How to negotiate flexible working hours
By Lina Arshad
With the pandemic forcing offices everywhere to close and adapt their operations, workers around the globe have been changing up their daily routines, including both where and how they work. In fact, our 2020-2021 Nigel Frank Azure Salary Survey indicated that 50% of employers are already offering flexible working hours, while 16% of respondents said that it was an important benefit for them to consider when looking to join a new company.
With more and more companies moving to fully remote or hybrid working, it’s likely that you will be looking for some sort of flexibility in your next role, or perhaps even looking to negotiate flexible working hours at your current job.
As well as giving you extra time to do the things you love, flexible working hours can give you a greater work-life balance, so whether it’s attending the kids’ sports matches, or giving you a heads-start on a long journey, you can do it all!
In this blog, we’ll be discussing how you can negotiate flexible working hours with any employer. Just be aware that it is ultimately up to your employer and the company rules as to whether they’re able and willing to grant you with flexible working hours.
5 tips for negotiating flexible work hours
Before you approach your employer, it’s likely there will be a couple of things you’ll need to know to ensure you’re well-informed and fully equipped to properly negotiate with them.
1. Consult your employee contract and handbook
Firstly, it’s important to know whether your employer already offers some sort of flexible working hours—and if so, whether these arrangements are available for everybody or after a certain probation period—or are something they don’t currently cater for.
Secondly, take a look over your own personal employment contract for anything that might impact your request. It’s no good preparing to approach your employer asking them to finish at 3pm everyday your contract states you need to be available until 4pm each working day. This is likely something that can’t be changed and trying to convince them otherwise might not go down so well.
Most of the time, if an employer is willing to offer flexible working hours, it’s subject to a meeting with yourself and others in the company to decide how it’ll work and to ensure there will be enough people working when you’ve clocked out, to cover any last-minute requests or urgent workloads.
Being able to draw on things stated in the contract or handbook will show your boss that you’ve done your homework and have taken the time to think out ways to make it work not only for yourself, but according to the business rules, too.
2. Make a detailed plan of how it would work
Putting forward solutions within your request to address any potential issues or blockers is the best way to set yourself up for success. Although it may feel nerve-wracking going into a meeting with your boss with a whole plan laid out, it’ll likely go down much better than vaguely discussing the idea of flexible working hours and not explaining exactly how it’ll work to them.
Write yourself a plan that you can refer to when approaching your manager. This should include a day-by-day schedule of working hours you would like to propose, taking into account any recurring meetings you expect to have on or other commitments that would require you to be available.
If as part of your flexible working plan, you’re wanting to work from home remotely, include the days you’d want to do this in your plan, too. It’s not always necessary, but where possible, giving the reasons you’d benefit from working remotely or more flexible hours will help rationalize the decision in your employer’s mind. So, if you have no one to collect your kids from school on a Wednesday, or you have recurring medical appointments on Thursdays, say that!
If you have a schedule set out for your employer to see, it’ll be much easier for them to see what you’re proposing, how it’ll work and subsequently, that it can work.
3. Communicate the benefits with your employer
Your employer has a duty of care to you while you’re working for them, and many managers go beyond the basics this entails, really homing in on the wellbeing of their staff. Of course, your employer is going to want to make life as easy as possible for you, especially if you are trying to juggle your career with other important commitments, but it’s worth highlighting how allowing flexible work hours could benefit your employer.
For example, if you feel like you’d be less stressed and more focused on your work by not having to rush back and forth doing the school run and then onto the office, let your employer know how it could positively impact your work. Similarly, if you think by starting early there can be someone to answer queries of clients overseas, describe this benefit to management. Chances are, they might just agree!
Don’t forget to highlight what’s happening in the industry to further state the benefits of it. By doing your research you can demonstrate the effectiveness of a flexible working structure for all parties.
4. Suggest a trial period
If flexible work hours aren’t something your employer already offers, then they may be in two minds about granting you this without proof that you’ll still be as productive. To ease everybody’s mind, and reassure yourself that you can work differently than you’re used to, you could suggest a trial period.
This is a great opportunity to show just how beneficial this can be for you both, so make sure you keep them in the loop on how things are going. You’ll still need to cover the same amount of work as you’d get done normally, so make sure you’ve got the resources to do this while trialing your new working arrangements.
5. Be open about any support you’ll need
Although you won’t want to make it sound like too much of a transition from your usual working arrangements, failing to ask for any support you need could mean your trial period doesn’t run as smoothly as you thought it would.
