared can also help you successfully motivate the benefits to you, your teammates and the company of you having increased flexibility.

What is flexibility in the workplace

Some people want flexibility in terms of the hours that they work. This type of flexibility could mean working 6 hours a day instead of 8. Or it could mean having a flexible start time. Or it could mean that you work 8 hours but at any time of the day, which gives you the freedom to go to gym, take long lunch breaks and fetch your kids from school — while fitting in a full day of work.

Flexibility at work can also relate to the content of your work. You may want to increase your scope of work, shift to working for another department, or take on some different roles or responsibilities from time to time.

What to consider before asking for flexibility at work

Explain your reasons for wanting to have flexibility in your job

It’s best to explain why you would like more job flexibility and what benefits you will receive from being more flexible.

It may be that you have a very long commute and you could put those hours to better use. Or it could be that you want more of a work life balance. Maybe you need to be able to fetch your kids from school in the middle of each day. Maybe you have a medical condition which requires you to work fewer hours. Or perhaps you have reservations and concerns about returning to an office environment because of the pandemic.

Be considerate towards your team and your company

Consider how your colleagues will be able to perform their roles adequately and efficiently if you for example work from home, or work flexible hours. Try to then also think of ways to minimise any negative impacts and create solutions to any possible issues it may cause.

Acknowledge the costs to the company and the complications

One of the biggest drawbacks to working remotely is that you often don’t get the same level of informal and social interaction with your colleagues. Your boss may bring this up as a reason to work from the office. It’s often those moments spent chatting that can lead to social cohesion within a team, contribute to cultivating the company culture, and build bonds that foster collaboration and innovative ideas.

If you’re going to request flexibility in terms of working from home or being a hybrid office and home worker, then bear this in mind. You’ll need to demonstrate how working remotely can actually incorporate social interactions with colleagues.

Likewise, if your boss is concerned about how to evaluate the performance of remote staff, you’ll need to be able to share best practices and solutions. If you’re prepared for the typical reservations that may crop up during discussions, you’ll be better equipped to rebut them.

List the benefits to the business if you work from home

If the flexibility you want is to work from home, then think of what benefits that could provide the company. For example, they may be able to allocate your desk to someone else that perhaps doesn’t have a desk. Or it might mean you’ll be happier and more productive. Or it could mean you’ll be more engaged as you won’t have such a long commute.

If you can show the strategic business advantages of working remotely, like cost savings, that would also be an enticing motivation.

Listen and discuss — keep communication open

Perform well

Most employers also spend significant time and resources in mentoring and upskilling employees over time. That’s why they are often keen to retain staff who perform well. That’s to your benefit if you are a top performing staff member asking for flexibility. Your performance record may then show that you have proven yourself as a dedicated member of staff. This can be a motivating factor in the decision about whether to give you more flexibility.

Final thoughts on the future of flexibility in the workplace

And even before the pandemic, many people have been requesting increased flexibility. Some have even been discussing the benefits of a 4-day work week. But asking your boss for flexibility can be a little daunting, particularly if your company doesn’t have a remote working policy.

When you approach your boss, be prepared to explain what you want, what the benefits to you are — and how the company could also benefit. Also explain that you’ve thought about the implications for your team and boss, and be prepared to overcome any resistance with well-researched facts.

Originally published at on October 7, 2021.

Digital Nomad focused in #remotework and #digitalnomadism