Flexible working is seen as the gold standard in keeping staff happy and productive. Not all companies, though, have cottoned on just yet. If your company is still in the dark regarding flexible work schedules, you might wonder how you can convince your boss to grant you a more flexible work arrangement than you had before you became a parent.
Flexible working requests are rising as workers aim for greater work-life balance. It’s not just parents of young children switching to a flexible work schedule; the 9 to 5 is falling out of favor for other demographics. Flexible schedules work better for people who care for elderly parents, those who have returned to study part-time and people who are happy living on a part-time wage so they can enjoy more free time.
Thanks to the pandemic, many companies are now taking an open-minded approach to working patterns and remote working. More companies now allow employees to work from home and skip the tedious commute. This is great for parents because it wastes less time during the day.
Working from home might mean you can pick your kids up from the nursery and save money on childcare costs. In addition, reduced working hours might make you happier to rely on family help from elderly parents rather than spend money on excessive childcare fees.
If you’re getting ready to return to work after your maternity leave, you might be wondering how to get your boss to agree to a flexible work schedule. It sounds beneficial to you, but how can you sell the idea to your boss as a win for everybody?
Keep reading to find out how to help your boss see the positives in flexible working arrangements for new parents.
Returning to work: the emotions
Whether you’re returning to work because you need the money or because you love your job, you’re bound to have mixed emotions about the transition back to your working life. On the one hand, you could be excited about returning to the career that makes you feel like you. You might be excited about using the professional part of your brain again, enjoying a hot coffee in peace and having extra money in your pocket.
However, you’re likely to be feeling some negative emotions, too. Perhaps you’re worried about whether you’ll have lost your touch at work. You might be nervous about doing your job when you’re surviving on so little sleep. You might be feeling mom guilt about returning to work and delegating some of the childcare.
Whatever you’re feeling, know that you’re not alone. Many other moms share your anxieties as they navigate their return to work and try to juggle their work and family commitments.
What is flexible working?
A flexible work arrangement deviates from the 9 to 5 work pattern. It’s a way of making working hours work for the company and its employees. Many companies now realize that a happier workforce is a more productive workforce.
Flexible working can mean flexible hours: you work when it suits you. Many companies will have core hours all employees are expected to work but you can make up other hours outside of these times.
Flexible working could mean a later start so you can do the nursery run. Or it could mean an early start and early finish so you can pick your kids up from school. It could also mean working longer hours during term time so you can take time off during the school holidays. For many parents of younger children, it means compressing full-time hours into four days so you can have a day off each week.
The whole point of flexible working is that it’s flexible. That means your flexible working agreement might not look like anybody else’s. It will be a compromise between you and your employer to achieve a balance that works for both you and the company.
Only you will know what alterations to your work schedule will benefit you, so you need to decide for yourself which changes to pursue. However, it’s worth talking to other parents, people working in Human Resources, and other employees at your company, to see what the options are for a flexible work schedule.
For more tips on returning to work, look at Going Back To Work After Baby – 5 Tips For A Smooth Transition.
How to negotiate for flexible work hours
If you’re about to put in your request for flexible working, you’re probably wondering how you can get what you want. Here are some tips to help with negotiating flexible work arrangements that work for you:
Have a written proposal prepared and detail precisely what you’re asking for. Being vague or casual will lead to confusion and misunderstandings, so starting with a written document, presented at an in-person meeting with your boss, is best.
Work out what you need and want
You might not get everything you ask for, so figure out which things you need and which you want. For example, if you need to be back in time to pick your child up from nursery on Thursdays because you don’t have other options, make this clear.
Determine which things you’re willing to compromise on before starting negotiations. Hopefully, with a bit of give and take, you’ll be able to negotiate flexible work hours that work for you.
Let them know you’re still committed to your work
Just because you’re asking for flexible working arrangements doesn’t mean you won’t work hard. The whole point of flexible working is that it allows the company to get the best out of you while you strike a balance between work and other commitments. So let work know you’re excited to return and are looking forward to getting stuck in.
Let them know why it will work better for you and them
It’s ok that you have other commitments now. You don’t need to hide this; it’s a good idea to be honest with your boss. If you find it easier to work flexibly, let them know. Explain what the benefits are to you and how you think the changes could benefit the company.
Offer a trial period
If your boss is reluctant to agree to the changes, it’s worth suggesting a trial period. Agree to a two-month trial to see whether flexible working works for both parties. The trial will allow you to transition back to work, too, and figure out whether the changes will work.
Consider the implications for your colleagues
If you are a manager, you must consider how your flexible working pattern will affect those you manage. How will you manage them effectively part-time or remotely? Think through how you will do your job with added flexibility. What will change? How will you make it work for everybody around you?
Give yourself time to think
It’s helpful to troubleshoot, in advance, the potential difficulties your employer is likely to raise. This will make sure you have an answer for each thing that comes up. However, if the boss throws up something you haven’t considered, don’t feel you have to solve it on the spot. It’s ok to say you need time to think it through.
Be willing to compromise
If you’re the first to request flexible working, your employer might have reservations. You might have to compromise and find an arrangement that works for everyone. It’s ok to compromise; this isn’t a one-time thing. You can always renegotiate in the future once you’ve proved that flexible working can benefit the company.
What to do if your flexible work request is denied
You’ll probably feel frustrated if your boss denies your flexible working request. Although some companies might struggle to accommodate flexible working, others are stuck in the past and unwilling to change. Unfortunately, it’s up to your boss whether you’ll be allowed to change your work patterns when you return to work.
If your request is denied, you have a few options. First, you can try taking the request higher within the company, if you feel this could make a difference. Second, you could see what flexible working options companies like yours offer, to show your boss that it is possible in your industry. Finally, you could look for another job if you feel strongly about finding a better work-life balance.
Unfortunately, whether or not you are granted flexible working is up to your boss. Hopefully, your professional history will encourage the employer to be flexible in creating a work environment that works well for you.
How to request flexible working at a new job
If you’re starting at a new company, you might be wondering when you should mention your desire to work flexibly. The answer depends upon the kind of company you’re applying to work for. If it’s a company that advertises flexible work arrangements and part-time roles, it probably has processes in place to accommodate your wishes and your request is more likely to be welcomed.
However, if you’re applying for a full-time role at a more traditional company, you’ll need to decide when to mention it. If you mention it on your application form, it may deter them from inviting you to interview. However, if you mention it too late and they can’t accommodate you, they could feel frustrated you didn’t raise the matter sooner.
You’ll need to decide for yourself when to mention the idea of working flexibly. Some people mention it during an in-person interview, whereas others prefer to wait until they have a job offer.
Returning to work as a breastfeeding mother
If you’re still breastfeeding, it could affect your return to work. You might need a private place to pump in the office. If so, you should request this at your back-to-work meeting with your employer. Remote working might be helpful if you have a breastfed baby, as it will enable you to stay closer to your baby so you can be there for feeds during the day, if necessary.
For more advice, take a look at Returning To Work And Breastfeeding – 8 Tips To Help.
If you’re returning to work soon and are considering childcare options, check out 5 Important Things To Consider When Choosing Childcare.