How to get flexible working

The good news is that Covid-19 has made flexible working more commonplace, but how do you convert that to a permanent change in the way you work?

Flexible Working


Flexible working is increasingly popular, particularly after the last few months when many people have got accustomed to working from home. As people start returning to the workplace, though, how do you secure flexible working for the future?

The good news is that it is likely to become more commonplace as employers realise that the move to working from home in many sectors was not as difficult as they thought and didn’t result in lost productivity generally – and in some cases raised productivity. However, some employers may be keen to return to the old five days in the office model. Getting the flexible working you want – whether it is reduced hours, compressed hours, some remote working or something different – is all about your negotiation skills.

Before you ask

  • Think carefully about what the job involves. Can the tasks be done differently – at a different time or from a different location?
  • Consider any additional costs or challenges – eg extra costs may be incurred for equipment, or job share hand over days perhaps – and how these could be addressed
  • Demonstrate how your work can successfully be carried out the new proposed working pattern
  • Show how this new pattern will not harm the business. Illustrate any business benefits which might result in the new working pattern
  • Find 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 your manager is dubious, you could suggesting a trial period
  • Have a compromise solution as a back-up.

Making a formal flexible working request

The process of applying for flexible working can seem daunting and complicated  and surveys have shows that the process puts many people off. Many people have informal agreements with their employer instead, but these are less secure. So if you need to work from home three days a week – and you don’t want that to be taken away if a new manager comes in, for instance – it is worth putting in a formal request.

So how do you get a successfully make a flexible working request?

One of the trickier aspects for employees is one of the provisions of the  flexible working legislation – that those applying for flexible working must explain how they think flexible working will affect their employer and their job, and how this could be dealt with. The idea behind this part of the legislation is that flexible working should be, where possible, a mutually beneficial arrangement for both employer and employee.

How can you argue your case?

So, how can you best argue your case for flexible working, if the main reason you want to change your hours is to manage caring responsibilities, or to ease into retirement gradually and have more free time to enjoy other pursuits? How do you make a business case for those kinds of reasons?

The best thing for you to do is to try and put yourself in the employer’s position and pre-empt any potential difficulties your request might bring to the business. For example, if your request requires you to have extra equipment so you can work from home some of the time, this might incur costs. Make sure you raise these, but justify them.

Try to illustrate how your work can successfully be carried out under your proposed new working pattern, and try to demonstrate how it will not harm the business.

If you can, you should point out any business advantages – for example, if working from home there might be aspects to your job that are better done without distraction, such as report reading or analysis. Try to find the positives for the business and present them along with your request.

Job sharing

If you are suggesting a job shares, the ideal scenario is if you have already found a job share partner. However, either way it is worth demonstrating how this might work in terms of handovers and communication with team members or clients. You could also research examples of successful job share partnerships, and how they have actually created business benefits – such as a wider skill set or experience brought to the role – for instance, giving the employer more or less two people’s experience for the price of one and cover for holiday periods.

Part-time working

If you are requesting dropping your hours to work part time, it is important to think through from a business perspective rather than a personal one which days might work best.

Perhaps there are certain days or hours which are quiet, and less cover is needed? Are there certain tasks that could be delegated allowing other staff the chance to act up? If your manager needs more convincing, you could suggest a trial period. However, if you opt for this ensure there is a proper review process.

Remember it is a negotiation

Take time to think through the tasks your job involves and whether they can be done differently, from a different location, at different times.

It is also good to have a back-up solution. For example, perhaps you could consider full time during busy periods, and part time at quieter times of the year?

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