Power in Numbers: Asking for Flex Time in a Group


Sixteen Employees in Texas Make a Plan and Get What They Want. Sometimes there's safety and leverage in numbers.

Maybe you don't want to be the only one asking for a flexible work arrangement, especially if you get the sense that other colleagues would benefit from the same thing, but are either afraid to ask or just don't even realize that asking might be an option.

This could be the chance to partner with one or more people to explore the possibility of flex time. How do you work together to achieve your goals? Here are some tips:

Establish a common goal. The first step is engaging in candid conversation to define the desire for flexibility among colleagues. With 16 employees at a Texas company, for example, a combination of long commutes, a craving for more time to pursue personal hobbies, and the demands of family life led them to dream of a compressed workweek with three-day weekends. That became the group's goal, and it was determined to work toward it.

Assess the business realities. Once you know that other people are interested in exploring some type of flexibility, you can't ignore the business realities. Ask yourselves the very tough questions: Is our goal pie-in-the-sky or is it truly feasible?

Not every person or position can have the flexibility they want. Let's face it, who doesn't dream of three-day weekends? But can that really work for a business that operates five days a week?

If you're looking to leave early, how will your hours and responsibilities be covered? If customers or the boss need to reach you, will you be accessible?

Do a reality check among colleagues. With any kind of flexibility, there must be give and take. So if you're all asking to leave early, it probably means you'll have to come in earlier too. Is everyone prepared to do that for the long haul? If you're asking to work from home for a part of the week, is everyone fully equipped to do so? Might you miss the camaraderie of the office?

Be careful what you wish for. And be sure that everyone in the group is truly ready to make the concessions on their end if you're asking your employer to do the same.

Anticipate the opposition. You have to assume the boss will say no. Ask everyone in your group -- whether it's two people or 10 -- to come up with the Top 3 reasons they think the boss will say no.

Play devil's advocate with your proposal. You can't overlook those very real issues, and yet this is an often-overlooked step in the process. You will want to use your own fear of rejection as fuel to create the strongest possible proposal -- one that addresses any and all of the reasons your request might not be approved.

Present a formal proposal. When you're casual and informal, it's easier to be brushed off or taken less seriously. Our Texas 16 learned this: A year ago their request for a compressed workweek was rejected because they asked verbally in an informal manner that clearly showed they hadn't put the proper thought into it.

This time they were smart -- they put it in writing. You should do the same. Create a document that explains what you're proposing, why you think it'll work well, and even include a Q&A section that addresses the potential opposition. Use a bulleted format, so it's easy to read and digest.

Because it's likely that your boss might need to go to his boss to consider this, you'll want a strong document that can be run up the chain of command.

Keep me posted on your requests for flexible work options. Share your stories of both struggle and success. You might be selected for a future segment.

Tory Johnson is the workplace contributor on "Good Morning America" and the CEO of Women for Hire. Connect with her directly at www.womenforhire.com.

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