If flexibility leads from the top, it talks from the middle. The top brass blows the horn, but if your manager isn’t singing the same tune, flex policies are nothing more than wishful thinking. I was fortunate that my conversation was easy.
And still, despite the hype, flexibility suffers from a serious and employee-driven misconception…
Flexibility is for women
particularly women with new babies. New candidates for flexibility (such as men on parental leave and parents caring for sick children) are added at a glacial pace.
So when I told people I was flexing to allow me to lead Out for Australia, a lot of friends reacted with surprise (“oh, I didn’t know you could do that!“), curiosity (“How did you tell your boss?“), and even scepticism (“I don’t think that will work in reality.”)
A lot of those comments miss the point.
Out for Australia is a national LGBTIQ+ student mentoring non-profit. We pair mentors with aspiring leaders to ease the transition from university to work. It’s a tough gig, but I love it because we all want to see every LGBTIQ+ graduate in Australia safe, comfortable and free to be themselves at work.
But who cares?
My reason doesn’t matter. I could have asked to volunteer at my local church. I couldbe a chess grand master. I could be the next Usain Bolt. My reason, doesn’t matter, but yours does.
If you had one day off a week for the rest of your life, on the same salary, on two conditions:
- Do something extraordinary
- Report back in 10 years with the results
what would you do?
who would you take with you?
isn’t that worth asking for, even if the answer is no?
Now I’m no expert in flexing. But for what it’s worth, from a guy that asked for it once and got a yes, here are my tips on making sure your reason works with work.
Share your passion with pride. A project that visibly excites you as you explain it is much more likely to get the nod from your boss. Let them see the energy it brings you. If you hide it or dismiss it as a disposable weekend hobby, don’t be surprised if your boss treats it exactly the same way.
Have a Plan
Are you taking a day off? Do you need to leave early twice a week? Do you need a laptop to work remotely? Without knowing exactly what you want, even the most supportive boss will dread the uncertainty of a vague request. Even if your flex schedule is unpredictable (like caring for a sick relative) agree what happens when you have to drop everything.
Make your next piece of work exceptional. Make your teleconference from home the most engaged and prepared that you’ve ever been. Show them straight off the bat how good this new deal is for everyone, and how committed you are to making it work.