Craft your ideal working hours

Craft your ideal working hours

Often one the first questions you are asked when you are pregnant, or shortly after the birth of your bundle of joy is “ Are you going back to work?” . Over time you may wonder how to balance school timetables and business meetings, so the conversation around hours is revisited. Flexible work is also considered for other life changes; when studying part-time, balancing charity work or other caring responsibilties. Either way, far too often I hear of upset, frustration and dejection when a flexible working request is denied. When your heart AND head leads you to part-time or flexible hours, a rejection can leave you feeling confused and unsure of what the next steps are.

The best advice I can give you is a flexible working request must be considered a negotiation, even a sales document; with you being the product! Having been witness to many over the years, within large and small businesses, I would love to share with you some hints and tips, to increase the odds of you getting the outcome you desire

Paint a picture using your knowledge

Currently the law allows for a variety of business needs (such as increased cost or customer demand) as a reason to reject an application; unfortunately many requests do not take these into account when they are submitted. Review your role, make sure you consider your duties; ultimately what you employed to do. Use your experience of the role to provide a platform for new ideas and innovation. Could process changes be implemented to streamline your duties and support reduced hours?

Data, Data, Data!

Use facts and figures to show you know when the peaks and troughs of demand or workload are. If you are looking to change hours or reduce days this may help show that you can still support the needs of the organisation and its customers. Are Friday afternoons relatively quiet? Do the school holidays impact the workload of a team? Think about where or who you could get this information from and how best you can use it.

Colleagues are your strength

If you are looking to reduce your hours/days or adjust your working pattern, could this change provide an opportunity to a colleague? Sharing or delegating some of your responsibilities would not only support your flexible work pattern, but also provide a workmate with development opportunities.

The pennies do count!

For all organisations, including not-for-profit and public sector, costs savings and efficiencies are a hot topic. Make sure you consider how your flexible working request could positively impact finances or profits; reducing salary costs, expanding core hours to support overseas clients or even reduce the carbon footprint by working from home? It is important to also consider where it could increase costs; for example job sharing increases the Employer National Insurance employers pay.

Change your perspective

Consider your flexible working rationale through the eyes of your manager. What objectives or challenges could they consider: the impact on your team, your availability or contact, workload? How do you imagine this would be overcome? If you supervise a team, how will they manage if you are not physically there? You don’t need all the answers, but show you have kept your colleagues and clients in mind and suggest solutions within your request.

Don’t be an undercover agent

This will depend on the culture of your team and company, but if you feel comfortable, speak to your manager before you submit your request. You never know what is going on behind the scenes and you may be surprised about the level of support and guidance you will be offered if you are open and honest. For example, could you trial the pattern with holiday in advance as a way of strengthening your request and to see if potential objections are grounded?

Have a plan B

This is a negotiation process. No employer wants to lose a trusted, valued team member, so often there will be a counter proposal which is a compromise. Whilst your flexible application may be your ideal arrangement, what would be your middle ground? Could you condense your working week in to longer days and shorter weeks? Could you work at home for part of the week?

Good luck! Remember everyone has the right to apply and be treated fairly, so please, if you feel you haven’t been treated this way, take advice from a trusted source such as

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