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How to negotiate flexible work arrangements

By Alison Rodericks

We all have different reasons for seeking flexible work: further studies, parenting duties, ill health, caring for aged parents, or even the need to have a better work/life balance. You’d love to work part-time or job-share but how do you negotiate the terms and conditions with your employer? How do assure your boss and colleagues that you are still committed to your role and will not fall into slacking off?

The fact is, the best way to get a part-time job is to actually create it in your own position. A boss who knows your work ethic, your skill set and your dedication to the job is more likely to endorse your request to go part-time. Businesses know that if they are to retain good staff, they need to offer flexible working conditions which could be in the form of part-time work, flexi hours, working from home or job sharing. Whatever the case, here’s how to make your dream part-time job a reality.

How to negotiate flexible working hours 

  1. Do your research.
  2. Make your request clear.
  3. Help them want to help you.
  4. Remain open.

young woman talking on phone in home office

1. Do your research.

These days, most employee-friendly companies recognise the struggle staff members face trying to juggle household duties with work. Many organisations are stepping up to the challenge, providing flexible working arrangements to their employees by offering job-share, part-time work or work from home opportunities.

Studies show that staff who take up flexi work are usually very productive, getting more done in shorter hours. Look up the company’s policy towards flexible working arrangements. If you can’t find it online, speak to an HR manager or employees within the company. Find out about company’s work culture: Is the manager open to flexible hours or are they a stickler for time-sheets? Does the organisation have structures in place to let you work from home? Does the company have a family-friendly policy?

2. Make your request clear.

If you believe you have good reasons to request going part-time, have a meeting with your boss. Write down a plan so that you’re clear and concise when you put forth your case. Your proposal should include why you need a flexible work arrangement, how it will benefit your organisation and how you will achieve your set targets and workload. You should be prepared to answer any questions your employer has, so spend some time considering what their concerns might be and how you can allay them. For instance, you need to provide a time frame for these flexible work arrangements so that they can plan accordingly: is it short-term (to take care of a sick parent) or indefinitely (to raise a family)?

man working on his laptop

3. Help them want to help you.

Remember, job-share arrangements are negotiations that need to work for both parties involved. Be proactive and seek solutions that benefit everybody – you, your family and your employer. If you brainstorm and come up with viable solutions, you are more likely to gain flexible work.

Take a serious look at your life and work habits. Are you the kind of person who needs the structure of an office environment to be productive? In that case, flexible work is probably not for you. On the other hand, flexible work can work for you if you can do your tasks quite easily from home without the need to be in the office for meetings. Do you have family commitments (small children/sick parents) on certain days of the week? If so, could you work longer hours on certain days and shorter hours on others? Or, will a later start time allow you to drop the kids at daycare or school?

pregnant young woman with glasses working

4. Remain open.

Offer to try the flexible schedule on a trial basis until all teething problems are sorted. Also, if you have the ability to keep your working days/hours fairly flexible, it helps your case. If you are given the opportunity for flexible work, make sure you stick to project deadlines and attend important events such as meetings or training to show your professionalism.

For instance, if you are returning to work after maternity leave and can only work two days a week, but your boss wants you to work three, suggest that you work longer hours on those two days or work from home for the third day. Once your baby grows, you can slowly increase your days of work in the office from two to three and more. 

Of course, any of the various flexible working arrangements are not possible, you might need to look elsewhere. However, the good news is that most companies are more inclined to retain than retrain, as it’s good for their bottom line. 

Remember, as an employee with flexible work arrangements, you also have the perfect opportunity to take advantage of online learning to ensure you do not fall behind professionally. Upskilled offers over 100 nationally accredited courses all delivered online to be done at your convenience.

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