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Negotiating for Flex-time: Articulating the value of working off-hours or working from home

Negotiating for Flex-time: Articulating the value of working off-hours or working from home

Peter Handal

Millions of American workers use some form of flex-time, but compared to other countries like the U.K. and despite the years-old prediction that the Internet would greatly increase the number of people who used flex-time or worked from home, most American workers are still married to the concept of a 9-to-5 day. "Despite long commute times, problems with public transportation and the complaint that they don't enjoy enough family time - any of the factors that can make flex-time more desirable - many Americans don't explore this option," says Peter Handal, President and CEO of Dale Carnegie Training. He further emphasizes that "for many, flex-time can make you more productive and help generate a more positive attitude toward work."

Handal continues, "If you're committed to your company for the long-term, then keeping yourself in the right frame of mind is an investment in your professional future. And if you feel that adjusting your schedule for flex-time - potentially minimizing interruptions and distracting office activity and gossip - could improve your outlook and productivity, then you should present the benefits of a flexible schedule to your employer." Flex-time is generally defined as a non-traditional office schedule, such as working four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days, or working from 10:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. to avoid rush hour traffic, or in many cases, working from home on occasion.

Negotiating flex-time with your boss is like negotiating anything else, says Handal. "You have to be thoughtful and organized in how you present the idea to him." More important, you have to be able to articulate how the company benefits from you working a flex-time schedule. Says Handal, "This is true whether or not your company has a flex-time policy in place."

Handal offers some guidelines:

Evaluate your most productive time period at work. If you find you accomplish the most office work when you're alone - because you come in earlier or stay later than everyone else - you should consider flex-time. Many employees don't even explore the possibility of flex-time to help solve this dilemma. Says Handal, "It's the nature of office workers to accommodate last minute requests from their boss or co-workers, but doing so can lead to errors and impair productivity." Such a situation can easily be remedied with the proper use of flex-time. The argument you want to present to your manager here is simple: you're more productive off hours, so why not maximize that productivity with flex-time?

dentify the professional skill that is most compromised when you're interrupted or distracted at the office. For many people, this is something that requires focused thought, creative energy or just 'quiet time.' If the work you produce is critical to the success of others, explain this to your boss during the negotiations. "Bosses need to appreciate that their employees may generate finer work when the office is quiet and they aren't disturbed," says Handal, "but that is sometimes hard to see when you, as a manager, need so much from that particular employee between the hours of 9-to-5." It's a classic "help me help you" situation, says Handal. Explain to your boss that your productivity is compromised by interruptions and that you need flex-time to produce better work.

Peter V. Handal is Chairman, CEO and President of Dale Carnegie & Associates, the oldest training company in the world, originally based on Dale Carnegie’s world famous best seller: “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Dale Carnegie has 200 offices, both franchised and company owned, in over 70 countries on 6 continents. Mr. Handal joined the Company in 1999 and was elected President and CEO in 2000. He was elected Chairman in 2005.Dale Carnegie partners with middle market and large corporations and organizations to produce measurable business results by improving “soft skills,” with emphasis on employee engagement, leadership, sales, team building, customer service, presentations, process improvement and other essential non-technical management skills. The Company works in 29 languages throughout the world and includes as its clients 400 of the Fortune 500 companies. Over 7 million people have experienced Dale Carnegie Training. Mr. Handal is CEO of J4P Associates, a real estate concern in Baltimore, Maryland, where he is also active as a developer. Over the last 15 years he has been a Board Member of various public and private companies in the United States and Europe. He has also been President of COWI International Group, a management-consulting firm that provides strategic planning, due diligence, litigation support, turn-around and other consulting services for companies in the United States and Eastern Europe. Previously he was also CEO of a children's wearing apparel and accessories company, which manufactured its products in 22 countries and marketed them under the “Just 4 Kids” brand. Mr. Handal has also worked at Exxon Corporation in the Treasurer’s and New Investments Departments.Mr. Handal's not-for-profit activities include the Lott Community Development Corporation, The Lott Residence, The St. Vincent Ferrer Church and The Cardinal Cooke Guild. He is also President of the Board of The Metropolitan Opera Club.Mr. Handal is also a member of the Industry Leadership Council of the American Association of Exporters and Importers (AAEI). He has held several positions with the AAEI, including Chairman. Mr. Handal is a member of the U.S. Government’s Industry Trade Advisory Committee for Distribution Services, appointed by the Secretary of Commerce and the United States Trade Representative. Mr. Handal has testified on various trade-related matters before Committees and Sub-committees of The House of Representatives and The Senate of the United States. Mr. Handal has a B.A. from Georgetown University and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago. He and his wife, Patricia, live in New York.