Career Advice

How To Ask For A Schedule Change At Work

Knowing how to ask for a schedule change at work is just one part of the puzzle for employees who want different hours. Putting in a formal change of schedule request is rarely enough. The most efficient way of getting the schedule you want, no matter what the reasons, is to make a plan of action. The plan should include doing research about scheduling in general and, in particular, how your company and supervisor view requests for changes.

An apt starting point is to learn what is a changing schedule at work. Then, find out about the various options available to you based on the unique circumstances of your workplace. A central component of that step is learning how to ask for a schedule change at work. Finally, round out your plan’s execution by reviewing tried-and-true tips that can maximize the probability your request will be accepted by management.

What are your options when you decide to make a move and request a schedule change? Consider the following points, being sure to adapt tips and suggestions based on where you work, what you do, and your current relationship with supervisors and other decision-makers.

Your Options: What Is a Changing Schedule At Work?

There are multiple kinds of work schedules. The ones available to you depend on your industry, seniority, company culture, specific policies, employment contracts, and what your manager allows.

  • Rotating Shifts: The rotating shift is a common one in industries like construction, healthcare, and the military. The typical arrangement is to move workers through night, day, and swing shifts throughout the year. Few business corporations use the setup, but millions of people in select industries are accustomed to it.
  • Fixed Hours: The majority of adults who have full-time and part-time jobs follow a fixed schedule, or one in which the days and hours don’t vary except during holidays. For example, you are on a fixed, full-time schedule if you work from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
  • Flex: Flex scheduling is highly popular among today’s workers, many of whom have come to enjoy the freedom of working at home during the recent pandemic. There are two definitions of the term “flex” as it relates to scheduling. The first is working a fixed number of hours per week on a variable schedule determined by the employee. The other refers to putting in a portion of your hours in the office and the rest at home.
  • Part Time: Common part-time job arrangements include around 20 hours of work per week, which can be divided up in all sorts of ways. The most common is five 4-hour days, Monday through Friday.
  • Full Time: The 40-hour week is the most common work schedule in the world. Generally, it consists of five 8-hour days, but there are variations, as noted below. If you want to switch from full-time to part-time work, be sure to have one or more solid reasons for the request.
  • Compressed: Many government agencies and some private entities allow people to work compressed schedules. There are many pros and cons of letting employees work four 10-hour days, for example. Also known as “four tens,” the arrangement is a favorite among those who want three-day weekends every week of the year. Unless your company is set up for compressed workdays, it’s relatively difficult to get a boss to agree to such a change.
  • Remote: Note that remote work is not actually a schedule option but a location. However, asking to work remotely, which usually means from home, is viewed by most managers as a request for both a schedule and location change. Some remote employees must check in online and maintain standard office hours, while others can set their own daily work periods.

Review all the options before deciding on the kind of schedule change you want. If all you want is a change of hours, the battle will be much more winnable than if you’re attempting to switch from a fixed, in-office arrangement to a remote one that allows flexible hours. If you’re like most people, you work for a company that only has two or three variations on the traditional 9-to-5 template. Be sure to study the lay of the land so you are fully informed before making a formal, in-person request.

Read More: Does Taken Off The Schedule Mean Fired?

How To Ask For a Schedule Change At Work

No matter what kind of request you intend to make, familiarize yourself with the various methods for asking for a schedule change. There’s no guaranteed, can’t-miss method for how to ask for a schedule change at work, but several approaches can be successful for employees who take the time to study and practice the methods.

Note that success is closely related to how big of a change you want. Coming in and leaving one hour earlier every day is not a major schedule change. But, asking for a four-day workweek, if you currently are a Monday-through-Friday employee, is a significant request. Here are several points to keep in mind when asking for a change.

How Do You Politely Ask To Change a Schedule?

Being polite means taking your company’s and supervisor’s needs into account. There are dozens of ways to approach the request, but the following suggestions will work in most situations.

Manners Count: How Do You Politely Ask To Change a Schedule?
This is one of those times when you get points for manners. Human beings respond well to polite, considerate, valid requests for assistance. Be on your best behavior when discussing the request for a schedule change. Be matter-of-fact but not pushy. Speak clearly and maintain good posture. Accommodate your boss’s availability when setting up the meeting time. Express gratitude that you can make a request, regardless of the outcome.

Be Specific
Go into the meeting with a written list of ways in which you will make the change work for the better. Be clear and specific about what you want, when you want to work, what days off you are requesting, and the exact location where you prefer to do your job.

Be Realistic
Don’t get your hopes up about major schedule changes that are unlikely to happen. Know what is realistic based on your company’s current work schedules and ways of doing business. If no one works from home, you are unlikely to get approved for a work-from-home request.

Schedule a Meeting
Don’t bring up the topic during a casual meeting with your boss. Instead, ask for a specific time when the two of your can sit down and discuss the subject. Attempt to set an appointment for an afternoon late in the week.

Pitch It
Make a convincing case, and consider offering something in return, like taking on extra tasks or clocking in online if you wish to work from home. Avoid setting your pitch meeting on a Monday, when everyone tends to be more busy. Think about making your case on a Thursday or Friday afternoon when people are more agreeable and looking forward to the weekend.

Have a Flexible Attitude
Don’t expect to get everything you want. Be ready to negotiate. Remember that your manager might be willing to meet you halfway, so keep an open mind and engage in a give-and-take discussion.

Make a Smooth Transition
Once a new schedule is in place, whether it’s the exact one you wanted or a compromise arrangement, commit fully to making a seamless transition and demonstrating your commitment to being professional and productive under the new conditions.

Be Reasonable: Have a Good Excuse For a Schedule Change
Don’t make scheduling requests on a whim. Have a valid reason for wanting to change your hours or location. “Because I want to avoid rush hour” is not a good reason. An example of a valid rationale might be, “I no longer have a car and am taking public transportation to and from the office, so I need to move my arrival and departure times back one hour.”

Read More:

Overview: Making Your Plan To Get a New Work Schedule

If you’re thinking about making a change of schedule request, develop a detailed plan of action. Be sure you’re clear, in your own mind, about the reason you want to work different hours. Having a good excuse for a schedule change and knowing how to convey the situation to your boss is half the battle. Success lies not so much in the asking but in knowing HOW to ask for a schedule change at work.

About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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