How can I request flexible working – and get it?

Your question:

I want to ask for flexible working but when I mentioned it to my manager she said that wasn’t possible because they couldn’t make me a special case. I understand how to request flexibility formally, but what’s the best way of approaching it to help increase my chances of success?

Our answer:

I’m so glad you’ve asked me this question, as it’s become an increasingly common challenge for employees in light of the recent changes in the flexible working laws.

As a career and confidence coach, I’ve worked with hundreds of mums to help them secure flexible roles that fit around the needs of their family.

How to negotiate flexibility with your employer

So here are my six top tips on how to successfully negotiate flexibility with your employer.

1) Be confident

One of the most powerful tools in your negotiating arsenal is a positive mindset. So often employees ask their employer for flexible working in an apologetic way – by adopting this subservient tone you are simply handing the power into the hands of your employer.

The same is true if you position your request by saying “I’m feeling too stressed” or “I’m just not coping” – this can put doubt in your employer’s mind about your ability which may risk your career progression in the medium to long term.

Instead remember to be positive and state how keen you are to stay with the firm.  You can then begin the process of finding a way of working that will be successful for both parties.

2) Sell the idea

Take the time to plan out your rationale for flexibility before your meeting. This way you can outline the employer benefits of offering flexible working to your manager.

Some of the more obvious advantages are retaining talented and experienced employees, building loyalty, saving cost – to name just a few!

3) Be specific

Some employers panic when they initially hear requests for flexibility, especially if they are concerned about setting precedents for other employees. So be clear about what you are asking for.

Explain to your boss your specific request in terms of days and hours.  Discuss your place of working – for example do you want to work from home one day a week? This way your employer will be clear on proposed changes and you can start working together to come up with a plan that is mutually beneficial.

4) Focus on the solution

I always advise my clients to adopt a solution-orientated approach when they ask for flexibility. By this I mean you need to outline what value added activities your employer can still expect from you and how you’d manage the tasks you won’t have time to do.

The secret is to think creatively about what could be done differently – for example, can reports be automated, more basic tasks delegated or is a job share an option?

5) Anticipate any potential issues

Try to plan ahead by thinking about your request from your employer’s point of view. Ask yourself what likely push-backs they are going to have and how you are going to handle them confidently and proactively?

6) Finally, remember to reciprocate

It is also advisable to offer some flexibility in order to get some in return! So, occasionally, be prepared to swap a day to attend a very important meeting or go to an evening networking event – that way it doesn’t feel like a one-way street.

The added bonus is that it’ll reduce your sense of guilt when you want to swap your hours so you can attend your children’s sports days and school assemblies.

Answered by our career agony aunt Fiona Clark from Inspired Mums. If you have a question you’d like Fiona to answer, please email her or call her on 07789 597209. If you feel you’ve lost your sense of career direction or lack confidence, contact Fiona for a FREE 30 minute 1-2-1 consultation.

Need more advice? Download Inspired Mums’ free e-book For mums stuck in a career rut – 8 steps to finding work you love on their website. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter