Negotiating a Permanent Flex Work Policy Has Never Been Easier: Here’s How to Do It

There’s never been an easier time to make the case for a permanent flexible workplace policy. Here’s how to make the strongest case to your manager for ongoing remote work or flexible hours.

Some employers are demanding employees come back to the office. Their teams are pushing back, and increasingly, top-down work policies that don’t take individual workers’ or teams’ needs into consideration are losing heft. Instead, companies are shifting their focus “work that works.”

If you’re considering making a case to your manager for an ongoing flexible work policy that works best for you, here’s how to sort out what precisely you’re after, make the strongest case for it, and make sure it works — for you and your company — moving forward.

1. Get organized.

Make a plan before you make your meeting — and putting that together will involve a little self-assessment: What does work-life balance look like to you? What are your goals?

Let those factors inform your ask: Do you want the option to not come into the office a couple days a week? Do you want total flexibility in as to when and where you work, every day of the week, in perpetuity? Are flexible hours what’s important to you, so you can work around family or other pursuits? Or are you interested in freedom of work location, so you can travel more? All of the above? Which of these things would be nice to have, and which are make-or-break for you to be happy in your job?

Also consider your job responsibilities, not to mention your work habits and work style: If you never interact with your team in person, will your focus or motivation work suffer? Are the things you feel you need compatible with the job you currently have, even aside from just how flexible your manager is willing to be? If you do see a path forward, the next step is to pull together the strongest case you can.

Once you’ve laid this important groundwork, here’s how I recommend approaching the flex work conversation with your manager, in just a few more steps.

2. Show proof of concept.

First off, take the past year and a half into account. How did your company handle remote work? What were the strengths of the approach? What were the pitfalls? Identify any point on which there might be room for improvement, as when you sit down with your manager, you’ll want to address these head on.

Then, highlight the good. What did you achieve? Where did you go above and beyond despite being remote? How did you as an individual and you as a team player thrive?

And don’t feel like you have to do all this work on your own: If your company’s leadership is planning a return to the office and you’re not excited about it, chances are good that at least some of your colleagues aren’t, either. Rather than trying to negotiate an arrangement for you and you alone, read the room, borrow insight from your colleagues’ experiences, and see what your team wants at large. Is there an opportunity to suggest a model multiple people are on board with — on that would work for all of you?

3. Frame flex work as an employer benefit—not an employee request.

Even before the pandemic, remote work was on the rise. Some studies showed that more than half of professionals worked at least half of the week remotely. So, there is plenty of data with which to assess its benefits. Surveys on these benefits abound, as do CEO accounts of success stories for implementing workplace flexibility at their own companies. Lean into this data when making a case to your employer.

For starters, studies show that workplace flexibility has a significant positive impact on the health and wellbeing of employees; it helps decrease unscheduled absences; it makes employees feel more productive; it helps companies hire more competitively; and for managers worried about company culture, one recent survey found that a flex work policy boosted office morale by 51%.

4. Keep expectations clear.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to flex work. Once you’ve gotten a commitment from your employer on a flexible work arrangement, figure out what that’s going to look like moving forward in practical terms. What are your metrics for success? How will they know where and when to find you when they need you? How often will you meet and review performance?

Work with your manager on a viable plan which will benefit all — and if you ultimately like the job and want to hang on to it — don’t forget to be open to compromise.