How to make your case for flexible working
Whether you’re seeking a brand-new role or negotiating with your current employer, it’s important to think through how you’ll make your case for flexible working. This means, being clear about how the company will benefit from the arrangement you’re asking for. Here’s how to do it.
Draw on your previous success
If you’ve worked flexibly in the past, this is the best place to start. Your previous experience will act as evidence for your 'business case'. Think back over your most recent flexible role and how your arrangement worked in practice. For example, perhaps you worked from home during the pandemic and felt that for certain types of tasks you could be more productive in your role?
If you haven’t worked flexibly in the past, you can highlight other people’s experiences. There are many success stories of individuals who make a huge impact on their employers, without being tied to their desk for 40 hours every week.
How much of the role can be done from home?
During lockdown, home-working became the new normal for almost all office jobs, with partial home-working for many others. And even as offices start to reopen 'fully', the outlook for most businesses is a mix of home and office-based work. So a request for this aspect of flexible working is unlikely to trouble your employer.
Nevertheless, it always helps to be prepared; so it's a good idea to identify the tasks within the role that can easily be done from home. You may also want to be able to articulate the benefits that working remotely will bring to your employer, such as:
- Fewer distractions, which means you’ll be more productive
- It’s easier to make phone calls and talk with clients in a noise-free environment
- Financial benefits, including a reduction in office space and carbon footprint.
Consider how part-time could benefit the employer
If you’re happy to be office-based but seeking part-time or adjusted hours, the same point applies; think about how it could benefit the employer.
For example, if the role is in a small business, and you are more senior than it requires, you would probably be able to deliver all the outputs they need in fewer days. So you could explain that they would get a more highly-skilled employee, who would need less managing, for the same budget.
Similarly, if you’re asking to work a full day, but start and finish early, you could note that this would provide cover for the office phones before the formal start of the working day. Or if you’re pitching to work as a job share, you could note the reasons why two heads are often better than one.
Back up your argument with facts and stats
It’s also worth having a few facts up your sleeve to back up your case. For example, in research, three-quarters of respondents reported that flexible working improves their productivity. In the same survey, employees who work from home felt significantly less anxious or stressed than office-based colleagues.
There’s also evidence about the impact of flexible working on issues such as wellbeing and motivation, which might support your case.
Remove the emotion from your business case
There are often personal and emotional reasons why a more flexible working schedule is more beneficial than the standard nine-to-five. It could be that you have child or elder care to consider, that you have a health issue, or maybe you’re looking to take a step back before you retire.
Whatever the reason, be sure to remove the emotion when you’re making your case for flexible working. Remember, this isn’t about you. It’s really about how your proposed arrangement will benefit your employer. And, as with any business case, the facts should speak for themselves and emotion should never play a part.
Offer flexibility in return
Flexibility works both ways. If you’re looking for a true partnership with your employer, you should make it clear that you’re prepared to give as good as you get. For example, it could be that you’re keen to work three days per week, but you would be needed in the office on one of your days off for the monthly team meeting. If that’s the case, you should be clear that you would be happy to swap your working days for those weeks so you can make the meeting.
By offering to be flexible in return, you’ll show your employer that working flexibly won’t stop you being a dedicated member of the team.
Think about the best time to make your case
Finally, to give yourself the best chance of success, choose carefully when to make your case for flexible working. And when the time comes, be honest about what you want and why you want it, and be clear about how you feel this arrangement will benefit you both. Your honesty will help remove any ambiguity and pave the way for an excellent relationship. Good luck!