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3 Reasons Managers Fear Flexible Work Arrangements -- and What to Do About Them

By Maurie Backman - Updated Feb 12, 2018 at 5:15PM

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Want more leeway at work? Here's how to make the case.

If you're like most working Americans, you probably spend the bulk of your waking hours on the job -- which also probably means you're struggling to achieve a decent work-life balance. In fact, in a recent FlexJobs survey, 70% of U.S. adults said they're not satisfied with their work-life balance, yet 94% felt that having more job flexibility would improve the aforementioned statistic.

It sounds like a great solution in theory. The problem, though, is that many managers are hesitant to grant that flexibility in practice. And so each year, countless workers lose out on the one perk that might actually improve not just their performance, but their outlook as a whole. With that in mind, here are three of the reasons managers tend to resist flexible work arrangements -- and how to address them.

Man working at a table


1. You'll fall behind on deadlines

There's a reason your manager might want you at your desk at a certain hour: to make sure you have ample opportunity to get your work done on time. So if you ask your boss for the option to compress your workweek, leave early several days a week, or telecommute, your manager might balk for fear that you'll fall down on deadlines as a result.

To combat that concern, you'll need to prove that you're reliable before asking for such an arrangement. But once you establish a history of getting assignments done with time to spare, your boss will have a harder time saying no to your request.

2. You'll be less communicative

The beauty of having all employees on the same exact schedule is that your manager will have access to whatever information he wants precisely when he wants it. But what happens when you're allowed to work from home, or work a different schedule? Suddenly, your boss runs the risk that he'll need your input at the precise moment you happen to be getting behind the wheel, or, in the case of a work-from-home arrangement, running out the door to do errands in the middle of the day.

The solution? Establish a pattern of solid communication so that your manager trusts you to stay in touch. In addition, suggest a weekly check-in to ensure that the two of you are keeping each other up to date. Finally, commit to being available during certain hours if you are granted the option to work from home. This means staying logged in during the day, and saving those errands for the evening, as would be the case if you were still reporting to an office.

3. Your boss will get backlash from superiors

One final reason that managers may not go for a flexible work arrangement is fear of backlash from their bosses. After all, once you allow one worker or team some flexibility, the rest of the company will want the same. That's why it's crucial to remind your manager that flexible work arrangements can lead to better performance, which is ultimately what the company wants.

Imagine, if you will, that you're an IT professional who currently spends 90 minutes commuting home, and as such, you're less available to log on after hours and address unexpected issues. If you were to be granted the option to work from home three times a week, that's three nights where you'd likely be more available to your company, thus adding more value than under your current arrangement. Make that clear to your boss, and he'll have an easier time defending his decision -- and perhaps convincing others to follow suit.

Building the case for a flexible work arrangement can be challenging, especially if your manager doesn't seem particularly open to the idea. But if that's what you're dealing with, start slowly and work your way up. This could mean requesting that you telecommute one day a week as a trial run, and getting your manager comfortable with the arrangement before shifting to a mostly work-from-home setup. Though flexible work schedules can ultimately benefit everyone involved, they do take some getting used to -- so be mindful of that when you broach the topic with your boss.

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