Requesting flexible working

Emma Egan

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:

1. 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 by you being more productive in the hours you have, due to having fewer commuter hours and fewer office distractions, you’ll, therefore, you’re more effective and alert. You’ll also be happier, have more energy, be more focused and less stressed about balancing work and home life.

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, so they have clarity on what will get done, irrespective of where you do it.

2. 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. I 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 be clear where you see yourself in 1, 3, 5 years’ time and 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 where you can still excel at work, but also give what you need to your family for a period of time.

3. Make It About Them, Not You
Whilst it’s important you need to have clarity on your career plan it’s important to remember your employer still needs to run a business, so make sure your request focuses on how this can still happen effectively and without detriment. Obviously, the larger the company the easier it should be to accommodate flexible working. Also, consider the seniority and requirements of your role, and be realistic.

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. It will depend on how senior in the company you are, and the culture of the company, as to what the expectations will be. Always discuss this at the outset.

4. Be Open To Discussing What Your New Role Will Be
Identify your strengths and where you’re most effective, what can you delegate and give to someone else in your team to develop them or provide succession planning.

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to manage your full-time role in fewer hours, however, many clients I speak to who work 4 days, actually do a 5-day role in 4 days. Some manage it because there was the typical time wastage of office working or they’d become so efficient over time at their job they could do it in fewer hours. On the other hand, some employees end up even more stressed as they are working late at night instead of a fifth day but earning one fifth less in salary. So be mindful of what you can realistically manage in the time you are proposing.

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.

5. Ask For Advice
From your boss 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.

6. 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, because many jobs won’t always be advertised as such, but companies may still consider it. It will depend on each situation whether you should bring it up in 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 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 mentoring she’s passionate about empowering women and mothers transition careers and change jobs, with confidence, clarity and ease. Connect with Rebecca at which supports women successfully navigate the journey from corporate to motherhood and beyond.

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