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Flexible Working – The Where, When and How

The world of flexible working has evolved over the last two years as the ‘work from home’ mandate demonstrated how productive remote working could be. With more and more people seeking flexibility foremost over salary for a better work life balance, employers and government are taking notice! But with only 27% of jobs being advertised as ‘open to flexibility’ and 84%+ people seeking flexibility (according to Timewise research), how can you ensure you get the flexibility you need as you return to work?

Nikki Slowey, Co-Founder of Flexibility Works had some great tips for members of our Women Returners Professional Network in a webinar we co-hosted.

While employers may not have explicitly stated that a new role is open to flexibility, they may well be happy to consider it for the right candidate. This is even more likely at the moment, as vacancies are at their highest level since 2001.

The three pillars of flexibility

When considering flexibility, Nikki advised that you think about what flexibility you need. What are the responsibilities you have that you need to consider as you return to work? Taking this into account, the three areas to reflect on are:

Where you want to work – at home, in the office, at the client site, in a shared work space

When you want to work – 9-5, core hours but flex to start or finish early/late, compressed hours, term time

How much you want to work – full time, part time, annualised hours

Within this, Nikki advises that it’s important to think about both your non-negotiables and your negotiables. For example your non-negotiable may be that you want to work part time, but your negotiable may be that you’re happy to flex the days you work according to your employer’s needs. Given that flexible working needs to work for both the employee and employer, a level of flexibility on your part is highly recommended.

When to ask about flexibility?

While the statutory right for all employees to request flexibility kicks in after 26 continuous weeks in employment (Children and Families Act 2014), many of you will be looking for flexibility from Day 1.  There are a few options here and it’s very much a personal choice as to what you feel most comfortable with.

One option is to proactively and confidently raise it at interview, but not at the start. Wait until the interview’s been going well and you’ve had the opportunity to demonstrate your fantastic skills and experience and fit for the role. You could refer to previous examples of when you’ve worked flexibly, and how successful this was, to prove how this could work.

You may prefer to wait until you’ve received a job offer and then to negotiate flexibility, in the same way that you’d negotiate other terms such a salary, at the point at which you have maximum negotiating power!

Either way, being clear about balancing your needs with your employer’s needs is the way forward. Make sure that what you’re requesting can work with the demands of the job.

A win-win

Flexible working is definitely here to stay. More and more employers are citing evidence of the real business benefits of flexible working, such as increased employee engagement, retention, loyalty and productivity as well as increased employee wellbeing and reduced absence. There has never been a better time to think about what flex you need and to confidently and proactively discuss it with your (future) employer.