We are often asked how to make a flexible working application successful. The advantages of flexible working are now well documented but the process can be confusing and nerve-wracking if you’re not sure you’ll get what you need agreed.

But you can make a success of your flexible working application, whether you are returning from maternity leave, a career break or because you want to pursue outside interests like our recent interviewees George Biggar and Holly Grundon.

So how do you negotiate?

It is likely that many successful flexible working employees will have already built up trust with their employer. They will have consistently delivered and met their objectives achieving optimum results and are therefore well respected. Working flexibly does not have to be a benefit solely available to managers. We have come across PAs / Accountants and Executives who have successfully negotiated flexible working. They all agree on one thing that they are able to prove: their consistent work record. This can work externally too – you may already have a flexible working arrangement at your previous employer, which you can use to demonstrate your capability to work flexibly. Or, if you want to work flexibily for the first time, firstly prove you are the right person for the job with the right skills and attributes, you may be as attractive as anyone applying for a full-time position.

Remember when applying, this is a negotiation for both parties and the terms are not set. Understand what you want and what you would be willing to forego. Many of our candidates, meticulously plan how their change in hours will work in practice and are realistic – what meetings they need to attend, how much flexibility they are prepared to give on their non-working day, for example, to check emails or receive urgent phone calls. Everyone is different so you need to be clear on your arrangements.

Strategies for asking for flexibility

  1. Put you request in writing – state your reasons, proposed change to hours or different working patterns but also the benefits, how you will continue to deliver results.
  2. Focus on your employer’s needs – how will this flexible schedule benefit your employer? We know that many employers still see flexible working negatively and will look at it from the perspective of how it can be turned down rather than how it can be accommodated. You have to do the thinking for them, so identify any pitfalls and suggestions on how your workload can be reallocated. Make it easy for them to say yes!
  3. Put yourself in your manager’s or HR’s shoes – think of the impact your request will have on the business and address them in your proposal.
  4. Be flexible yourself – you may want to work Mon – Wed but it may be better to work Tues – Thurs as Thursdays are the busiest day. Also think outside the box, could you work another way, does it have to be three days, could you work compressed hours, homeworking? Have a compromise up your sleeve!
  5. Start a trial period – and start as you mean to go on. There is no point asking for four days and then working quietly at home and in the evenings to fit in the extra day’s work. If you start as you mean to go on both parties will be able to identify if it is working and may be able to put in place different strategies if it is not.

Final piece of advice: once it has been agreed, the trail period has been undertaken, changes put in place – for goodness sake don’t apologise or feel guilty for your working arrangements. In our experience, this is a more common trait in women than men so be proud and be prepared to say: ‘Why would I feel guilty? This is what we agreed – I deliver my objectives and achieve results.’