With many employees seeking a more balanced, family-friendly working environment, the employers of choice are those who have a modern approach to flex.
So what can you do, to be confident when asking your employer about working flexibly?
Plan your request with the following tips:
Make it worth their while
Too often companies turn down flexible working requests because they fear the business will suffer if they agree to let you work shorter hours, or out of the office from home.
When you make your request, outline how they will benefit from you working less. Explain how you will be more productive in the hours you have, for example, having fewer commuter hours and fewer office distractions you’re more effective and alert. Explain how this impacts your work-life balance because you will have more energy and be more focused.
Define your job based on output that they can measure, so what you will deliver in the time you have as opposed to the hours sitting at a desk. Providing clarity on what will get done, irrespective of where you do it will come as reassurance to your employer.
Remind them you’re still ambitious
Just because you want to work flexibly doesn’t mean you’re any less ambitious. This is particularly challenging for women who are turning from maternity leave as many employers put them in the ‘not ambitious’ box. In fact, I first started flexible working way before becoming a parent, I wanted a more balanced lifestyle that wasn’t centred around a 40-hour week (and I’ve never looked back!).
If you do want to progress your career within your current organisation, be very clear about where you see yourself in 1, 3, 5 years’ time. Place emphasise your career plan. Position your request in a positive light ensuring they know you want to maximise your potential whilst achieving a healthier work-life balance. One where you can still excel at work but also give what you need to your family or your passions for a period of time.
Make it about them, not you
Whilst it’s important you need to have clarity on your career plan, it’s equally important to remember your employer still needs to run a business. You need to make sure your request focuses on how this can still happen effectively and without detriment to the business. Obviously, the larger the company the easier it should be to accommodate flexible working however it still needs to be considered. It pays to be realistic and consider the seniority and requirements of your role.
If you work in a demanding role and change to working flexible hours or part-time, you need to acknowledge that some of the high expectations will continue. The expectations may depend on the company culture and your seniority within the company. It is critical you discuss this at the outset.
Be open to discussing what your new role will be
Identify your strengths and in what areas you are most effective. Identify what you can delegate to other team members to give them an opportunity to self-develop or provide succession planning. For example:
Value – Flexibility: Strengths – well-organised, efficient, focused and goal orientated, determined, interpersonal skills
Value – Supportive manager: Strengths – open and honest communication, goal orientated, reliable, open minded, collaborative/team player
You may find it takes you a while to work out your hours and how you can get your full-time job done in a different way. However, many clients I speak to working 4 days, actually do a 5-day role within that time. It is really important to be mindful of what you can realistically offer. By that I mean you don’t want to end up stressed because you are working late to compensate for that 5th day late into the night. Set some guidelines around tasks and how to make them deliverable.
If you’re just proposing changing your working pattern, for example coming in later and going home later, then overall output shouldn’t be affected.
Ask for advice
Seek other opinions. Talk to your boss and/or other colleagues who work flexibly on how you could manage flexible working in that company or your role, how part-time employees secured flexibility, and what your boss’s view is. The bigger picture you build on what your new reality could look like, the bigger the chances you have to succeed. Both for yourself and the business.
Bring it up in a new job
If you’re applying for a new job but want to work flexibly, don’t just apply for ones that advertise part-time or flexible working. Many jobs won’t always be advertised as such, but companies may still consider it and you could be missing out on a rewarding career path. It will depend on each situation – whether you should bring it up at the first round, or at a later stage, but it is important to mention it.
In the end though, sometimes looking for a new role in a more flexible company where you can progress your career, is the only solution.
Rebecca Grainger is a well-respected career mentor, known for her integrity, positive attitude and straight-talking approach. Combining 12 years of international recruitment experience with formal coaching methodologies, mindset principles and strategic career consulting, Rebecca is passionate about empowering women to transition careers and change jobs, with confidence, clarity and ease.