Flex Jobs: 4 Steps to Start Working Remotely

If you were to write a wish list describing your dream job, would a flexible work schedule come to mind? Working remotely has its perks, and it’s becoming a more common trend in workplaces across the country.

While 9-to-5 workweeks in the office were once the norm for American workers, employers are increasingly offering flexibility as a job perk. Between 20 million and 30 million Americans work from home at least one day a week. That is up 73 percent since 2005! And it makes for happier employees. A recent study found that 97 percent of employees reported that a flexible work schedule would raise their quality of life.

More organizations are opting for remote teams and flex scheduling thanks to the convenience of communication tools like Skype and Slack. Likewise, the explosion of the gig economy in recent years has normalized work-from-anywhere careers that let employees set their own schedules.

So if you’re job searching now, you’ve got a good chance of securing flexible working hours. But what if you want to transform your current office job from fixed to flexible? Don’t jump ship just yet. Instead, try a few strategies to convince your employer to give you more flexibility.

Step 1: Be a self-starter to build trust with your employer.

As with any relationship, it is important to build a solid foundation of trust with your employer before making any special requests like a flexible schedule.

Before you approach your employer about changing your hours, spend at least a few months demonstrating that you are a dedicated self-starter who can get excellent work done with minimal supervision. Meet your deadlines and contribute positively to company culture. You also need to show your boss that you communicate effectively and proactively. You’ll become known as a responsible, self-managing professional, and your boss will be less likely to worry about you working outside the office.

Step 2: Make a plan for your flexible schedule.

It’s easier to say yes to a specific plan than a general idea. If you approach your boss with a well thought out plan, you’ll be helping them realize that you have already put the work into figuring out how to sustain or improve your job performance under your proposed schedule. Specificity also gives your boss something to work with.

If you would like to propose converting your job to a fully remote telecommuting position, for example, you might explain how you plan to stay on task and in the loop. Go out of your way to answer that unspoken question: “Do remote workers actually get work done?” Your employer may have adjustments to make to your idea, but it’s important that you come in with a structured proposal for how this arrangement will work for your employer as well as for yourself.

Step 3: Pitch your remote work vision to the organization.

Once you have dedicated an ongoing effort to building trust with your employer and developing a concrete plan to succeed with your proposed flexible or telecommute schedule, it’s time to take action.

Set a meeting with your boss to discuss your schedule. Concisely share your reasons why you need a new, flexible schedule, but focus on presenting your plan for how work will get done on this new timeline.

Step 4: Earn that perk.

Once you’ve convinced your boss to switch to a more flexible schedule, now’s the time to earn that perk by continuing to show your valuable contributions to the team. The most important aspect of a flexible schedule is the trust your manager places in you. It’s a contract you must honor. Working remotely is not a license to take off early, miss deadlines, or skip meetings. You’re still expected to meet the same requirements that you would if you were working in an office. The ability to deliver results and meet benchmarks remains paramount, even if you are working from a bustling, noisy coffee shop.

To that end, one helpful tip you may want to consider is setting alerts on your phone for when work email arrives. That way, you can take care of business in a timely fashion. When you’re in a position of trust, it makes sense to be trustworthy.

It can be daunting to prepare to negotiate a flexible working schedule. But by demonstrating how you plan to excel in your position moving forward, you’ll have a strong case to support a flexible schedule that offers you work/life balance and better career satisfaction.

Contributed by Mac Prichard, the founder and publisher of Mac’s List, where he writes regularly about job hunting, leads classes on job search skills, and hosts the “Find Your Dream Job” podcast.