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How to ask for flexibility: be the solution, not the problem

 

You’ve just been offered a new job. It’s full-time, but you would like to ask for flexibility. Raising this with the employer can feel like a bit of a minefield, but it doesn’t need to be. Put yourself on the front foot and be confident in your approach.

Be the solution

Ultimately, you need to lead on the solution and not the problem when you are looking to work flexibly. By doing the majority of the thinking, you will make it easier for the employer to agree to what you want. They will be far more responsive when presented with facts and proactive suggestions, as opposed to a simple request.

Think about the type of flexibility you need, work out how you can make it fit with the job, take a deep breath… and make your ‘business case’.

How to make a convincing ‘business case’

Prepare yourself by really thinking about the kind of flexibility you want. Then research the company, re-read the job description, and identify ways you can justify your request:

Asking to work 4 days… This is the hardest ask, but we’ll start with it because it’s also the most popular request from candidates. Broadly speaking, there are two types of situations where asking to work fewer days might work….

The first is when the employer has experience of part-time working, in the kind of role you’re applying for. You’ve researched that they have a sizeable workforce, with several people doing similar kinds of work. You’ve also researched that they have a positive reputation for people working part-time – so why not you? Your ask is simple, polite but confident, for example: “I’m aware this is a large department, and I believe you offer part-time working to many of your staff. Would it be possible to accept this job on a 4 day week basis?”

The second situation is where you can make a case based on your own experience, for example…

  • Have you already done a similar job in 4 days a week? If so you’re in a good place to persuade the employer you can do the same again, and explain how.
  • Or have you decided to apply for jobs well within your comfort zone, in order to get flexibility? If you can do a 5 day job in 4 days, it’s a win-win for you and the employer, as you’ll save them money while you get the flexibility you need.
  • Or are you applying for a senior job with line management responsibilities? Identify tasks that you feel you can delegate – delegation is good for the team as it develops their skills.

Compressed hours… This involves doing full-time hours per week, in fewer days. It gives you an extra day a week at home, and might be a more ‘digestible’ solution for your employer than part-time work.

Working from home… Are there parts of the job where you believe you can work remotely? Identify areas of work such as report writing, analysis, numbers work or even a regular telephone workload. You can make the case that you will be less distracted if you work on these tasks from home. And as these work outputs are measurable, your productivity will be transparent to the employer.

Flexible hours… Do you simply want to have flexibility over your start and finish times? Be clear about the timings you need and how you see it working in your role. This will often be easy to negotiate as long as you can be at work during agreed ‘core hours’.

Always use examples

Have you already worked flexibly in a previous role? If so, tell them about it. If not, cite examples of where flexible working has been successful, whether through colleagues or case studies. To help you, our employers’ page has a range of case studies of candidates working flexibly.

Negotiation and compromise

As you’ve applied for a full-time role, you should expect some degree of compromise. You’re asking the employer to see the role a little differently to how they envisaged, so be prepared to enter into negotiations. Think about what you want in an ideal world, but also consider the realities of what you’ll be happy to accept.

 
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