How to ask for flexible working

Are you one of the 76 per cent of British office workers wanting more than a nine-to-five job? Here’s how you can make flexible working work for you

Britain’s appetite for flexible working is on the rise – but are you taking advantage of it? A survey released earlier this year found that three quarters of UK employees think that flexible working benefits would make a job more appealing. However, this isn’t translating into workplace trends; another survey by YouGov also showing that 76 per cent of British employees are not working remotely as often as they’d like, and only 7 per cent of those asked saying they were allowed to do so on a regular basis.

Are you one for the 76 per cent stuck in a nine-to five-desk job, knowing your skills and expertise would be best placed in a more flexible scenario? It doesn’t matter whether that’s because you’re a new father, or you have a side business you’d also like to spend time on – since 2014 everyone is entitled to ask for flexible working. The big question is how to ask for it. While the website is a good start point for advice, we spoke to Karen Mattison MBE, co-founder of flexible working job site Timewise, for her take on how to transform your working week for the better.

Karen Mattison MBE

‘We are starting to finally see a sea-change in who works part-time and why,’ says Mattison. ‘The stigma around asking to work ‘less’ – that you look unambitious and less serious about your career – is being blown out of the water by the achievements and productivity shown by those already doing it. When a worker is happier with their working structure, can live their full life and feel fresher – amazing things can happen. And savvy businesses are really starting to get this.’

Here’s her top tips for how to ask for how to ask for flexible working.

1. Do your research

First and foremost, if you’re looking to join a new company, ask if they’re open to flexible working before you apply for the job. ‘If the advert isn’t clear about what flexibility – if any – is possible, call and ask the HR Department before you apply,’ advises Mattison.‘It is also worth asking whether they already have people working flexibly. If the answer is no, this is usually THE major tell-tale sign if flexibility will even be possible.’

2. Know your worth

Apply to part time or flexible hours job like you would any other – by concentrating on what you can offer them. ‘Focus on yourself as a candidate. What skills sell you best? Are any hard-to-find in the current market? What experience marks you out?’ says Mattison. ‘Define your own personal bullet points that make you ‘must-have’ and hold them in your head when it comes to negotiating. Asking for flexibility can dent your confidence – don’t think you are less valuable, because you want a different work pattern. You are still ambitious, a serious candidate and a valuable potential hire.’

3. Don’t make it only about flexibility

Although a big draw might be the opportunity for flexible working, don’t make that the sole reason for applying. ‘Avoid the mistake of sounding as if you’ve only applied because it’s a role with flexible working options,’ explains Mattison. ‘First and foremost, you have applied because you have the right skills, it’s a great role, and you want to work for this company. No one wants to hire someone who is only applying because the job is the part time.’

4. Show you can make it work

Finally, if flexible working is new territory for your company, the important thing is to show that changing your working patterns won’t affect the business  – and that you’ll still do a great job. ‘Lead the conversation around how it would work,’ advises Mattison. ‘Show you have thought it through, by explaining, for example: ‘I’d hit the targets required by doing X, Y and Z.’