Career Idea: Requesting Flexible Work Arrangements - Where to Start?
Working flexibly is becoming more common place in the world of work with organisations such as FlexCareers connecting talented individuals with progressive employers offering flexible work.
Before we consider how to ask for flexible working arrangements it’s important to consider what flexibility is. I have worked in a variety of flexible work arrangements including a 9 day fortnight, being able to start and finish early, being able to work from home and after starting a family a combination of 3 days, then 2. So working flexibly can be an informal or formal arrangement and can incorporate people transitioning to retirement, people seeking a mix of employment and entrepreneurial pursuits and caring responsibilities. What’s important to remember is that flexible working arrangements extend to all employees and is due to people wanting to make lifestyle choices.
Requesting flexibility can be a tricky conversation, especially if you feel this may not be looked upon favourably or is not the norm at your organisation, however, the key to asking is to be prepared and do your homework. Contemplate the following tips to get you started:
- Consider all of the options. It’s often easy to get fixated on what works best for you, but it’s important to think through several options to present to the business. This shows that you are also flexible in your approach and have thought through the impact on the business.
- Be realistic. Put yourself in the shoes of your manager/organisation. Can the flexible work arrangements really work in with the objectives of the role and organisation?
- Do your research. Have other people inside and/or outside the organisation/industry successfully worked flexibly? What was this experience like? What things have people learnt and what has been the positive impact on the team, individual and department.
- Applying for a new position. If your applying for a position that states the role is flexible, it is vital to make contact with the organisation to clarify what flexibility may look like in this role and how flexible is flexible. This not only gives you a chance to clarify the working arrangements, but to also build a relationship with the organisation. I wouldn’t suggest going in full guns blazing asking about flexibility, but ease it into the conversation.
- Trial the flexible working arrangements. In some circumstances it can be a good idea to set a review period, such as 3 or 6 months to see how things are working. This can work well for the business as it takes away the permanency of the arrangement.
Flexible work arrangements and maternity leave. Often when we are going on maternity leave we have a half-hearted conversation with our manager suggesting that we would like to return to work in a flexible work arrangement when we return. It can be difficult at this stage to know what you may require when you return and what will work with the organisation, but it can be well worth the effort to put more thought into this and undertaking some of the steps above prior to commencing leave.
For flexibility to become the norm, it needs to be available to everyone who can get value from it. Many organisations and individuals have successfully implemented flexible working arrangements through carefully designed and well-though-out programs; however, this takes time, effort and resources, and more importantly flexibility from both sides.
Leanne is a highly experienced career management specialist with more than 15 years’ practice working across a range of industries and with a diverse range of individuals including graduates, return to work parents, people experiencing redundancy, indigenous communities and individuals experiencing career cross-roads. Leanne provides career and interview coaching, job search and networking strategies and can work with you to enhance or develop your cover letter, resume and LinkedIn profile. She can be contacted through email@example.com