back to top

How To Ask Your Boss For A Flexible Schedule

Hint: You probably shouldn't tell her it's because you want to change careers.

Posted on

Each week in Work It, BuzzFeed Executive Editor Doree Shafrir will answer your most pressing career and workplace questions. Email if you have a question for her.

How do I ask my boss for a more flexible work schedule so I can take some late afternoon classes? I would still work a full day, but come in at 7 and leave at 3 twice a week (instead of the 8:30-5 thing). And how do I tell my boss I'm interested in making a career change so that's why I am taking classes?

My general philosophy on many work-related things is: Operate on a need-to-know basis. In practice, that doesn't mean lying or even obfuscating the truth, but it does mean no oversharing, especially with bosses. (Boundaries! Always keep those boundaries.) Also, it's unfair, but women tend to get demonized for being "oversharers." There's nothing inherently wrong with being an oversharer, if that's your thing, but it's a good idea to be especially cognizant of it in the workplace — particularly in terms of how that makes your superiors perceive you.

In your case, this means asking your boss for permission to modify your work schedule because you want to take some classes — but not that you want to take these classes because you want to change careers. Think about it. What's the upside in your telling your boss you want to change careers? You're assuming that she'll be more accommodating of your request, but it might actually just make her more wary to grant it. Why should your boss agree to something that will ultimately result in your departure?

There's another reason not to tell your boss you're thinking about a career change: You might change your mind! What if you start taking these classes for a totally different career and then you decide that you hate this potential new career? Now you have to back to your boss and be like, "Psych! Just kidding about that whole career change thing, can I still keep my job?" Which is something that bosses don't love.

Now that we've established that you're not going to reveal your potential long-term plans, here's how to ask for that modified schedule. You're going to want to do this in person — NOT over email — so ask your boss for a meeting. Come prepared with a well-thought-out plan that includes all the specifics of what you're proposing. You'll need to convince her that you can get all your work done in these modified hours — particularly since the early hours will likely be under limited supervision (unless she also gets in at 7? Which seems unlikely.) Show her that this won't put a damper on your productivity by emphasizing all the tasks you can complete during off-hours. And you'll also want to point out that the class won't last forever (right? No class lasts forever!).

Depending on your workplace's penchant for accommodating people's schedules, this may or may not go over easily. You'll have a stronger case if you can point to other people in the office who are working modified hours — say, someone who has a kid who works from home two days a week. If this is a brand-new thing for your office, expect to be confronted with a lot of questions and skepticism.

Which brings us back to the career question. Your boss will likely ask why it's so crucial that you take these particular classes — to the point where you're asking for a modified schedule. I don't know what field you're interested in pursuing, but I would say something about how you've always been interested in X and it happens that these are the only times these classes are available. And if you're able to somehow connect it to what you're doing now, all the better.