Want To Set Your Own Working Hours? Here's How To Convince Your Boss
In our work with client organizations, the desire for flexible working hours almost always comes up. Many people want it. Only a few can actually have it. The vast majority of the workforce is required to be at work from 9-to-5.
Whether or not employees are productive during those hours doesn’t seem to matter. And whether or not they have obligations outside of work (like taking their kids to school) also doesn’t seem to make a difference. But if you do want to be in charge of setting your own hours, here are a few simple tricks to convince your boss to support you.
A vast range of benefits
Before we dive into the convince-your-boss part, it’s good to quickly review the benefits of setting your own working hours. The research says that flexible working hours lead to:
- Increased job and employer satisfaction, resulting in higher commitment;
- Increased employee loyalty and engagement;
- Improved recruiting and retaining of talent;
- Increased productivity;
- Reduced absenteeism and stress levels.
Other potential benefits: flexibility in meeting family needs, reduced commuting time and cost, increased sense of autonomy, and more.
To summarize: there are more than enough reasons to fight for flexible working hours. Here’s how to turn it into a reality.
1. Alleviate concerns
Some fear flexible working hours. Concerns include: “We will never see each other anymore”; “Alignment is impossible”; “Some people will abuse it”; or “Our clients can’t reach us anymore”.
A concern is that employees simply need to be at a specific location at specific times (i.e. stores, restaurants, manufacturing lines, and call centers).
There are always some restrictions—but there is almost always room for improvement. The key is employee involvement in setting the hours. In some workplaces, the managers or ‘company rules’ dictate the hours. In progressive organizations, employees manage the trade-offs.
Giving responsibility to the employee increases their sense of control and promotes more creative solutions. We’ve seen it in governmental organizations, factories, healthcare organizations, and office environments.
In summary, the key first step is to alleviate the concerns as early as possible. While you might not alleviate them all, showing a sincere interest in your colleagues’ concerns is a powerful first step.
2. "What's in it for me?"
Next, make sure you can answer the question “What’s in it for me?” for all those influenced by your flexible hours: your boss, your colleagues, maybe even customers. Use the research findings above as a start. But also figure out what might benefit others in your particular situation.
3. Focus on results
Another interesting question pops up when discussing flexible working hours: “How do we know if people actually do their job during flexible hours?”. The question to then ask is: “How do you currently know if people actually do their job?”. Often this is enough to make clear there’s no simple measure for this.
We assume that if people are sitting behind their desk, they must be productive. And, as long as they are in the office from 9-to-5, they must be doing their jobs properly. Strange assumptions right? Especially when we know that 24% of the worldwide workforce is actively disengaged (and therefore spending much of their time sabotaging the work of others).
A focus on results is already a powerful way to show your boss you’re serious about this. By agreeing on outcomes, and making commitments, you move the focus away from when and where you work. Inspiration can be drawn from the commitment meetings of K2K Emocionando.
4. "It's just an experiment"
People might be scared of an irreversible change. So make clear that it’s just an experiment. People are more willing to try something new if they know that it can be reversed if problems might occur.
Suggest a trial period of one or two months.
5. Experiment, measure, adapt, repeat
During the experiment, make sure you measure the effects. Are you more productive, happy, in control, or whatever it is you want to achieve? Measuring effects helps you make the case for a permanent change.
Measuring also helps you to discover what is working and what is not. You can then learn and adapt. If some things don’t work well, adjust the experiment and improve upon it. It is unlikely you will find the perfect solution immediately. It takes time, trials, and experimentation to find the solution that works best for you.
A step-by-step revolution
Starting small, and experimenting step-by-step, is a powerful way to change anything—including an entire organization (as we’ve seen at Dutch e-commerce company bol.com). Using the above tricks to convince your boss of flexible working hours might be the crucial first step to even more significant change!
We assume that if people are sitting behind their desk, they are being productive. This is obviously nonsense.
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How are work outcomes affected by the treatment of those who do it? I have been exploring this question for ~50 years. In that time, one comment stuck with me more than any other. It was made in 1998 when I interviewed a group of men in Indianapolis who had redesigned most of the US city’s waste collection and disposal operations. “We are no longer expected to park our brains at the door when we come to work.”