5 Things to Consider for a Flexible Working Request

Flexible Working

Flexible working has gained popularity in the modern age. Some of this is a reaction against the 24/7 culture we experience in today’s world. The different lifestyles and demands on our personal lives also mean we want fluidity in the way we work. Values across different generations have also changed. How much time we want to put into our working lives may differ from our parents. Employers have had to respond to this change and offer flexible working options for many employees. All companies vary in whether they offer these options and what this looks like. It can often form part of a benefits package for joining a certain company. You could have jobs that are already part-time, job shares or remote. If you are already working at a company and want to put in a flexible working request, what should you consider before doing this? How can you ensure that you are creating a situation that is mutually beneficial for you and your employer? What will give you the greatest chance of your request being approved? Here are 5 things to consider when making a flexible working request:

  1. Your local employment law and company policy

The first thing you should be aware of is the legal climate surrounding flexible working in your country. Your Human Resources (HR) department are the experts here and should be able to give you guidance on what this is. (In the UK, ACAS is a good resource to access if you need further information.) It is useful to find out about this to know your rights and restrictions, but don’t feel that you need to be an expert here as that is what HR is for. It is however good for you to have a little more knowledge on your company policy in this area. This way, you understand the company’s position on the general issue and are armed with this information before making your request. It is something your manager should be aware of and you can reference it during your discussions.

  1. How long you have been in the position

Are you applying for a job and flexible working was mentioned in the advert? In this scenario, since the employer has explicitly stated that they are open to flexible working requests, it is something you can bring up in the conversation. It could be a question you ask during an interview. Employers often offer this as part of a benefits package, so it is worth considering if this is something you value. In other scenarios when you are already employed by a company, consider how long you have been working in the role before making a request. At least 6 months in the role will give you enough time to show your ability to deliver. Any earlier than this can seem too soon to suddenly change your working pattern. Once you are more established, you will have more of a grounding to talk about how your deliverables may or may not be affected by a new way of working.

  1. Be open to or suggest a trial period

Trial periods are often built into a company’s flexible working policy. It means you and the employer can try out the new pattern to see if it works for both parties. If it’s not in their policy, you could suggest it as an option. This way, you can test the new arrangement for yourself and find out how much it impacts your ability to do the job. Your employer will be able to gauge how this feels for them too.

  1. The effect on the wider team

Changing your working pattern or location can have an impact on your wider team or department. If you are reducing your working hours, other team members may have to pick up some of your work. If you have decided to work from home some or all of the time, you will lose the face-to-face interaction with your team. What can you do to mitigate this? There may be ways of working that you can change to ensure that you are still able to perform and deliver in the same way you were doing before. For example, if you are working from home, it might mean that you don’t need to commute in to work, so you can be more efficient at home. Changing to part-time could mean that your manager could consider a job-share option for your role. If you are losing face time with your team, consider committing to coming in for team meetings or team days. Perhaps you could work remotely for part of the week but not all of it. Or you could make sure that you join meetings via a video call so you still get face-to-face interaction. There are creative ways you can reduce the impact of your new arrangement on your teammates.

  1. The type of work you are doing

Can you effectively carry out your duties in a different environment or with less time? Is your work practical? Does it require face-to-face interaction with people? These are all factors to consider when making a flexible working request. The nature of your work will play a big part in whether your new arrangement is feasible. For example, if you just need a laptop and a headset, it can make it easier to do a position remotely.

  1. Your health and wellbeing

Make sure you also consider the impact on your mental and physical health when not going into the workplace every day. Even if your work just requires you to be sat at a desk, the inability to turn to the person next to you to ask a question or have a conversation can have an impact on your engagement levels during your working day. Some people who work from home end up working longer hours since they don’t have to travel to the office anymore. Sometimes, reducing hours or changing your environment can be the reason people want a flexible working pattern. This is important to include in your request and to consider whether you think your health and wellbeing is being negatively affected in your current situation.   Flexible working is becoming more and more common in the workplace. You just need to make sure that you go into making a request with consideration of both the business needs and your needs. If you take a balanced view and are willing to compromise, you are much more likely to come to a suitable agreement for both sides.  

If you are ready to take your career outside the lab and want to know how to start, watch our webinar on How Science Graduates Can Get a High Paying Job Outside the Lab Even if You Have Little to No Work Experience.  

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