Want To Set Your Own Working Hours? Here's How To Convince Your Boss

Pim de Morree
Written by Pim de Morree November 05, 2017

In our work with client organizations, the desire for flexible working hours almost always comes up. Many people want it. Only a few can actually have it. The vast majority of the workforce is required to be at work from 9-to-5.

Whether or not employees are productive during those hours doesn’t seem to matter. And whether or not they have obligations outside of work (like taking their kids to school) also doesn’t seem to make a difference. But if you do want to be in charge of setting your own hours, here are a few simple tricks to convince your boss to support you.

A vast range of benefits

Before we dive into the convince-your-boss part, it’s good to quickly review the benefits of setting your own working hours. The research says that flexible working hours lead to:

  • Increased job and employer satisfaction, resulting in higher commitment;
  • Increased employee loyalty and engagement;
  • Improved) recruiting and retaining of talent;
  • Increased productivity;
  • Reduced absenteeism and stress levels.

Other potential benefits: flexibility in meeting family needs, reduced commuting time and cost, increased sense of autonomy, and more.

To summarize: there are more than enough reasons to fight for flexible working hours. Here’s how to turn it into a reality.


1. Alleviate concerns

Some fear flexible working hours. Concerns include: “We will never see each other anymore”; “Alignment is impossible”; “Some people will abuse it”; or “Our clients can’t reach us anymore”.

A concern is that employees simply need to be at a specific location at specific times (i.e. stores, restaurants, manufacturing lines, and call centers).

There are always some restrictions—but there is almost always room for improvement. The key is employee involvement in setting the hours. In some workplaces, the managers or ‘company rules’ dictate the hours. In progressive organizations, employees manage the trade-offs.

Giving responsibility to the employee increases their sense of control and promotes more creative solutions. We’ve seen it in governmental organizations, factories, healthcare organizations, and office environments.

In summary, the key first step is to alleviate the concerns as early as possible. While you might not alleviate them all, showing a sincere interest in your colleagues’ concerns is a powerful first step.

2. "What's in it for me?"

Next, make sure you can answer the question “What’s in it for me?” for all those influenced by your flexible hours: your boss, your colleagues, maybe even customers. Use the research findings above as a start. But also figure out what might benefit others in your particular situation.

3. Focus on results

Another interesting question pops up when discussing flexible working hours: “How do we know if people actually do their job during flexible hours?”. The question to then ask is: “How do you currently know if people actually do their job?”. Often this is enough to make clear there’s no simple measure for this.

We assume that if people are sitting behind their desk, they must be productive. And, as long as they are in the office from 9-to-5, they must be doing their jobs properly. Strange assumptions right? Especially when we know that 24% of the worldwide workforce is actively disengaged (and therefore spending much of their time sabotaging the work of others).

A focus on results is already a powerful way to show your boss you’re serious about this. By agreeing on outcomes, and making commitments, you move the focus away from when and where you work. Inspiration can be drawn from the commitment meetings of K2K Emocionando.


4. "It's just an experiment"

People might be scared of an irreversible change. So make clear that it’s just an experiment. People are more willing to try something new if they know that it can be reversed if problems might occur.

Suggest a trial period of one or two months.

5. Experiment, measure, adapt, repeat

During the experiment, make sure you measure the effects. Are you more productive, happy, in control, or whatever it is you want to achieve? Measuring effects helps you make the case for a permanent change.

Measuring also helps you to discover what is working and what is not. You can then learn and adapt. If some things don’t work well, adjust the experiment and improve upon it. It is unlikely you will find the perfect solution immediately. It takes time, trials, and experimentation to find the solution that works best for you.

A step-by-step revolution

Starting small, and experimenting step-by-step, is a powerful way to change anything—including an entire organization (as we’ve seen at Dutch e-commerce company bol.com)). Using the above tricks to convince your boss of flexible working hours might be the crucial first step to even more significant change!

We assume that if people are sitting behind their desk, they are being productive. This is obviously nonsense.

Start challenging the status quo; lead the way to a more inspiring, fun, and flexible workplace; start becoming… a Corporate Rebel.

Written by Pim de Morree
Pim de Morree
As co-founder of Corporate Rebels I focus on: researching, writing, speaking, and building our company.
Read more
Aug 27, 2023
Bypassing Traditional Hierarchy: A Bold, Bottom-Up Movement in the Dutch Police Force
Pim de Morree Written by Pim de Morree
Recently, we met with Jeroen Hammer and Roel Wolfert, two trailblazers within the Dutch National Police. They shared how their frustration…
Read more
Jun 07, 2023
Three Books That Will Change Your Perspective On The Concept Of Freedom
Joost Minnaar Written by Joost Minnaar
I recently shared a list of three books to read this quarter. The selections were all management books from world-renowned management…
Read more
May 03, 2023
The Power of Pre-Approval: How Trust and Freedom can Drive Innovation
HappyHenry Written by HappyHenry
Do you have managers who ask their employees to come up with solutions to problems or new ways of working, and then require approval at the…
Read more
Mar 04, 2023
The Corporate Rebels Handbook Series: Work When (and Where) You Want
Pim de Morree Written by Pim de Morree
This post is part of an ongoing series that gives you an insider’s look at the Corporate Rebels company handbook. If you’re new to this…
Read more
Jan 28, 2023
Mayden’s No Blame Culture
Michele Rees-Jones Written by Michele Rees-Jones
‘Blame’ is a loaded, negative word. But it’s a common reaction when something goes wrong. Some even look for people to blame. It shifts…
Read more
Jan 14, 2023
The Rise of Autonomous Organizations: The End of the Middle Manager?
Joost Minnaar Written by Joost Minnaar
For our latest "Bucket List" tour, we traveled all the way to the other side of the world—specifically, Japan. We toured the country for…
Read more
Read all articles

Download: Free Guide

Unlock our in-depth guide on trends, tools, and best practices from over 150 pioneering organizations.

Subscribe below and receive it directly in your inbox.

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.