future of work

Guide to having a flexible work conversation

Guide to having a flexible work conversation

WORK180Nov 21, 2019

Regardless of whether you’re a parent returning to work or seeking better work/life balance, you have a legal right in the UK to request flexible working, providing you’ve worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks.

Here’s some tips on how to have an effective conversation with your manager and negotiate flexible working arrangements.

Be prepared Before diving head first into the request, Pat Caldwell, Head of People at one of WORK180’s endorsed employers FundApps, recommends putting genuine thought into how the flexible arrangement will work.

“To set things up for success, it’s important to think through the routines, infrastructure and support you need for a new flexible work arrangement, prior to having the conversation,” he says. Gabriela Matias, People Partner and D&I Lead of endorsed employer GoCardless, agrees. She also encourages you to be clear on what flexible working means for you. “Is it four days a week, different working hours or remote working?”

Explaining why you’re requesting a flexible work arrangement is also valuable.

“If a manager understands the reason for the request, they can help explore options to support the employee, especially if the initial request wouldn’t be immediately possible,” says Matias.

Prepare for possible questions

Beforehand, think about any questions your employer might have to your flexible work request and how you’ll respond. For example, how might the arrangement impact your clients and team, and what could you or your workplace do to minimise the impact?

“The key things we want to ensure before commencing a flexible work arrangement is what support or changes are needed to best facilitate the arrangement, such as setting up technology at home or arranging more inclusive meeting times,” says Caldwell.

“We also want to understand any flow-on impacts to the team, so these can be proactively worked through.”

As part of your preparation, Matias recommends looking at how others within the organisation work flexibly. “How do they make it work? Do they use different communication methods? And how do they communicate their working hours?”

Overcoming resistance

If you experience resistance from your manager, Caldwell suggests a trial or staggered approach to prove the arrangement’s effectiveness.

“Pick a limited time period, set some success measures and agree on a feedback loop,” he advises.

A trial is also a good first step if your workplace doesn't have a formal flexible work policy or if you’re one of the first to work flexibly.

“If you’re the first employee in your team or organisation to make a flexible working request, be prepared to find gaps and educate people,” says Matias. “People will message and email you on your day off, but as email auto-reply re-iterates when and how you work, people will gradually adapt.”

Be confident!

There’s plenty of evidence that shows flexible work leads to a whole jackpot of benefits for businesses, including increased productivity, competitive advantage and reduced staff turnover, not to mention happier and healthier employees. And technology is making it much easier for employees to work remotely without impediment, so be confident in making your request.

“Companies are becoming increasingly supportive of work that doesn't fit the Monday to Friday 9-5 mould – and rightfully so!”, Caldwell encourages.

So, you’ve done your homework, you have your plan ready and you’re able to clearly articulate how it’s going to work – now it’s time to book a meeting with your manager.

About the author



WORK180 is an international jobs network that connects smart businesses with talented women. We pre-screen every employer on our jobs board to see where they stand on pay equity, flexible working, paid parental leave, equal opportunities and a range of other criteria. We also take into account diversity initiatives focusing on age, ability, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

The information we uncover is made public on our website, so that everyone knows what to expect from each employer before applying for a job. We continually review and evolve our pre-screening criteria to ensure workplaces are fair and equal for everyone.

To help women find a workplace that will work for them, we prescreen employers on their gender pay gap data, parental leave policies, flexible working, and more. Find your next role on the WORK180 job board.

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