With 70% of millennials claiming that flexible working makes a job more attractive, it’s clear that a significant shift is taking place in the way we work – or at least, the way we expect to be able to work.
Despite the growing popularity of things like working from home, compressed working weeks and more flexible workspaces, many companies are yet to catch up. If you work somewhere that doesn’t have a flexible working policy in place – or where your manager still clings to traditional ideas about the 9-5 day – the below steps should help you to put a clear, convincing case together.
1. Define what you want to achieve
There are many different types of flexible working, and it’s anyone’s legal right to request one of these once they’ve worked for the same employer for 26 consecutive weeks. But first, it’s important to consider exactly what it is you want to achieve. Do you want to cut down on childcare costs or pursue a personal development project such as studying?
Perhaps you feel you need more flexibility to help you manage ongoing health problems such as anxiety or issues around sleep. Defining your needs early on will mean you’re better equipped to come up with a plan that ticks all the right boxes.
2. Consider how you can achieve your goals
Once you’ve defined the reason why you want a more flexible way of working, you’ll need to think about how this will be best achieved. For example, you may decide working from home for two days a week is what you need, or that a job share or compressed hours will be more appropriate.
It’s a good idea to do a bit of research at this stage too, looking into any past flexible working cases at your company and double checking with HR if they have any official policies in place that you may not have heard of. Finally, read up online about the different types of flexible working and carefully consider which of these would best suit the type of work you do.
3. Show you’ve thought about your wider team
When you go to your manager with your request for flexible working, it’s likely they’ll have lots of questions about the feasibility of this and any impact it may have on your wider team. For this reason, it’s wise to make sure you’re armed with thorough responses in order to prove to your manager that you aren’t just doing this on a whim.
Let them know that you’ve thoroughly considered the logistics of your plan, and instil them with confidence by explaining why the wider team won’t be negatively affected in any way. It may also help to equip yourself with some stats and figures about how flexible working can actually increase productivity and motivation at work.
4. Create an official proposal
If your company doesn’t have a flexible working policy in place, it’ll be up to you to go to them with a proposal of sorts, which should outline clearly what your working weeks would look like. For example, if you want to ask for more work from home days, you may come up with a system where you do so on a Monday and Wednesday one week, and Tuesday and Thursday the next. Likewise, if you plan to ask for a job share, be sure to outline prospective candidates for the other sharer in your proposal, explaining why you think they may be a good fit.
5. Propose a trial period
Many managers feel reluctant to deviate from traditional work patterns due to a fear of standards slipping, deadlines being missed or of people ‘slacking’. While this is rarely the case with flexible working, show that you understand your manager’s concerns by proposing an initial trial period for your new schedule.
Let them know that you’re invested in making this work for the company as much as for yourself, and that you think a good way to kick things off would be to put a month’s trial in place before making anything permanent. That way, your manager knows all’s not lost if things don’t work out as they’d hoped.
6. Offer a get-out clause
Another way to put your manager’s mind at rest could be to make sure they have a get-out clause, and so don’t feel trapped in an arrangement that might not work in their favour. This could be something as simple as saying you’ll always prioritise work commitments if a conflict arises – for example, if you needed to be in the office for an important meeting on a work-from-home day, you’d make the effort to attend. Alternatively, you could say that if your work results were impacted negatively by your flexible schedule, you would be happy to revert back to normal.
It can feel frustrating to have to convince someone of the benefits of flexible working when they seem so obvious to you, but it’s important to understand that your manager will be navigating pressures of their own. By clearly communicating with them that you’ve thoroughly assessed all angles of your new plan, you’ll be much more likely to help them see what you see – the potential for a happier, healthier and more productive member of staff, and who’s to argue with that?