Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Flexible working – making it work

It’s International Women’s Day tomorrow (8th March) and the theme of this year’s campaign is to #PledgeforProgress. It’s about joining together in the fight for gender equality at work and supporting the continuing global movement towards gender parity.

The theme of this year’s campaign got us thinking about how much things are changing in the work place for women and how employers can better support people at work.

For a range of reasons, although often parenting related, many people choose to apply for flexible working. Flexible working can help enable people to manage the different demands in their lives. Indeed many women (and men) apply for flexible working when they have childcare needs to consider. It can be difficult to balance the needs of children or dependants with a full-time 9-5 job and this can lead to employees feeling stressed out or 'torn' between different demands on their time and attention. 

When it works well, flexible working can help employees manage their time and the expectations of their employers and this can lead to reduced stress and improved wellbeing. 

And there are multiple direct benefits for employers too. Flexible working has been shown to lead to an increase in staff morale, lower absenteeism and better staff retention rates.

If you're thinking of applying for flexible working, whatever your reasons, here are some tips to consider:

Think about your personality and your working style

Research carried out by First Psychology in 2015 on work-life balance, concluded that not all styles of working suit everyone. Some people find it helpful to be  'contactable' during their time off, while others find it stressful. Make sure you tailor your request around your working style. Don't say in your request that you're happy to check emails on your 'days off' if this stresses you out. The whole point of applying for flexible working is to help you manage your life better.

Do your research

Find out if your company already has a policy for flexible working. If they do, have a look and see what it says. There are lots of different definitions around flexible working, they include different shift patterns, cutting your hours, term-time only working and the option of working from home. Do any of your colleagues work flexibly already? Does it work well? 

Be clear about what you want

Be clear about what you want and the impact it will have on you and your employers. Think about what you want to get out of flexible working, the hours you want to work, how you want to work them, and how the impact on your employer can be minimised. Make sure you are realistic about what you can do and understand how that will affect your take-home pay and your other benefits. Once your request has been accepted it will be more difficult to make changes so think everything through carefully.

Draw up a plan

Once you know what you're asking for, develop a business plan for your employer in support of your request. Demonstrate to your employer that you have thought about the impact your request could have on the business and outline a plan to minimise this. For example, you could outline aspects of your job that could be done better at home with no other distractions around or you could identify peaks and troughs in your workload and tie these in with your working schedule. Your employer has the right to refuse your request if they have a genuine business reason for doing so, it’s up to you to state your case positively.

Bring out the benefits

As we’ve already said, there is lots of research that shows the benefits of flexible working. Build those into your request and help your employer see that approving your request will not only help you, but also foster a more positive, agile work environment for the rest of your colleagues too.

You’ll find the official guidance on applying for flexible working here. You can also find some useful additional information from ACAS here

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