You may be returning from a period of parental leave or you may need to get a better work/home balance - whatever the reason for your need for more flexibility, making a formal change* to your contract by requesting flexible work can help individuals carve out a longer-term sustainable approach to their careers.
Whether you are considering 4 days a week, 2 days in the office and 1 day at home; a 9-day fortnight or finishing at 4pm every day, the process you follow to request your new working pattern will probably be very similar.
Decisions on whether or not your organisation grants a flexible working request will take into account business aspects such as quality or performance, meeting client demands, ability to reorganise work amongst existing team members and any impending restructure.
Every company procedure for dealing with flexible working applications will be slightly different, so do check out your flexible working policies and speak to HR. Be aware also that you need to have worked with your company for 26 weeks in order to apply.
The tips below will help give you the best possible chance of opening a professional and positive dialogue about flexibility and ultimately increase your chances of getting buy-in from your manager and organisation.
Before you even start to make plans and get into the detail, the most important thing is to consider your relationship with your manager – do they value what you do? If you have a proven track-record of achievement with your manager/team and you are a valuable asset to the team, you are more likely to get a positive outcome.
1. Have a conversation first with your manager before filling in any forms. Ideally meet with your manager face to face. If you’re returning from a period of leave, find out as much as you can about what has changed in the business since you have been away. This way, you can find out what the problems and concerns are in the team and your proposal could be a solution.
For example, if the team or organisation is going through potential headcount reduction and cost-cutting, your proposal to work less hours may actually support the team to reduce costs.
2. Talk to other team members to gain a balanced view of what’s happening in the team if you’ve been away. Do you know any other people who have been through the flexible working process? If so, talk to them and ask for tips/advice.
3. Present your case (verbally or in writing) with the business in mind.
For example, 'I would like to propose that I work Tuesday through to Friday. This will ensure I am always in the office during the team's busiest periods.'
Rather than 'I'd like Mondays off because my nursery doesn't have space on Mondays.'
Identifying what you need personally is of course the most important thing, but by identifying and sharing the potential team benefits of your proposal will help your manager solve their problem - which will be what happens to your work on a Monday.
4. Do your homework and put time and consideration into the application. Your manager will know if time and effort has been taken to consider the wider impact - proposals will be detailed and potential solutions to problems will be forthcoming. Ideally, if everything has been discussed already with the manager, the wording on your application is simply a summary of the conversation that has already taken place.
5. Identify all the possible impacts of the new working arrangement and state clear mitigating factors.
For example, 'working Monday to Wednesday will mean that I am no longer in the office for Friday's meeting with manager X. Given manager X travels frequently on Fridays, I propose the 121 meeting is held on a Wednesday afternoon.'
6. Demonstrate some flexibility where needed.
For example, ‘the last Friday of every month is particularly busy for our team. Therefore, if needed, I will change the days I come into the office that week, to ensure I am there on a Friday.’
7. Highlight the trial period.
This is a fairly standard procedure for a new flexible working arrangement, however it is advisable to point this out as another benefit (that managers may or may not be familiar with). There is less risk attached to anything that comes with a trial period. Anything between 1 and 3 months is standard practice and gives enough time to test out the arrangement on both sides.
8. Show your willingness and enthusiasm to make this work – don’t be afraid to add a personal touch (in conversation and on your application form).
For example, ‘above all I am really passionate about my work and will perform to the best of my ability.’
9. Consider team performance as a whole, and not just individual output.
For example, ‘my strengths lie in client relationship management and John’s strength and area of passion is in new business development. As I will have 2 days less in the office, one suggestion may be that John takes on my new business development so I can focus my time on relationship development.’
*Please note this article will provide tips around the formal flexible working application process where a change will be made to your contract. Some people prefer to discuss more informal types of flexibility with their managers where no changes to contract are needed – for example working from home or starting and then leaving early a couple of nights a week.