Our Senior Coach Kate Mansfield, spoke to Louise Deverell-Smith, founder of Daisy Chain about the subject.
We know that when you are returning to work, concerns about how to balance life (which may include continuing caring responsibilities) with work again are a concern for many individuals.
Louise Deverill-Smith, who founded a platform to connect parents with flexible employers, talked to Kate about the shift in perspective she has seen from many employers and shares some of her top tips about how to approach the subject when returning to work.
Louise says “Whilst flexible working is not necessarily the norm as yet, it is definitely not the taboo subject that it once was. Many employers now offer agile working, which encourages flexible working and hot-desking. Many of our clients are thriving as they attract and retain great people, offer a productive and supportive working environment and generate respect and gravitas along the way”.
However Louise very much appreciates that many women (and men) find approaching the subject of flexibility daunting, and that this is particularly difficult for those seeking to gain a foothold back into an organisation following an extended break.
Louise shares with us some of her top tips on ways to approach the subject:
Really know what you’re asking for
Flexibility can take many different shapes and forms and certainly doesn’t necessarily mean part-time. Consider carefully what options may work for you and then consider how you can make that work for your employer.
For example, map out the various options and consider them fully:
Be aware of the difference between formal and informal flexibility and what might be possible at the discretion of an open minded and supportive Manager.
- Do you want to condense your hours to have a Friday off? Work out exactly what this looks like. Could you reduce a lunch break to work a shorter day later in the week in order to make this possible?
- Does starting early and leaving early meet your needs?
- Could 1 or 2 days of home working make the difference to you?
- Can you build in a review period so that you can trial the new arrangement?
Manage business worries
When some employers hear the words ‘flexible working’, they automatically associate that with reduced productivity, time out the office and an impact on their commercial outcome. Ensure your proposal considers all critical aspects from a team perspective and present your proposal as a business case solution, which has thought about any elements that the employer may see as a risk.
Reassure them that even if your hours are less, the output will meet the needs of the job (put it in a spreadsheet if necessary), that your time in the office will be nothing but productive and that you are dedicated to your role and the company.
Consider your timing
Many individuals worry about when to raise the subject of flexibility and worry that not raising it at interview could go against them later on when they might wish to revisit the subject. Louise agrees that it is important to only raise it once an employer is aware of your skills, experience and value to them - lead with that in the conversation. Some routes back to work such as a returnship will offer the chance for you to trial the ways you prefer to work and present an opportunity later in the programme to re-visit this and potentially change the way that you work. Equally if important to you to start with a level of flexibility from the outset, do your due diligence on the employer and their working culture and go in with an informed expectation of how it is likely to work in this environment. Don’t be afraid to raise it with the same tips above in mind – a solution-focused approach that emphasises the skills you bring and practical solutions for how you will deliver.
Remember why you’re asking for it
Always keep the reason you’re asking for flexible working at the forefront of your mind. It might be to help with childcare, to save costs or to just give you a better work/life balance – whatever it is, know that this is the overriding reason that this is important to you and this is your driver for making it work for both you and your employer.
Louise Deverell-Smith is founder of Daisy Chain - a free online platform for parents where they can match and connect with flexible employers to enhance their careers and work-life balance.
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