Anna Meller, a work-life balance specialist, offers her advice on how to negotiate flexible working, as a returner.
On 30 June 2014 the legal right to request flexible working was extended to cover all employees after 26 weeks' service. Many forward thinking employers have already embraced the benefits of flexible arrangements and extended these to new joiners. While this is good news for returners and everyone concerned about their work-life balance, an employer is still able to refuse a request if they believe it will have an adverse impact on their business.
Preparation is key
Time spent preparing to negotiate - reviewing your desired working arrangements and the potential business benefits of working flexibly - will be time well spent. Before you start attending interviews, develop a compelling business case that can provide a foundation for future negotiations.
Building your business case
Begin by clearly identifying the key skills and experience that make you valuable to an employer. This will not only enable you to craft a flexible role from one that’s full time, it will also enhance your confidence as you begin negotiating. In every job there are specialist tasks that will require your skills and experience and more general ones that could be delegated or eliminated.
Questions to consider
- To what extent could your new job allow time and location flexibility? How will you manage the work/non-work interface?
- Will you always need to be in the office to carry out every aspect of your role (an increasingly unlikely proposition with technology) or can you do some of your work at home?
- What additional support will you need to be able to work from home?
- What’s the likely impact on your workplace colleagues, your clients and customers?
- How can you minimise the disruptions to them and ensure smooth working arrangements?
- Are you happy to receive calls and emails from colleagues outside working hours or do you guard non-work time for non-work activities?
And, finally, but most importantly, how will the business benefit from you working flexibly?
By now you should have a clearer picture of your preferred flexible working arrangement and the business benefits. While you may not always be able to work to your preferences, understanding them will enable you to agree clearer ground rules with your future boss and colleagues.
It’s also useful to have a fall-back position. Are there alternative arrangements which might also suit you, or issues on which you could compromise?
Having completed this ground work you’re ready to begin negotiating.
When to start negotiating
It’s best to be upfront about your need for flexible hours. Raise the matter at the end of your first interview. The response you get will give you a good indicator of the organisation’s cultural attitude towards flexible working.
Rather than starting with a request for a specific arrangement, begin with questions. Almost every organisation now has a flexible working policy, so ask what arrangements the policy covers. What options are there for arrangements not covered by the policy? What experience does your potential manager have of managing flexible workers? Is there anyone else in the team already working flexibly?
The time to discuss the details of your preferred arrangement is when the organisation asks you back for second interview. Make it clear that, while you have a preferred option, you’re open to negotiation. And don’t feel you need to agree to an arrangement there and then. If you need time to consider alternative suggestions ask for one or two days to mull things over.
For further support
A series of forms that can help you in your planning can be found on my website here: http://www.sustainableworking.co.uk/negotiating_flexible_working.htm
By Anna Meller