Latest statistics from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development suggest 54% of employees nationally are undertaking some sort of flexible working, and 69% of those working flexibly are satisfied or very satisfied with their roles. London is lagging slightly behind with only 52% of employees working flexibly so there is scope to improve this particularly given Londoners have the longest commute in the country averaging 47 minutes. Flexible working is open to anyone, not just parents and those caring for dependants.
However, being able to ask for it is not the same as getting it agreed and taking part in the Mumsnet Workfest 2016 Panel this weekend, discussing flexible working it is clear that that this can be a daunting prospect.
Follow these top tips to stand the best chance of getting your request accepted.
- Acknowledge your feelings
Asking to work flexibly can feel akin to asking for a pay rise – scary and exciting. There is the potential for rejection, for your employer to say no, as they are within their rights to refuse a request if it can’t be agreed for business reasons. And if they say no, where does that leave you? So the whole prospect can feel a bit emotionally charged. Just acknowledging how you feel and trying to get some objectivity and perspective on it can really help in your preparation.
- Be realistic
Have a good think about what kind of flexibility you want and need , and then think about what is realistically achievable in your job. After all you know your job inside out so you know how it can be structured and delivered. Really think about what works for your situation. It is tempting to ask for a reduction in hours and then try to cram everything into those hours which obviously then leads in the direction of burnout. Look at what can be cut out of your job description, what projects can be shelved/rescheduled, and then make your request realistic to your needs. Be prepared that your job might not appear conducive to part time or reduced hours so think creatively as outlined in tip 4. Also if you want to significantly reduce your hours then you may need to consider a job share but identify this don’t leave it for your employer to spot.
- Prepare a strategic business case
This will require a bit of work but you need to try and make it easy for them to say yes. Identify what the benefits are to the business of a change in your work patterns. Then anticipate what their issues might be with the change and address them by identifying possible solutions and options. Research what your competitors are doing to add weight to your case, by suggesting that either your employer could be leading the way and being cutting edge, or making sure they don’t fall behind in attracting and retaining talent.
- Be creative
Consider all types of flexible working and how your work can be done differently. Research what different organisations are doing, think about your situation creatively, for example, if you’re reducing your hours could the salary savings pay for freelance work on a particular aspect of your job or increase someone else’s admin hours to take on the routine part of your job.
- Look for champions
Try and get some support for your request before you make it. Maybe your HR team can give you some advice – they will know what the precedents have been within the organisation. Think about your boss, particularly if they are not the decision maker, as their view will be sought, and it will have most impact on them so having an informal chat and sounding them out can be very useful. Talk to other staff/colleagues who are working flexibly and find out what works and what doesn’t.
- Have a Backup Plan
Think about what would be an acceptable second option if your employer does refuse your first request. There may be room to negotiate, for example If they can’t reduce your days would working from home or starting later/finishing earlier help?
- Look after yourself
It will take some adjustment to working flexibly and will require a mind set shift from you as well as your employer. Strong boundaries need to be established as well as acceptance that you may not have the same level of involvement in everything at work. Above all make sure you build strategies into your new way of working that protect the balance in your life and protect you from trying to do everything.
If you’ve got other tips that have worked for you please share then in the comments below.