The world is changing at an incredibly rapid pace – and so is the way we work and our definition of the workplace. Gone are the days when a job was simply something you did from nine to five. We’re always connected and work is never far from our minds. We check our work emails over our morning coffee, think of project ideas on the go and attend networking events in the evenings.
The lines between work and our personal lives have become increasingly blurred, so it’s important we take measures to ensure we have a healthy work/life balance. Our recent Employment Monitor found that many companies are implementing flexible work arrangements, such as compressed work weeks, job sharing, flexi-time and telecommuting, to encourage employee well-being and increase morale. But what if your employer doesn’t offer these solutions?
Why you should ask for flexibility
Bringing up flexibility with your boss can be nerve-wracking but it’s definitely worthwhile. Flexibility is mutually beneficial for both you and your employer. If you didn’t have that two-hour daily commute or got time off to spend with your children once a week, chances are you’d feel happier in your job and more energised in the office.
Eric Severson, Head of HR at Gap, deemed flexibility the “holy grail of talent management”, saying it raised productivity by 22%. Similarly, JP Morgan Chase found that 95% of employees working in a flexible environment feel motivated to exceed expectations. Having a more flexible work schedule would mean you are more productive and rested in the workplace, hitting targets and meeting deadlines like never before.
Make a plan
Before you broach the subject, write a detailed plan of your proposed flexible working structure. This should answer any questions your manager might have, including how you will account for your workload and achieve your goals. Be realistic about what you can and cannot achieve.
If you want to work from home, you will need to have a suitable work station and equipment. You will also need to be able to maintain frequent communication with your manager, colleagues and clients. Having a written plan implies the seriousness of your request and makes rejection less likely. It also means that your manager has a document to refer to when answering questions if higher-level approval is required.
Meet with your boss
Arrange a meeting with your employer to discuss the plan and argue your case. It’s a good idea to drop them a quick email beforehand so they know what’s on your mind and don’t feel blindsided. In the meeting, focus the company’s needs, not yours. Underline why flexibility will make you more productive in the office and improve your output – it might be because you feel less stressed, more rested or actually have extra time to do your job.
Don’t focus on the negatives – unless you’re very close, your boss probably doesn’t care about whether you hate your commute or are struggling to balance your workload with family life. Instead, highlight how you’ll be more productive and engaged thanks to your shiny new flexibility plan.
Suggest a trial period
If your manager seems reluctant, acknowledge their concerns and be prepared to negotiate. Your employer needs to be able to defend your flexible work schedule so it’s important they are fully on board. A trial period of a few weeks or months is a good idea – this allows you both to try out the new structure and make sure it’s still working. Work hard during this period to meet all of your deadlines, put your hand up for new projects and generally be the best employee you can be.
Don’t give up all hope If your employer dismisses your plan altogether. He or she may be a better position to grant you more flexibility in the future. Ask any colleagues with flexible working hours for advice and try a slightly different approach at a later date.
Flexible work structures are becoming more widely accepted – your employer has probably already been approached by a colleague who wants to work from home, shift their work hours slightly or have a four day week. If you think a bit more flexibility could help you do your job better and improve your happiness, then it’s definitely worth bringing up. A courteous employer will take the time to listen to your request and do their best to create a situation that works for you.