How to ask for a more flexible work schedule

Go ahead and ask a friend how their weekend was. I’m going to guarantee you never hear, “I had so much time, I didn’t know what to do with myself.”

Hello babies, goodbye free time.

Most of us spend our weekends knocking off the “to do” list of chores, errands and kids activities.

And then there’s the weekly “mom-guilt”.  I always feel like I need to be in two places at once. When I’m taking every free minute at home to spend with my children, I feel like I’m somehow cheating my career. But when I’m at work, I feel like I should be the one teaching them the ABC’s and cutting their grapes.

We can’t add extra hours to the day, but when it comes to our 9 to 5 job, maybe we find some flexibility. Who says we have to work 5 days a week??  Ok, our boss. But hear me out…


Traditionally, there’s full-time and part-time positions. But there’s another option being offered more and more often called “compressed weeks”. It means that employees are fitting their work hours into 4 day weeks or knocking their hours down to 80%.

Hyland Software in Westlake, Ohio structures their work weeks to be flexible and family friendly. Human Resource manager, Lisa Jackman says their employee turnover is in the single digits, compared to the national average for companies seeing 18% turnover.

They also found their bottom line benefits directly from a happy employee environment.

How do you get that deal?  Maybe you just need to ask.

Ellen Galinsky with the Families and Work Institute has studied workplace flexibility and says even though a “compressed week” is counter cultural, it’s not out of the question.

“Make a business case for a pilot program to explore why this will work and talk about why it will benefit the company and you,” Ellen told me.


Let’s admit, it’s scary to walk into your boss and say you want to work less. But, according to our experts, here’s how to do it:

  • Start the one on one conversation with your manager emphasizing your commitment to the company and to getting all of your work done. Then open up the discussion about doing that same amount of work in unconventional hours.
  • Identify how working a compressed week will solve a problem. Maybe your company is having a lot of turnover and you can make the case that a 4-day work week will help keep employees happy.
  • Suggest the compressed week as a pilot program, or a trial basis to see if it works
  • Figure out your own boundaries and what you will be willing to do or not do. For example, there’s a big difference between working 40 hours within 4 days, or knocking your work schedule down to 32 hours a week. Make sure you don’t agree to 32 hours, but end up working a full 40.

Galinsky says during her research, she found only 20% of companies are open with their employees about schedule flexibility, but most are willing to work with you to make you happy.

To get more advice on how to make your case, check out my YouTube video featuring HR manager Lisa Jackman.

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