How to encourage more flexibility from your employer – Career Counselling – photo of woman doing yoga with sunrise background

How to encourage more flexibility from your employer

A 3 minute read • Part 2 of 2 • Jane G

Part of our career counselling series. In part one, we looked at how to make flexible working work for you. Here, we consider how you can encourage your employer to offer more flexibility.

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Giving employees more freedom about where and when they work can feel like a huge leap of faith for employers. No matter how great they think the people that work for them are, they can usually recall a time when someone has taken advantage of a freedom they’ve been given.

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The decision to limit flexible working is therefore often based on a fear of what might go wrong. This can mean that even where it is permitted, there’s lots of bureaucracy around flexible working that’s put in place as a kind of safeguard.

As an employee, it can be difficult to overcome all that fear.

In the UK you have a statutory right to apply to work flexibly if you’ve been employed for at least 6 months.

That flexibility is often limited and prescribed and, if the decision-makers are fearful and don’t have confidence that you can carry out your job flexibly, your application will probably be turned down. Even if it is approved, it may not give you the freedom you really need.

How can you convince your employer?

Case studies of other companies that are working differently – and continuing to be successful – can really help assure decision-makers that change is possible, especially if they are companies in your sector. In my experience, business cases that include lists of benefits aren’t persuasive unless they are directly relevant to your own organisation and show a quick financial return.

The most effective way of making the change and making it stick is demonstrating that it can work in your situation, by running a small trial, or building on the informal flexibility that’s probably already happening in your workplace.

How to encourage more flexibility from your employer – Career Counselling – photo of woman doing yoga with sunrise backgroundFirst find a team leader who supports flexible working. Talk with them and their team about how flexibility works for them (if they’re already using it informally) or might work, the benefits they see from working in that way, and the pitfalls that need to be avoided. Talk also about how this way of working could be developed into a template or process that could help other teams introduce the same way of working with minimal risk.

It may be that you can trial this way of working in a team without seeking further support; it will depend on how much freedom you have to innovate in your company. It may be however that you need to seek approval from a senior manager or from the HR team.

Successful ways of working are often contagious and tend to gather pace over time. Other leaders see successful actions and look to emulate them. If there is already a template created for others to use, that will help them adopt a new way of working and make the likelihood of it catching on across the business even greater.

Of course, it’s unlikely that any of this is in your job description (even if you work in HR), but what was it we were saying in part one about what you’re at work to achieve…?

How to propose flexible working to your employer

  • Try to find a flexible working case study relevant to your industry
  • Find out whether other teams in your business operate flexible working already, either formally or informally
  • Talk to those teams to find out how they work and what the pitfalls are
  • Create a simple template process which would help others to adopt flexible working successfully
  • Speak to an appropriate manager or the HR team to suggest a trial of flexible working. Be ready with all your research, explain how it would work for you and the team (using the process you’ve drafted) and what you see as the positive benefits for the business

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