How to: Ask for flexible working hours

If you’re struggling to maintain your work/life balance, it might be time to mix it up…

One solution could be flexible working hours. But before you start asking your employer what options are available, it’s absolutely vital that you cover the essentials, stay positive, and share the right information.

To make sure your request isn’t overlooked, here’s how to ask for flexible working hours in the right way:


Find out what options are already available

Flexible working might already be available within your company, although you might not currently be aware of it.

To find out more about what’s on offer, always speak to your manager or a member of the HR department, before making a more formal request.

And, if you’re looking for a new role, make ‘flexible working hours‘ a key search phrase to include when job hunting. As many companies offer a flexible work schedule from the outset, you’ll be able to avoid filling out any forms when you start the new position.


Address the formalities

Make sure you’re asking in the right way.

It’s a legal requirement that you write a letter or an email addressed to your employer, labelled as a ‘statutory request’, with the date clearly stated. You’ll also need to include an explanation of any other flexible working applications you’ve made and when you made them, as you’re only eligible to make one request per year.

Although you’ll be able to discuss it further with your boss after and before making the formal request, the written application must be submitted for it to be officially considered.

Once submitted, your employer must respond within three months with a yes or no answer. If they refuse your request and you think it wasn’t considered fairly, you’ll be eligible to appeal against their decision.

Right to flexible working application form>>


Explain your new schedule

To make sure your request is seriously considered, it’s important to show a clear understanding of how your altered role will work. This shows that you’ve put some real thought into the change, and can actually demonstrate why it’s a good idea.

When writing your request, include details of when you’d like to start, and what kind of adapted working timescales you’d like to switch to.

Then, talk about exactly what the new arrangement will involve. This includes describing your daily duties, and explaining how you plan to keep in touch if you’ll be working remotely.

Showing your boss that you have a succinct plan will prove that your change in hours won’t affect your quality of work.


Consider how working flexibly will affect the business

Employers aren’t likely to approve your request if you haven’t taken into account their needs as well as your own.

Although the request to work flexibly will be based on your own personal reasons, it’s important to avoid focusing solely on that. If your change in schedule or decrease in hours could affect the business negatively, then your employer could have a justifiable reason to say no.

To ensure this doesn’t happen, address the possible hindrances, and suggest viable ways to overcome them.

Not only does this increase the possibility of your appeal being approved, it also shows your employer that you care about your job, your team, and the overall success of the business.


Don’t be overly negative

The last thing you want is for your boss to think you’re asking for fewer hours because you can’t cope with your current workload.

Not only could this negative attitude affect your career in the long-run, it could also mean you’re less likely to be put forward for new opportunities or projects that might involve a bigger workload.

Instead, explain how you could make better use of your time in a different setup, and focus on expressing how this change would give you the opportunity to maximise your potential and overall productivity.

Focus on the positives, and make it clear that although you can cope with your current arrangement, it could be done even better with a personalised work schedule.


Be ambitious

A request for flexible hours could be misinterpreted as a lack of ambition or drive in an employee’s working life.

Obviously, this isn’t necessarily true. In fact, it can often mean the exact opposite. So if you want to keep the opportunity to move up in your career open – make it clear to your boss that you’re still ambitious and motivated to succeed.

Outline your career goals, and explain how a shift in your working hours could make them easier to reach and ultimately, how it can benefit them. If your boss knows that you’re going to remain loyal to them, despite working less hours, they’re likely to have fewer concerns about your request.


Be realistic

Working flexible hours may seem easier than dragging yourself into work every day – but is it the best choice for you?

Fully assess the situation, and ask yourself whether working fewer hours, at different times, or from home, will really result in a better work-life balance and higher productivity, or more distractions, and zero self-motivation.

Don’t see it as a way to slack off without anyone noticing, because you’ll still have to work equally as hard.

In fact, you might have to work even harder to prove that you’re a dedicated worker. So expect to be available when needed (especially if you’re in a senior role), and understand that flexibility can work both ways.


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