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How to Negotiate Better Work Hours

Traffic jamHigh gas prices, family responsibilities, nightmare commute. Whatever the reason, many people are longing for more convenient work hours. And most employers will at least try to be flexible in hopes of retaining good, happy workers. So before you accept a job offer or even after you've settled in with a company, you can try to negotiate a change in work hours. The trick is to emphasize how your employer will benefit from the change, not how your life will be better.

For instance, when I started my first full-time, professional job, I was commuting 30 minutes each way. That was a walk in the park for me. Then I decided to up and move to a neighboring state, increasing my commute by an extra 30+ minutes each way. Add traffic and construction and I was looking at an hour-and-a-half commute each way.

That company also adhered to strict work hours, so when traffic began delaying my morning arrival, I expressed my concerns about tardiness and managed to shift my 8:30 to 5:30 work hours to 7:30 to 4:30, in hopes of avoiding rush hour problems. My boss was happy to oblige.

NEGOTIATION MOTIVATION

The key to successfully negotiating a change in work hours, I discovered, was to provide my boss with a list of ways the time shift would be good (or at least not bad) for the company's bottom line.

Here are the three main reasons why you would seek more convenient work hours, and how you can pitch any one of them to your boss:

Gas Prices
This is a reason almost any employer can understand today. Your goal here is to eliminate a day's commute, which will automatically cut your gas bill by one-fifth.

Scheduling Options:
» Work four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days
» Telecommute one or more days a week

Also, part of the reason employers agree to these gas-saving perks is to keep their best and brightest workers from seeking positions closer to home (claims Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.).

Nightmare Commute
In my case, I was more concerned about arriving at work on time and decreasing traffic stress than I was about gas prices (this was over a year ago, when gas prices were only $3-something a gallon). The goal for this motivator is to eliminate the need to fight rush-hour traffic.

Scheduling Options:
» Starting earlier and finishing earlier
» Starting later and finishing later

Family Responsibilities
For some people it's young children. For others, it's aging parents. For many, it's both. The time and money commitments of family care leave many workers stressed. If this is your primary motivator, your goal is to have more time to spend with family, and perhaps cut down on their paid care, as well.

Scheduling Options:
» Work late some days so you can leave early other days
» Cut back to part-time hours (if you can handle the financial loss)
» Compress your work week (four 10-hour days)
» Telecommute at least some of the time (e.g., the first few hours each morning)

And here are some ideas for pitching these ideas to your boss so that the business benefits outshine your personal motives.

»  Offer a detailed work schedule to track your commitments
»  Identify what projects could benefit from a compressed work week
»  Stress your availability by phone, chat, or email at home
»  Emphasize that you will maintain productivity and keep distractions to a minimum

But keep in mind that working from home is not a substitute for child care. You still need to do your job and do it well (or you'll be back to regular office hours in no time).

INITIATE A TRIAL PERIOD

Whatever motive you have or approach you take, offer a trial period with your pitch. Try out the new schedule for about a month and meet with your boss afterward to see if it's working out well - for both sides. As long as your boss has the freedom to reinstate normal hours if the alternative isn't working out, he or she should be more inclined to grant your wishes.

I can't promise it'll work on an uptight, micro-managing boss though. You're on your own there.

If you've negotiated a more flexible work schedule, what were your reasons for it? What approach did you use and did it work?

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