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The benefits of flexible working and how to ask for it

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Flexible working is nothing new. According to research from the Institute of Leadership and Management, 94% of all organisations in the UK offer their employees some form of flexible working. Cloud technology is ever so popular with many businesses that working remotely is fully possible for many roles.

Yet even in this day and age, it is still often perceived as something of a “taboo” between employers and prospective employees.

What is flexible working?

Flexible working can be such a broad term depending on how you perceive it and can cover: altered work schedules, part-time hours, compressed hours or work-from-home/remote working. 

Nowadays, the majority of my candidates ask about flexible working policies when considering which companies they want to work for. 

Benefits of flexible working for employees include

  • Better work-life-balance

  • Environmental impact; potential reduced commuting time outside of peak hours which can also prove to be economical when working from home

  • Comfort of working in alternative environments

  • Option to work during hours to fit your energy cycles best

Benefits of flexible working for employers include

  • Boosting employee morale 

  • Cost-effective for logistics (office space and travel expenses)

  • Reduction in turnover of employees

  • Enhancing the company image

Raising the topic of flexible working

However, when it comes to having a discussion with employers, this can be tricky.

Questions candidates commonly ask us are:

At what point should you raise the question of flexible working?
Will it reflect badly on you if you request flexible working whilst you’re up against other candidates who are willing to work standard full-time hours?

The answer to the above is: it really depends on the employer.

One advantage of working with a good recruitment agency is that you can have these frank discussions about flexible working upfront. If it’s something that’s important to you, for whatever reason: family, work-life balance, commuting (especially those with longer ones) or just simply having the option for personal matters, then mention this to your consultant from the start and they will be able to raise this with the employer and advise you on the best time to mention this during an interview.

Focus on the job, not the flexibility

Where flexibility is non-negotiable (where there is a need to work part-time hours due to childcare commitments, for example), a common mistake some candidates make is to ask for this too early and to focus on what they need rather than what they can give to the employer.

From a Hiring Manager’s point of view, they simply want to find the right person for the job first and foremost, so during your interview, you should be focusing on selling yourself as the best possible candidate for that position rather than negotiating the working hours. Questions about salary, perks and, yes, flexible working, should typically be raised once you know that the employer is already interested in you.

Again, your consultant can advise you about the best time to raise the flexible working question.

Sometimes you need to be flexible about flexibility

Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go before flexible working becomes the norm, especially in professional services.

For many employers, flexible working may only be provided for employees after successful completion of their probation period (often 3-6 months), especially if this is not something the company is used to.

During the probationary period, a successful employee will have demonstrated their ability to work efficiently in front of their line managers, thus building that all-important trust which will then make your flexible working request more likely to be accepted.

Efficiency is the key factor here as although the idea of flexible working is great and should be available to all, it is often important to demonstrate to your potential employer the benefits for them and how it can work for both parties as opposed to simply asking for what you need. That way you will be more likely to have your request accepted.

For advice or a discussion around this hot topic, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the team today.

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