How to negotiate a shorter or more flexible working week

Job Interview


You’re looking for a new flexible job, but all the jobs you are interested in are full time, five days a week. has been advertising flexible roles for over 10 years and while employers who advertise on our site are likely to openly advertise roles that are flexible or be open to negotiating flexibility, advertising flexible roles that allow career progression is still not the norm.

There is the vexed question of when you bring up flexible hours or a reduced working week when you are going for a new job and how you best negotiate what you want, given that legally you cannot request flexible working until you have been a job for six months.

The most important thing is to do your research. Check out the organisations you are applying to and see what their take is on flexible working. Check if they have any case studies of staff who work flexibly on their website or elsewhere. If possible, talk to people you know who have worked there.

You could ring the HR department and ask if reduced or compressed hours or a job share might be considered. You could bring it up at interview, although don’t make it the major focus – that should be showing what you can offer and how much you are interested in the job – or you could negotiate it afterwards, although, if you haven’t at least touched on it before, employers might be annoyed if you leave it till they have offered you the job to mention it.

How you negotiate flexibility will depend very much on the job in question. If the job is genuinely one that demands full-time hours, it makes no sense to ask to do it part time. However, you could make a case for doing it in compressed hours [working five days in four longer ones] or working some days from home.

Make sure you take into account the demands of the role and show that you have thought it through carefully and how you can make it work. That means taking into account potential workload, managing client expectations, etc. If you have worked in this way before you can bring that up or any other examples of people who have worked flexibly in a similar role and made it work.

Think through all the implications, for instance, if there is an emergency that crops up at work on days you are not working would you have any leeway to deal with it? If you want to work from home some of the week how would that work with the team?

If you want to argue for a job share, have you got a partner in mind and have you thought through logistics such as handovers, communication with team members or clients? Employers tend still to be more reluctant to accept job shares and you will have to make a strong case for it. The more you can show you have done your research the more you are likely to be able to convince them.

In general, it is also a good  idea to have a compromise solution, since the flexible working process is a negotiation. It may be, for instance, that if a four-day week is not possible, you could accept four days in the office with one day working from home or that they could work less at certain less busy times of the year.

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