How to pitch for flexible working (and make it work for you and your team)
Drawing up a list of what you need versus what's a nice-to-have can help clarify your situation in your own mind. For instance, it might be vital you leave at 4.30pm on two specific days and if the role won't allow it you might need to rethink your employment (or your childcare arrangements), whereas working a nine-day fortnight may be a nice-to-have. In addition, you might have some specific needs at the beginning of your return-to-work transition that you won't need on an ongoing basis. Be clear in your communications with your line manager about anything that might be temporary as you're likely to be able to agree this informally as part of your comeback plan.
Nicola Hogg, team manager, in-house public sector
Chris Purcell, partner, third sector
Sometimes you'll need to be available and/or in the office when, ideally from your perspective, you wouldn't have been. It's helpful to anticipate business situations that might require you to break away from any agreed flexibility and get stuck in (team away day or a client media crisis on a non-working day). If you can show your employer how you would accommodate business priorities that clash with your flexibility, she or he is likely to be reassured of your commitment and more likely to approve your request. It's also useful to let other colleagues know how you can be (or have been) flexible to avoid any potential resentment. Do let your employer know how much notice you are likely to need (where the situation allows) in order to rearrange childcare.
Karen Wilkie, associate, Peterkins
Katherine Allan, solicitor, RBS
What would it take to convince your line manager your request is a really good thing for the business (perhaps because it solves or improves a problem, eg you working anti-social hours at home to support clients in different time zones) or, at least, not a problem? Consider what potential headaches your flexible working proposal could create and find ways to solve them. There may be colleagues or clients who will be in your line manager's mind when she or he considers your request, so is there a way to get them on side? You sharing client organisations' approaches to flexibility and their output-oriented culture could be a useful influencing tactic too. As could sharing what your partner's organisation has agreed to in terms of flexibility. "Foster a spirit of collaboration and co-operation. Let your colleagues know you will help them at their pinch points (when overworked/at holiday time) and you will find they are willing to reciprocate."
Lynsay Kelly, solicitor, J&A Boyd
Many returners find it's helpful to their relationship with their line manager (and to securing a 'yes' to their request) to have a chat before putting it in a formal application. Your line manager may have additional thoughts or questions you can answer to assuage their concerns. Flexible working is a standard item for discussion on many returners' Keep In Touch (KIT) days so raise it early on and be mindful of the time it can take to accept or decline a request.
Legally speaking, flexible working requests can take up to three months to be reviewed and accepted or declined, so work backwards from your return date to make sure you submit it in enough time. Your organisation may have a standard flexible working request template. If not, see the legal section at the start of this guide for what to include. Ideally, you will have had positive and productive discussions with your line manager and your application will simply be a formality