Earn Work-Life Balance

How To Negotiate A Flexible Work Schedule Without Looking Like A Diva

Javacia Harris Bowser  |  June 21, 2021

Your boss wants you back in the office full-time, but you enjoy the balance of working remotely. Here’s how you can negotiate a flexible work schedule.

The email from your boss that you’ve been dreading has finally landed in your inbox. It’s the message announcing the date everyone in your company is expected to be back in the office full time. So, what’s the problem? You don’t want to go. The past year has shown you that work-from-home life is the life for you. You’ve come to love the freedom and flexibility and you’re convinced you’re now a better employee, too. The question is: How do you convince your boss? 

You may be tempted to drop an ultimatum and say, “If you make me go back to the office full time, I’ll quit.” But your company could call your bluff, and if you enjoy your job and you’re paid well, walking away may not be the answer. 

So how do you ask your boss for a flexible work schedule without looking like you’re asking for special treatment?

First, remember that you’re not asking for something outlandish. 

“I think a lot of leaders know we don’t want to go back, and many corporations have had flexible or hybrid work environments for a long time,” says Kimberly Cummings, founder of the professional development company Manifest Yourself. “So don’t feel like you’re being a diva or asking for too much.”

Do Your Homework

You must lead the conversation about a flexible work schedule with a discussion of what you bring to the table, not just what you want and why you want it.

“The biggest thing that people forget is that you’re negotiating based upon value, not overall desire,” Cummings says. “Think about what you’ve accomplished over the past year. Think about how you’ve proven that you’re able to work remotely.”

Approach the conversation armed with evidence, too. 

“Show examples of how your productivity increased and how having a flexible work schedule made you a better worker,” says Martha Underwood, founder of ExecutivEstrogena mentorship program for women in corporate America. 

Maybe you work in customer service and your flexible schedule allows you more time to research complex issues and give customers a more thorough response to their questions. 

The goal is to show your employer how a flexible work schedule would benefit them as much as it helps you. 

The work-from-home boom will lift productivity in the U.S. economy by 5%, according to one study. A recent survey by PwC found that 83% of employers say the shift to remote work has been successful for their company. 

Underwood says it won’t hurt to present findings like these to your boss, too. 

“And so many women have dropped out of the workplace that it benefits employers to allow the flexibility to keep strong women talent in the ranks,” Underwood adds.

When asking your boss for a flexible work schedule, clarity is key. 

“Give a full proposal about what your schedule will look like,” Cummings says. “Are you looking to never come back or are you looking to only come back when there are important meetings?”

If you’re open to coming back into the office for some meetings, say so. 

“Bosses want to have a sense of a team,” Cummings says. 

Is working from home the best option for you?

Before talking to your boss about keeping your work-from-home life alive, do some soul searching to be sure it’s the best fit for you. 

“Were you OK working remotely? A lot of people were not,” Cummings says. “As a people leader myself, I 100% agree why some leaders want their team to come back. A lot of workers like flexibility, but they took advantage.”

If you were at the bar with your friends before the workday was done – and before your work was complete – you may want to start by proposing a hybrid schedule of working from home just a couple of days per week. 

“Offer to do a trial of this for 90 days and then reassess if it works,” Cummings says.

Superstar employees need to also weigh the pros and cons of remote work. 

If you have your sights on promotion opportunities or if your job has a relationship-driven company culture, being out of the office all the time could hinder your advancement. 

“You have to know the culture of your organization and if it would be beneficial for you to pop your head in sometimes just to make sure they see your face and you have some of that in-person connection,” Cummings says.

There are ways to stand out even when working from home. Ask great questions in virtual meetings. When a meeting is cancelled or ends early, use that time to hop on a call with a leader at your company. 

“You have to be proactive and build those relationships,” Cummings says. 

Take some time to consider why you truly want to work from home, too. Do you simply enjoy the freedom and flexibility or were you miserable at work? 

“Make sure you’re not just trying to escape,” Cummings says. Does your job allow you to work according to your strengths, passions, and skills? If not, it may be time to dust off the resume.  

Cummings’ new book, Next Move, Best Move: Transitioning Into a Career You’ll Love, is all about helping professionals navigate the world of work. 

“It is possible to find a career and a job that you love,” Cummings says. “If you can’t find joy in the day-to-day work you have, working remotely may not solve that.”


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