It's sounds so enticing, doesn't it? Creating a work schedule
that easily fits your family's busy schedule, your commuting
schedule or, perhaps, even your sleep schedule. But not every job
can be shaped to your needs, and some office cultures aren't
prepared -- or willing -- to offer flexible hours. Can you make
flextime work for you? Consider this advice, gleaned from
management professionals nationwide.
IRONING OUT THE DETAILS
Before you decide to march into your boss' office and demand
release from the nine-to-five schlep, take your company's
temperature on the subject. Luckily, as the issue of malleable work
hours has become one of the focuses of business in the '90s, a
growing number of companies have instituted flextime arrangements.
But that doesn't mean it will work with the requirements of your
particular job; it also doesn't mean a company without such a
policy won't be open to considering the idea.
The boss may be jealous. Early studies of
companies offering flexible work schedules show that employees were
reluctant to take advantage of the option because of the stone
walls thrown up by middle management. It's important to have the
support of those above you in the chain of command in order to make
the arrangement work.
Different work hours shouldn't hurt your chance for
advancement. If possible, determine how other employees on
flextime are treated. Do managers scoff and imply that people with
alternative schedules won't grow within the company? Do higher-ups
suggest that those with flextime schedules are not wholly committed
to their jobs? Do others perceive that employees on flextime are
getting special privileges? Again, this is where corporate support
comes in. You don't want to arrange a new schedule only to have it
put the brakes on your career.
Keep things on an even keel. Whether your
superiors are supportive or not, going in with an impassioned plea
to see your children's youth before it slips away, or any other
emotional basis for your flextime request, may undermine your
chances for having it approved. It's best to present an intelligent
plan that answers all the questions your boss might have: How will
you complete all your work? How will you and your colleagues stay
in touch? How available will you be when you're not in the office?
How will you and your superiors measure whether the experiment is
working? Ideally, your argument should demonstrate how changing
your schedule will help the company. Remember, most organizations
approve flexible hours on a case-by-case basis, so what makes sense
for one colleague might not work for you. Once you come to an
agreement, get all the details in writing.
IT'S NOT ALL HEARTS AND FLOWERS
The flextime experiment has been known to go terribly wrong. Here
are some snags and how to handle them.
You're unavailable when the office needs you.
In order to negotiate your new work schedule, you will probably
have to agree to be somewhere near a phone in case there's a
crisis. But others may still have trouble tracking you down. To
resolve this, offer to get a cell phone or a beeper, or set a
certain block of time during your off hours when you will call in.
For flextime to work, you have to be flexible, too.
You're not getting as much work done as you used
to. Unfortunately, this could be a sign that flextime
isn't right for you. Maybe you're finding that you spend more time
tracking down suppliers and other contacts than you thought, and
they just aren't available when you need them because you get to
the office much earlier than they do or you leave much later. On
the other hand, this problem could just be a matter of
restructuring when you do each task. Save phone calls for when you
know most people are at their desks and do your paperwork, writing
and research during those quieter hours.
Don't raise your walls too high. If during a
review session your supervisor points out some ways your schedule
isn't working, going on the defensive is a sure way to jeopardize
your flextime arrangement, and you may find yourself back to the
old nine-to-five routine. Stay calm, be reasonable and evaluate
your supervisor's observations objectively. Give measured,
intelligent responses. It's okay to ask for some time to come up
with workable solutions. Handle the matter responsibly, and your
flextime will likely become even more productive.
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