How to build a case for flexible working?
Creating a proposal for a flexible working request is more than a tick box exercise; you need to think of it as a negotiation start point. If I could wave my magic wand, ALL organisations would have flexible working as the norm. Whilst wonderful campaigns such as Mother Pukka’s #FlexAppeal and Timewise’s HireMeMyWay are moving towards a more open minded approach to how and where we work, for many Mums, the flexible working request is the only way to currently access the work-life balance you need.
The best advice I can give you is a flexible working request must be considered a negotiation, even a sales document; with you being the product! Having been witness to many over the years, within large and small businesses, I would love to share with you some hints and tips, to increase the odds of you getting the outcome you desire
Borrow the Manager’s Hat
Currently the law allows for a variety of business needs (such as increased cost or customer demand) as a reason to reject an application. Use this information to make sure you highlight your awareness of issue or challenges a change in working pattern may create and then provide the solutions as part of your flexible working request!
The areas that many of my coaching clients forget to include are the impact on your team, availability / contact and workload. How do you imagine these would be overcome? If you supervise a team, how will they manage if you are not physically there? You don’t need all the answers, but you need to show you have kept your colleagues and clients in mind, and suggest solutions within your request.
No-one knows your role better than you do. Use this information! Think of all the times you have lamented about processes or procedures; what changes can you suggest to not only support the shift in your working hours, but also help the team? Use your experience of the role to provide a platform for new ideas and innovation. Could process changes be implemented to streamline your duties and support reduced hours?
Take the lead
Creating a flexible working request is a great opportunity to take control of how success is measured within your career. Review your role, make sure you consider ALL of your duties and how your job success is measured (such as KPIs or the goals you are set as part of annual reviews). Use the flexible working request proactively work your job success being based on what you do (your output) rather than how long your spend there (the hours) or where you are (your location)
Be a number cruncher
Use facts and figures to show you know when the peaks and troughs of demand or workload are. If you are looking to change hours or reduce days this may help show that you can still support the needs of the organisation and its customers. Are Friday afternoons relatively quiet? Do the school holidays impact the workload of a team? Think about where or who you could get this information from and how best you can use it.
Be a Team Player
If you are looking to reduce your hours/days or adjust your working pattern, could this change provide an opportunity to a colleague? Sharing or delegating some of your responsibilities would not only support your flexible work pattern, but also provide a workmate with development opportunities.
Consider the Cost
For all businesses, including not-for-profit and public sector, costs savings and efficiencies are a hot topic in Management Meetings! Include in your flexible working request how the change in working pattern could make or save money, or even expand the services the company can offer. Areas could include:
· changing salary costs if you go pro-rata/part-time,
· expanding core hours to support overseas clients (if you change your working pattern)
· Reduce the carbon footprint by working from home
· Increase productivity by increasing your “core hours” by working remotely
It is important to also consider where it could increase costs; for example job sharing increases the Employer National Insurance employers pay.
Start the conversations before you apply!
This will depend on the culture of your team and company, but if you feel comfortable, speak to your manager before you submit your request. This may even be before you leave for your maternity or parental leave.
You never know what is going on behind the scenes and you may be surprised about the level of support and guidance you will be offered if you are open and honest. For example, could you trial the pattern with holiday in advance as a way of strengthening your request and to see if potential objections are grounded?
It is important that you are able to clearly show your employer how this will work, so make sure you know what you mean by flexible working. Is it a job-share, condensed hours, part-time or remote working.
Bear in mind, no employer wants to lose a trusted, valued team member, so as part of the flexible working request discussions, a “compromise” may be proposed; a hopeful middle ground between your old working hours and the proposal. What is your compromise? Could you condense your working week in to longer days and shorter weeks? Could you work at home for part of the week?
Good luck! Remember everyone has the right to apply and be treated fairly, so please, if you feel you haven’t been treated this way, take advice from a trusted source such as www.acas.org.uk
Clara Wilcox is a straight talking, practical and experienced coach helping clients navigate the tricky waters of returning to work, career changes and professional development. The Balance Collective is a social enterprise focused on improving the lives of parents, by working together to build inner confidence and promote a healthy work/life balance. Find out more through www.thebalancecollective.co.uk
As part of her “Fast and Focused” package, she offers a Flexible Working Request Review. Here, she puts on her “Manager’s Hat”, reviews your draft flexible working request to increase your chance of getting a “Yes”, including a 45 minutes 1-2-1 session. For Mums Enterprise, she is offering this at a special rate of £50 for the first 10 people! Sign up here to find out more. http://eepurl.com/bXsv1b
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