How to ask your boss for flexible working

How to ask your boss for flexible working

11/13/2020

The world of work has been turned upside down this year and will no doubt impact companies for years to come.

Lots of employees have discovered that their work can be done remotely and it’s safe to say we’ve all learnt that most pre-coronavirus meetings would have worked as a simple email.

And younger generations, in particular, are hoping to see changes in the workplace as a result of the pandemic.

A recent study found that nearly nine in ten millennials now want a flexible working week, with 87% of workers aged between 25 and 34 saying they now expect some input into when and where they work.

Attitudes towards the way we work are certainly changing. So, if flexible working is one way to make a business more efficient and gain more employee satisfaction, then it seems like a shame not to?

After all, lots of companies already offer flexible working. But how do you approach the conversation with your boss?

Business experts have shared a few pointers to help you along…

Make flexible working a business request, not a personal one

‘If your employer isn’t sold on the idea of long-term flexible working, dial up the business benefits and make it about business value, not personal value,’ Nadya Powell, co-founder at culture-change business Utopia, tells Metro.co.uk.

Also think about the language you use – it could be key to getting your way.

She adds: ‘For example, “I want to leave earlier so I can do the school run” could be reframed as “to ensure I’m 100% focused on work for the entire day – and enable me to be more productive, support the team and be more effective – I’d like to flex my working hours around the school run.”’

Know your rights

Just in case you weren’t aware, it’s actually your legal right to request flexible working if you’ve been at a company for more than 26 weeks.

Emma Swan, head of commercial employment law at Forbes Solicitors, says: ‘It’s not just an arrangement reserved for parents or workers with care commitments, all employees have the legal right to request flexible working.  

‘If people want to request this, they will need to make a statutory application to their employer and should have been working continuously for the company for at least 26 weeks. 

‘An effective request for flexible working will consider the needs of the company, the practicalities of completing the job role flexibly and clearly show how a flexible week would look in terms of when the person will and won’t be working.’ 

But Emma stresses that employees need to be mindful that an employer can refuse the request for various business related reasons – so giving careful thought to these in making the request will help both sides to consider how a flexible working week could work in practice.

Nadya also suggests not to make a big deal out of the request. After all, it’s a completely normal thing.

Nadya adds: ‘An employee’s right to request flexible working has been part of UK law since the Equality Act of 2010. 

‘If your employer is still in the at-your-desk mindset, show them examples of companies that have implemented flexible frameworks and the benefits they’re reaping as a result.’

Identify if there are core hours and show flexibility if so 

Ultimately, your boss is going to want to see that you are keeping the needs of the business in mind – so it’s important to show flexibility with your request and demonstrate you’re willing to compromise and negotiate to make it work for both parties.

Nadya says: ‘If you have clients and stakeholders, you may have to block out the hours between 10am and 3pm to ensure they’re actually being serviced.

‘One option is to offer to work shorter hours some days, longer hours another. As long as you emphasise the fact that you’ll be available during core business hours, you can put your boss’ mind at ease.’

Ask for a trial period

‘Trial periods provide an excellent opportunity for the employer to see the proposal in action – check performance levels remain intact, that there is no reduction in customer service etc,’ says Yvonne Smyth, director of Hays Human Resources.

‘It also enables the employee to check they have the support they need from their manager, team and colleagues, to make the new arrangements successful.’

Also, why not suggest a 12-week review to discuss how flexible working is going for everyone involved.

Nadya says: ‘Offer to take stock of how flexible working is panning out three months down the line, as a way of analysing how it works not just for you, but for your team and employer. 

‘Your boss needs to feel they have a say in the matter – if you give them the option to evaluate how the trial has gone, you’re presenting them with solutions, not problems.’

Don’t be afraid to ask

Sometimes the thought of something can be much worse than the actual thing itself. You never know your boss might actually like the suggestion – but you won’t know unless you ask.

‘My view is if you don’t ask, you don’t get,’ says Liz Sebag-Montefiore, a career coach and Director of HR consultancy 10Eighty, says.

‘Some bosses like to see a “mini business strategy” to see what you think you can achieve working a flexible week as they like structure. Others prefer a more informal approach – it’s not a one size fits all approach.

‘The main thing your boss wants to know is that you can achieve your objectives within the hours you pick.’

Plan the time of day you ask

Timing is another key part of asking for flexible working – to make sure you catch your boss in a good, positive mood.

Liz Sebag-Montefiore adds: ‘Consider the time of day you ask your boss – morning is often best when your boss is more likely to be fresh; and look at your boss’s diary in advance – best to avoid a day that’s back to back as you want your boss in a more relaxed, reflective mood.’

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