Whilst previous generations may have been prepared to accept stress, exhaustion and illness as the collateral damage of their profession, many negotiating their terms of employment today are not.
Recognising the benefits of balance, today’s professionals are considering ways in which they might structure their time at work more flexibly. Employers with progressive businesses, aware of the immense value of their human capital, are more likely to facilitate requests for flexible working arrangements. In my opinion, those that aren’t are ignoring this rapid social change at their own peril.
Common flexible working arrangements include:
- changes to start and finishing times
- part-time work or job sharing
- working more hours over fewer days
- working from home.
For some employees in Australia, their right to request flexible working arrangements is enshrined in legislation. For example, employers must seriously consider a request for flexible working arrangements made by an employee who has the care of a school-aged or younger child. (The Fair Work Ombudsman has the important further detail here).
Even with the knowledge that you may have a legal right to request flexible working arrangements, actually approaching your busy employer and asking might seem like a daunting exercise. Before you take the leap, consider some of the following tips.
If you are the trailblazer for your workplace (and you probably will be in a small workplace), you should arm yourself with some research to convince a sceptical employer that flexible working arrangements do work for business – even better, for your type of business. Your employer will be focused on cost and productivity. If systems and equipment need to change, do you know how much it will cost? Explain how your proposed arrangement will increase productivity: perhaps working from home eliminates travel time which increases your time actually ‘working’. Perhaps you’re distracted while at work because you’re caring for a sick relative and if you could just have some extra time away you’d be able to focus on the job when you are there.
If you can sell an increase in productivity for little or no outlay from your employer, it’s going to be a hard proposal to turn down.
Proposing any new arrangement on a trial basis first (say 3 to 6 months), will give your employer some comfort and an ‘out’ for you if it doesn’t work out as you’d hoped.
Demonstrate that you’ve thought of your clients too: how will you explain the new arrangements to them and how do you expect them to respond? Who is willing to step in for you if needed and do your clients already have a rapport with that person?
Cover all the bases leaving no option for the decision-maker to disagree with you.
Businesses that successfully facilitate flexible working arrangements for their employees will soon prove stiff competition for talent. But that will only be the case if ‘the talent’ continues to stand up and demand better. Don’t be afraid to ask your employer to facilitate flexibility, but remember: when the time comes, it’s up to you to sell it.