Submitting a flexible working request can seem daunting. Employers have been dealing with flexible working requests from women for decades. The fact a man’s request to work flexibly is twice as likely to be turned down as a woman’s says a lot. Yet it’s not all bad news. Times are changing.
The law was changed some time ago giving everyone the right to request flexible working regardless of their circumstances. Despite the statistic I quoted above, more and more men are working flexibly and doing so successfully.
If you want to work flexibly to meet the needs of your family, how should you go about it? I’ve spoken to a few dads who have been through the process to find out what tips they have. Here’s what they had to say.
KoruKids is an afterschool nanny business and it is big on promoting flexible working among its staff. Matt Arnold works there as operations lead and he said being confident was vital.
“If you know you have the trust of your boss, and that you work as effectively from home as in the office, then be confident when asking. Everyone in the relationship wins.”
Offer solutions to any complications that might arise
Toby Radcliffe is KoruKids’ service lead. He said it is important to make clear how you mitigate any potential complications. He also made the very interesting point that flexible working should not be seen by anyone as an ‘easy option,’ a comment many flexible workers will have heard at some point or other.
“Make it clear how you’ll mitigate any perceived trade-offs. Flexible working certainly isn’t an ‘easy option’ or an inconvenience for the company. It’ll help you manage your productivity and overall have less stress”
Toby also said it may be worth your while building up a rapport with your boss if he or she has kids. This, he feels, will make them better understand why you are requesting to work flexibly.
Be flexible in your approach
James Millar is a man who knows a thing or two about flexible working. He’s the editor of the WorkingDads.co.uk website and co-author of Dads Don’t Babysit, Towards Equal Parenting. He also raised the issue of confidence.
“Go for it. Loads of employers are aware that the workplace is changing, but just as you may be unsure how to apply, they are unsure how to implement it. Start the discussion and you might be surprised how open your bosses are to flexible working. Particularly if you make it as easy as possible for them and approach it in an open and, ahem, flexible way.”
Make sure your request is legal
Something else you need to keep in mind are the legal requirements behind making a flexible working request. The following tips come from the charity Working Families, which aims to promote flexible working.
- Your request should be in writing and clearly state that it is a flexible working application
- The request needs to be dated
- State whether you have previously submitted a flexi-working application and if so, when
- Explain what change you’re asking for and when you want the change to take effect
- Explain what effect, if any, you think the change would have on your employer and how any such effect could be dealt with (see Toby Radcliffe’s point above).
To summarise the points made above:
- Be confident in making your request. You have the legal right to request flexible working, your employer isn’t doing you a favour.
- Make clear how any issues that arise with you working flexibly could be mitigated.
- Be flexible when making your request and remember, your employer may be keen to help, just unused to hearing such requests from men.
- Make sure your request complies with all the legal requirements.
Oh, and here’s a useful tip from Dan Reed, the man behind the Career Dad website, if you get your requested approved and from yourself working flexibly from home. In short, use technology to both keep yourself productive and prove to others that you are actually working.
“One of the most important decisions I made when I started to work from home was to utilise my camera. There’s no excuse not to, really: Laptops have them built in! Not only did this signal to whoever I’m meeting that I’m present, but it also helped me to be more accountable. It stopped me scrolling through my phone while on conference calls.”
While the aim of this article is to assist dads who have an employer, there is a further way to gain flexibility and that’s to work freelance or set up your own business. A year or so ago, I ran a series of articles on my own blog focusing on men who had done this because they couldn’t get the flexibility they wanted from their employers.
I discovered a huge number of men had quietly gone down this route, far more than I realised. On that basis, I approached freelance community Hoxby to see what its members had to say about taking the freelance approach to flexible working.
Alex Hirst, Hoxby’s co-founder said:
“The big thing is shifting from the comfort of being told when and where you NEED to work into choosing when and where you WANT to work. That freedom of choice takes adjustment and forces you to think about why you’re working at a certain time or place.
“This can be difficult at first, but it can also enable you to reappraise your life choices and overall priorities, enabling you to make more of a contribution to the home and family, if you should choose to.”
Hirst’s comments were echoed by Hoxby’s head of content David Roberts. He also said you need to prepare for change because you’re giving up predictable hours, predictable pay and paid holiday (Editor’s note: you can add employer’s pension contributions to Robert’s list!).
“Leaving paid employment is almost always scary. It may be thrilling and invigorating and liberating (it is all of those things) and when something is scary as a father, as someone with a family, mortgage and more, that can be a whole different kind of scary. You’re going to need your confidence to conquer that. And then to flourish.”
Finally, flexible working benefits everyone
Remember that flexible working benefits everyone. Employers have less stressed, more loyal staff. Employees have better work life balance and families are happier.
I’m going to leave the final world to a mum. Hannah Addams works for a PR and digital marketing agency called Propellernet. She outlines how flexible working has helped her and her husband balance demanding careers and parenthood:
“My husband works flexibly. He has the freedom to work from home whenever he needs to. When in the office, he arrives early so he can start work at eight am which allows him to leave at four thirty so he can pick our little boy up from nursery at five.
“To compensate, I take him to nursery in the morning which means I get into the office at nine and then I stay until five thirty.
“I don’t know what we’d do if our jobs weren’t as flexible as they are. Our employers are both very understanding.”
With Hannah’s words fresh in your mind, I’d say don’t delay. Get on and request to work flexibly as soon as you can.