How to Negotiate for a More Flexible Worklife

Published 22nd December 2022

After the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and corporations all over the world have drastically changed their approaches to work. Employers’ recruitment and job vacancies have become increasingly dependent on the internet. Quality of life balance has become a higher priority to both employees and employers. So, how do you negotiate with your manager which working hours and ways of working you adopt? What benefit could this flexible approach to work hours have on your career and the company? This blog post aims to address such questions so that in your next meeting with the boss, or your next job application or interview, you can boldly and professionally communicate your unique working needs. Just remember that it is mainly up to your employer and the company rules as to whether they’re able and willing to provide you with flexible working hours!

What is the Value of Remote / Hybrid Working?

With the pandemic forcing workplaces everywhere to close and adapt their workflow, workers around the globe have been modifying their daily routines. The 2020-2021 Nigel Frank Azure Salary Survey showed that 50% of employers are already offering flexible working hours, while 16% of respondents said that it was an important benefit for them to factor in their job applications.

Flexible working hours can help you create extra time for spare-time passions and activities. This can lead to greater work-life balance, increased productivity, and ultimately more fulfilled employees.

5 Tips for Negotiating Flexible Hours

  1. Know the terms and conditions

Understand that sticking to the company’s guidelines is the priority, so learn if your employer already offers some sort of flexible working hours. If so, ask if these arrangements are available for all staff or after a probation period.

Also, it is best practice to not try and convince an employer to simply reduce the hours you work daily / weekly. If the minimum hours required do not fit in with your schedule, it is wise to consider a different role altogether. Look over the employment contract or terms and conditions of the role, and stick with the prescribed hours a day/week, site-dependent tasks, and other non-negotiables.

Most of the time, if an employer is open to providing flexible working hours, there may need to be a meeting with yourself and others in the company to decide how it will work. This will ensure there is sufficient staff working when you’re not present, to cover urgent tasks.

Being able to refer to the contract or handbook provided will show your boss that you’ve done your research, considering how your working hours and methods will affect both you and the department or company. 

  1. Make a detailed plan of how it would work 

What specific days would you need to work from home? Which days may require you to finish work earlier, and which days would you be able to make up the hours? These are some examples of details you should have a plan for, to communicate with your employer. This would work better than loosely discussing the idea of flexible hours or location without breaking down how it would work. Proposing a schedule to your employer, of course within the fundamental terms of the job, will help your employer put in place the necessary provisions for your working week.

  1. Communicate the benefits with your employer

Your employer has a responsibility to care for you while you work for them, and many managers may be very proactive in supporting their staff’s wellbeing. A competent manager would understand that looking after their employees well will in turn look after the running of their business. Still, it is worth articulating to your employer how exactly your flexible hours would improve your service to the employer.

For instance, if you will be more focused on your work by working at home on the day you may have to do the school run, let your employer know of this benefit. Or, if you think starting early on certain days will be best for you, you can communicate how this can allow you to help answer client queries or clear some administrative tasks for the team first thing in the morning.

In research conducted in 2020 through WISERD (the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research and Data), 55% of employees reported that they concentrate better working from home. Additionally, 65.5% of employees who reported higher productivity per hour working at home wanted to work mainly from home moving forward. With this in mind, your employer will most likely accept your explanation of your flexible working plan’s benefits.

  1. Suggest a trial period

If flexible hours are not currently offered in your job, it may be best to agree on a temporary trial period for your suggested changes. This would be an opportunity to demonstrate how beneficial this new model would benefit both you and the employer. Therefore, in the trial period keep your employer informed on how things are going for you. 

Of course, you will be expected to deliver the same amount of work as usual so make sure you carefully consider if you have all the necessary resources in place to enable this in the period.

  1. Be honest about the resources you will need

Continuing from the previous point, failing to ask for any support can result in the trial period not going smoothly as expected. For instance, if your flexible hours mean working from home at times, then you should let your employer know if you would need a laptop with particular software, or possibly an extra monitor screen. Also, if there is any work intranet or database you may not be able to access from a home, you may have to consider doing alternative tasks at home and your site-specific tasks when you are available to commute to the workplace. An example may be taking confidential data home to use - for instance, forms with personal details of clients. In this case, you should make sure you have a secure folder or suitcase (preferably code-protected) to store and carry the data. This will help avoid liabilities to the company.

Negotiating for Your Current Job

Below are some suggestions on how to negotiate your ways of working with your current employer:

  • Write a negotiation email to your employer: this method lends itself well for relatively complex or awkward exchanges to have in-person. Remember to use a professional tone and copy in the relevant staff who will need to know.
  • Write a negotiation letter: the same guidance applies to this as emailing from a writing style perspective. Mailing the letter, depending on the receiver, could make a stronger impression and may even get the employer’s attention on the matter even more than an email message.

Negotiating for A New Job

It is even more ideal timing to negotiate flexible work hours there in the application process for a new job, particularly at the interview stage. Remember it is best to negotiate before the job offer, so your new/prospective employer is less likely to be let down. Before you sign the job agreement, make sure the employer is willing to co-operate with your flexible working terms while you also agree with the employer’s fundamental terms.

You may find it helpful to refer to statistics like the ones referenced earlier in this post to highlight the wider benefits of flexible working.

For other practical tips on how to have more work-life balance, read our blog post on alleviating workplace stress.

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