What is flex time and how can it work for you?

Put your biceps away. Flex time has its own strengths that can improve your work-life balance.

What is flex time and how can it work for you?

A flex schedule can help you achieve work-life balance.

Not a fan of waking up super-early, or commuting an hour to the office, or having to stay stuck to a desk all day? Can’t say we blame you. That's why a flexible schedule—or flex schedule—is very desired by today's workforce. In fact, the Monster 2020 State of the Candidate survey found that a flexible work schedule is the third most-desired aspect of a job offer (34%), behind salary (73%) and time off (39%). But exactly what is flex time, and why is it so popular? 

According to the Department of Labor, "a flexible work schedule is an alternative to the traditional 9 to 5, 40-hour work week. It allows employees to vary their arrival and/or departure times. Under some policies, employees must work a prescribed number of hours a pay period and be present during a daily 'core time.'" Studies have seen higher job satisfaction rate and a better work-life balance among workers with flexible schedules.

In the most recent American Time Use Survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 57% of workers in 2018 had a flexible schedule. Additionally, 42 million wage and salary workers (29%) could work from home, and 36 million workers (25%) worked at home some of the time. 

But don’t expect to be handed a job offer with such perks; you'll still have to prove you're responsible and capable of doing your job away from the office. If you’re hunting for a job with a flex schedule, here’s how to convince a hiring manager why you deserve it.

How to get a flexible schedule

1. Do your homework

Research potential employers to find out whether they offer jobs with flexible hours. Start by checking the company’s website to see if the organization promotes flexible schedules as one of its desirable employment features, says work options advisor and negotiation coach Pat Katepoo. However, Katepoo adds that “some don’t walk the talk,” so you’ll need to go a step further.

Don your detective’s hat and drive past the parking lot on the weekend. “If the lot’s full, working overtime is probably part of the culture,” says Los Angeles-based executive coach and leadership expert Libby Gill. Also, get insider knowledge by talking to current and past employees—ideally ones in your prospective department—and ask what the boss’s stance is on giving direct reports a flexible schedule.

2. Time your approach

When to broach the subject with the hiring manager depends on your motivation. If not having a flex schedule is a deal-breaker for you, bring it up during the job interview process, says Laurie Young, co-owner at Stamford, Connecticut-based consulting and recruiting firm Flexible Resources. Otherwise, wait until you receive the job offer to discuss the topic; mentioning it prematurely could hurt your candidacy for the position.

3. Make your case in writing

You should have the conversation in person about what you’re asking for, but bring a written proposal that spells out the terms. Putting pen to paper shows you’re serious about the request, says Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO at Flexjobs.com.

4. Focus on the company’s needs—not yours

We get it: Being able to telecommute means you get to work in your PJs all day. But the hiring manager wants to know how the arrangement will benefit the company. Thus, framing is crucial. Point out that Stanford research shows working from home boosts employee happiness and productivity. Also, mention how fewer interruptions gives you more time to focus on important projects, says Sutton Fell.

You may even be helping the manager solve a problem by requesting to work from home. “If the office is crowded and [the company] is on the hunt for more space, saving them one cubicle or office to use for someone else is a benefit,” says Sutton Fell. If you’ve telecommuted for previous jobs, talk about how it improved your productivity, says Katepoo.

5. Address the manager’s concerns

The hiring manager may be hesitant to grant your request. Perhaps he or she fears that you won’t be accessible if you’re allowed to telecommute, or that your work performance will suffer if you set your own hours. Present a plan for how you’ll address these issues. For example, agree with your boss on how frequently you’ll check in throughout the workday when working remotely.

6. Know what you’re willing to sacrifice

You may have to make concessions to get your proposed work arrangement, so determine ahead of time what you’re willing to give up. According to the State of Remote Work 2019 report by Owl Labs, some employees would even be willing to take a pay cut in order to work from home: 

  • 34% of workers would be willing to take a 5% cut
  • 24% would take a 10% cut
  • 20% would take a cut larger than 10%

Carefully consider the consequences before making such compromises; starting at a lower salary, for example, could hurt your long-term earning potential.

Alternatively, you might suggest to the manager starting the arrangement on a trial basis. Try: “I understand your hesitation. Let’s test it out and assess in 90 days whether the arrangement is working for you.”

7. Solidify the terms of your flexible schedule

Once you’ve reached an agreement, put it in writing. Make sure your contract states the terms and any contingencies. Then, when accepting the position, reiterate your enthusiasm about the job. “Saying, ‘I’m committed to exceeding your expectations’ goes a long way,” says Gill.

Find jobs with flexible hours

What is flex time worth to you? If it's enough to get you to change jobs, you should go for it! Work-from-home jobs and flex time are two of the most coveted job perks out there today. Need help looking for jobs with a flexible hours? Join Monster for free today. Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you, including those with flexible schedules. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox to cut down on time spent looking through ads. Those are two quick and easy ways Monster can help you find a job that fits your busy life.