Seven steps to negotiating a flexible working arrangement

Seven steps to negotiating a flexible working arrangement

We know that access to flexible working can be a way to reduce pay gaps and help women progress. Legislation exists allowing qualifying employees to ask for flexible working and most organisations have relevant policies. However, negotiating flexibility can still be challenging – particularly as you move up the career ladder.

Follow these seven steps to confidently negotiate a flexible working arrangement that suits both you and your employer:

1. Be very clear on what you want

This can be tricky as we start with limiting beliefs about what’s possible in our job and our workplace and we try to double guess our employer’s reactions. Overcome this by taking a solutions based approach and asking ‘If I had the flexibility I want how would it look? What would be different? What would my working day be like?’ From this starting point you may realise there’s more than one way you can solve your work-life balance challenges. Clarity will also enable you to negotiate more effectively.

2. Understand your value

There’s a widespread myth that flexible working is a concession offered by employers to people who cannot work standard arrangements. Don’t buy into this. Agreeing to flexible working is the way your employer gets to keep a great asset and avoids the cost of replacing you. Knowing your worth will help you be more confident in your negotiations.

3. Check the seven legal reasons your request can be refused and prepare counter arguments

The Right to Request Flexible Working legislation provides employers with a number of business reasons that can be used to turn down your request. Check whether your desired arrangement could be rejected on any of these grounds. If you think it’s likely then prepare counter arguments; or consider whether an alternative arrangement that also suits your needs might be met with more approval.

4. Start with what the HR policies already allow – even if the perception is it’s just for some jobs

Starting with what’s familiar to the organisation and what’s already enshrined in policy can give you an edge in negotiations. Many organisations allow some working from home and many have part-time roles. Can you frame your request within these arrangements?

5. Identify what else may be going on under the radar

Typically there’s a lot more flexible working likely to be going on that’s being kept under the radar. Ask around to find role models or managers that have experience of managing flexible workers. If you are part of a networking group, they may be able to advise you.

6. Take your time preparing your case

The more evidence you have to convince your manager that you’ve thought through all the implications of your request, the more confidence s/he will have that the new arrangement can operate smoothly without additional burdens on colleagues.

7. By all means suggest a ‘trial period’ but don’t be too flexible

If your manager continues to be doubtful then by all means suggest a ‘trial period’ but make sure you both schedule in a review at the end of that period, and guard against being too flexible. In order to show willing many women agree to be flexible in their approach to the details. This can result in the whole thing going awry. Your boundaries will be tested and it’s down to you to make sure your new arrangement works for you as well as your manager.

Anna Meller is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD and one of the UK’s leading experts in re-balancing work.

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