Despite the idea of flexible work being relatively old news since technology made it possible nearly two decades ago, research shows that organisations are still abysmally slow in adopting flexible work practices.  But who is really to blame for this? A recent study showed that despite upwards of 80% of the population believing that flexible work could improve their work-life balance, most were too afraid to ask for it.  Reasons individuals cited for this fear include concerns that they would be perceived as ‘slacking off’ or ‘less committed’ and that this would harm their chances of promotion.   

Regardless of whether their fear was well-founded or not, asking for flexible work arrangements can be daunting.  The good news is, however, that you can ask in a way that both increases your chances of securing what you want, and ensures that you are not perceived as ‘slacking off’ in the process. Here’s a foolproof guide for asking for flexibility:  

  1. Read your organisation’s policy, and know the law

As with any request you would make, it is important that you gather all the facts.

When asking for a flexible work arrangement, fact gathering begins with you collecting information both on what your organisation’s flexible work policy, and also, what your minimum entitlements are under the law.  Facts on your rights with respect to flexible working are available on the Fair Work website.  If your organisation does not have a policy, you will be entitled to the minimum required under the law, however, if they do have a policy, they may offer entitlements above and beyond this.  

  1. Look for best practice examples

Knowing the basics is just the beginning of the research you should do prior to asking for flexible work arrangements.  You’ll also need to arm yourself with best practice examples of flexible work – and ideally examples from within your organisation – to present as evidence that flexible work can, and does work.

Start by doing internal research – does anyone in your organisation already work flexibly? If so – who, and how? Ideally, look for someone in a senior role who has a successful track record of flexible working – this will serve as a great example to your manager of how it can be done successfully.  

If no one in your organisation is working flexibly, try to find other examples of individuals within your industry that are working flexibly.    

  1. Prepare your business case

When asking for flexible working arrangements, many people make the mistake of making it all about them – ‘I need to work flexibly because I have XYZ other requirements I need to fulfil.’ This however, is not a business case, it’s a ‘you’ case, and fundamentally, your organisation doesn’t care about you – they are just after a productive, high-performing employee.

So when preparing your business case, emphasise why the arrangement would make you an even more productive, high-performing employee – there’s a tonne of evidence that supports this.  In addition, reassure your boss that new technologies such as this one by Teazl are making it possible to do your job anywhere, anytime.   

Also, be sure to bring solutions, not problems – for example, instead of ‘you’ll need to recruit someone to work the other two days that I can’t’ try ‘I have a few people in mind who could work on the days I’m not available, but I’m also happy to spearhead the recruitment process if they aren’t suitable.’  

  1. Be strategic about when and how you ask your boss

Remember when you were four, and you strategically waited until your Mum was in a good mood to ask for ice-cream? Well, in some ways things haven’t changed – timing still really can be everything.

Although there may be no ‘perfect time’ to discuss flexible work arrangements, try to arrange a time with your boss where they at least seem less stressed and have time for you. If this time is during your annual performance review, so be it – but beware that if you are claiming you will be more productive, your review will need to reflect your productivity in the first place! In addition to this, present your case in the most concise manner possible – research shows that for an overwhelmed boss, more can definitely be less.  

Want to work flexibly? Ensure that you read your organisation’s policy, research best practice examples, prepare your business case, and plan how, and when, you’ll ask your boss to drastically improve your chances.  

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