Flexible working is a concept that has been around for a while, but is only getting more popular and certainly won’t be going out of fashion any time soon.
As companies are waking up to the all-round benefits to offering their employees flexibility within the parameters of the working week, we are seeing increasing numbers of women taking advantage of a tailor-made approach to working, to suit their individual lifestyles.
Gone are the days when working 9-5 Monday to Friday was the bottom line of a full-time job. Whilst plenty are still happy to continue with this traditional schedule, for many, this simply isn’t appealing or practical in today’s world. Flexible working appeals to all ages and genders, allowing for personal preferences, lifestyle choices and individual commitments to influence working hours and locations - with remote working literally opening up a world of possibilities!
However, it is arguable that women stand to gain the most from these opportunities, particularly when it comes to the issue of having a family. Whilst fathers are increasingly taking a more hands-on role when it comes to sharing responsibility for child care and indeed being more active in the upbringing of their children in general; as nature dictates, it is women who physically undergo pregnancy and childbirth and more often than not remain the primary caregivers afterwards. Historically, women would be forced to choose between having the career they deserve and the family they want – thankfully, with flexible working, that is no longer the case and having it all (however that may look for each of us) is a far more realistic prospect.
And it’s a no-brainer as far as employers are concerned too – flexible working opportunities increase employee satisfaction and wellbeing, which in turn is reflected in increased retention and productivity. It’s a win-win situation and employers understand that if they want to attract and keep hold of brilliant, ambitious women, a flexible approach is a must.
Interested in joining the world of flexible working, but unsure how to make it happen? Here are our top five tips for nailing the hours that suit you:
1. Go for that full-time position and negotiate later
Often it can seem that the jobs we really want are advertised as full-time roles rather than part-time or flexible positions. Don’t be dissuaded by this – apply for the job you really want because, as Peggy Vosloof, Creative Manager at Risesmart, advised in our interview with her, “if you’re the person they need… chances are that flexibility can be negotiated right there and then”.
2. Check out the job boards devoted entirely to flexible working opportunities
Yes, these do exist! Not only will these save wasted time considering jobs which may not offer the flexibility we are looking for, they will direct our attention to a whole host of possibilities we may have otherwise overlooked. Thrivhers spoke to Gemma Lloyd, Co-CEO and Founder of Work180 – the only job platform where employers are pre-screened to ensure they support women’s careers. Another site well worth a visit is Beam Australia, dedicated to finding flexible opportunities for exceptional talent.
3. Get clear on the type of flexible working you want
Have you considered the various options available and thought about which would best work for you? The whole point of flexible working is that it is tailored to the individual’s circumstances – it’s not one-size-fits-all. Are you looking for flexible hours whereby you commit to a proportion of time in the office each day, with flexibility to complete the remaining hours at a time to suit you? Or perhaps you feel you could compress your working week into fewer days by working longer hours? Working from home or remotely is another popular option, either full-time or for a contracted proportion of each week. Similarly, job sharing is becoming increasingly common for those looking to redress their work-life balance by going part-time. Understanding your needs and the available options will help you make the choice which is best for you.
4. You won’t know until you ask
Love your job but the hours aren’t working for you? It doesn’t have to mean the end of the road – employers may be far more amenable to flexibility than we realise. Very often we underestimate our value, but our employers may be more than prepared to compromise in order to retain a high-quality employee. Sometimes it can simply boil down to whether or not we are prepared to ask for what we want – and all things are considered, there really is nothing to lose and everything to gain!
5. Prepare your case
Approaching your boss to ask for increased flexibility can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Take some time to prepare your case before scheduling a meeting. Find out if there are any existing policies in place and familiarise yourself with key information about flexible working. Be sure to emphasise the benefit to the company and highlight what your employer stands to gain by agreeing to flexible terms. Prepare to negotiate and compromise, suggesting a trial period could be a way around resistance. When you feel very clear about your reasoning and arguments, it can be a good idea to request a meeting in writing – this has the benefit of outlining your request in advance and formalising it, so that your employer has to consider it as a serious suggestion.
Whether we are looking for a way to make our current job fit our lifestyles better, or looking for a new job that offers a better work-life balance; there are more possibilities for flexible working than ever before and there has never been a better time to make sure our working hours are working for us.
By Gemma Coldwell - Contributing editor
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