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The whole process of applying for flexible working can seem daunting and a survey out this week shows that it puts many people off because they are worried it will affect their career progression.
So how do you get a successful outcome to a flexible working request? One of the sticking points for those seeking to get their employer to consider their case is the provision under the flexible working legislation that applicants must explain how they think flexible working might affect their employer and how this could be dealt with. The idea behind this is that flexible working should be, as much as possible, a mutually beneficial arrangement.
But how do you argue your case when the main reason you want to change your hours is because of childcare arrangements? How do you make a business case for that?
Many applicants struggle with this and the best employers try to engage employees in conversations about what might work best. But for most there is little support for employees over how to make this business case and it can be hard to know what will work best.
The main thing is to try and put yourself in the employer’s position and to pre-empt any potential difficulties your request might bring and to be honest, for instance, if there are additional costs involved it is important to admit and justify them.
That can involve showing how your work can successfully be carried out under the proposed new working pattern, demonstrating that it will not harm the business and pointing out that it may even have business advantages. To do this you may have to sound out colleagues beforehand to ensure they are on side. If requesting remote working, it may be that there are parts of a job that can be done more effectively from home without distraction, such as analysis, reading, strategic thinking or writing reports.
For job shares, it is worth putting forward how this might work in terms of handovers, communication with team members or clients and so forth and researching examples of successful job share partnerships. Job shares are still rare enough for many managers not to have come across them so they may need persuading. Demonstrating that you have thought everything through will help.
For part-time work, it is important to think through whether there are certain days or hours which need less cover. Are there certain tasks that could be delegated allowing other staff the chance to act up? If managers are dubious, it might be worth suggesting a trial period, but if you opt for this ensure there is a proper review process.
It is important to methodically think through the tasks a job involves and whether they can be done differently, from a different location, at different times and so forth.
It is also good to have a compromise solution, since the flexible working process is a negotiation. It may be, for instance, that with some homeworking a person who requests part time could work full time or that they could work less at certain less busy times of the year.
Tips for negotiating flexible working
– Think through the tasks a job involves and whether they can be done differently, from a different location, at different times and so forth. Be honest about addressing any additional costs or challenges.
– Show your work can successfully be carried out under any proposed new working pattern and demonstrating that it will not harm the business or may have business advantages.
– Research some case studies, ideally in your sector, that show how the work pattern you are suggesting can work to both the employer and employee’s advantage.
– If managers are dubious, it might be worth suggesting a trial period.
– Have a compromise solution as a back-up.