For example, if your flexible working hours will mean you have to work some of your weekly hours at home, then letting your employer know if you’ll need a laptop, or any extra screens will be important. You should also use this time to outline any issues you might have accessing any data or work, so that a plan can be put into place to ensure you can utilize these during your flexible hours and arrangements.
Negotiating flexible work hours in your current job
If you’ve been at your current job for a while now and are considering approaching your employer about working more flexible hours, there are a couple of ways you can go about this. In most cases, it’s always best to do it in person, but if you’re working remotely or your employer is located elsewhere, there are a couple of other ways you can approach this topic.
Try a negotiation email
Emails are a go-to for discussing topics people deem sensitive or awkward to bring up in person, so if you’d prefer to make initial contact about the matter virtually, this could be a good solution for you. As well as giving them time to understand the request properly and reply adequately, it is more informal than calling a meeting so can help you feel more relaxed about approaching the topic.
Although it’ll likely warrant a much longer conversation down the line, you can keep your initial email a little briefer. Just remember to keep a professional tone and copy the right people into the correspondence.
As a guideline, make sure you touch on what kind of flexible work hours you’re asking for (for example, on which days you’ll work different hours than usual), and the reasons why. You can finish the email by asking them to consider it, stating that you’ll be happy to have a meeting to discuss it further, and are available to answer any questions they might have. Making sure they fully understand what it is you want and why, while briefly describing the advantages for them, is sure to be received well.
Write up a negotiation letter
If you’d prefer to take a formal approach to your negotiation, writing a letter that can be mailed or handed in person to your employer could be a good way to approach the situation. Just like with an email, this should touch on what you’re asking for, and brief details of how it would work and why you would both benefit from it.
Pointers for your negotiations
No matter how you plan to approach the topic, there are some things that will stay universal to your negotiation letter or email. You want to keep it brief but to add enough detail so they know what the premise of the contact is. For example, you’ll want to make sure they know this is about negotiating flexible work hours, rather than salary or promotions.
As a guideline, you should be sure to include the following information:
- You’d like to have a meeting
- The meeting will be to discuss more flexible work hours
- The main benefit for both you and the company for allowing this
- The reason for asking for these new arrangements
Negotiating flexible work hours at a new job
If you’ve received an offer from a new job, now is the perfect time to try to negotiate flexible work hours. Just be aware that it’s always best to do this before you accept an offer, so you avoid making your new employer too peeved. Work hours is usually something you can discuss in your interview, but if not then take the time at the end dedicated to questions. It’s always worth knowing how flexible a new employer is able to be with you before you sign on the dotted line.
If you’re not sure how to approach the topic, it might help to have some industry stats to go in with explaining how popular flexible work arrangements are. This can give the employer time to mull over your questions before they offer you a job.
If there are some unforeseen circumstances between the interview and job offer stage, make sure you don’t accept any jobs before you’ve discussed your situation with the employer. For example, if your childminder is cutting down their hours, and you’ll need to collect your kids from school so will have to start and finish work earlier, let your new employer to know at the earliest convenience.
If you’re in the fortunate position to have more than one job offer on your plate, then you could use the other opportunities as leverage for negotiating flexible work hours between them. Up until now they’ve all been happy to hire you and asking for a slightly more flexible schedule shouldn’t change that.
How to make a negotiation counter-offer
When negotiating with a current employer, you’re likely to have had to give them as many details as possible for them to consider the change in your scheduled hours. However, for a new position, you might have more freedom to come back to their offer of flexible working hours with a counter-offer. You should be prepared to be flexible with their proposals for your hours. If they can’t grant you all the necessary changed hours, for instance, you may have to adapt your plans to cover this. However, it’s also possible to come to an agreement with them to be lenient with your flexible hours if needs be. This could mean working early starts when you really need to and giving them a heads up a few days in advance.
Reaching a compromise with your new employer will be much better received than staying very firm on what you want here as hours are often a non-negotiable for a lot of companies. You could even raise the idea of a trial period again or give them some success stories of how this worked at your last company if it was implemented there, so they can see how competent you are working to a varied hours schedule.
Negotiating different work hours than the standard can be a tricky subject to approach, but with the advice in this guide, it doesn’t have to be! With the right industry knowledge (which you can find in our annual salary surveys) and an ability to compromise, you’ll be sure to come to an arrangement that suits both you and the company.
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