How to ask for (and get) flexible working

What the past few weeks have shown, as well as the strength and resilience of the general public and keyworkers, is that despite their previous reluctance, businesses can operate their workforce remotely. It has shown that you don’t need to be restricted to your office or the 9 to 5 hour work culture in order to do your job. You don’t hamper collaboration when you don’t see your team on a daily basis outside of Zoom and the world hasn’t imploded because your boss can’t see you physically there hitting your keyboard.

But while we celebrate that businesses have (had to) adopted flexible remote working, many employees are also contending with crisis schooling, childcare, lockdown restrictions and partners fighting for the WiFi. Perhaps your productivity isn’t quite where it should be, or your hours a little more anti-social than you would want – and who can blame you – we are in an International crisis.  The concern is that some employers will base their decisions on this unprecedented period of time which is both short sighted and misguided.

The pandemic has forced businesses into working from home – or face total shut down and as a result, and that despite dealing with the fallout of lockdown, you can still do your job effectively and their business is still alive and kicking.  There has never been more of an opportunity to convince your employer that it shouldn’t be a temporary arrangement, but something worthy of being embedded in their culture. Anna Whitehouse (Founder of Flex Appeal and Mother Pukka) suggested “It is even rumoured in Whitehall that Government ministers believe enshrining the right to work from home in law ‘makes complete sense’ to help us transition out of lockdown.”

Anna (Mother Pukka) cites multiple examples of businesses who have seen a happier, healthier more productive workforce with just a little bit of flexibility. A marketing company that moved to a four-day week for example, saw a double in their profits while lingerie company Figleaves has enjoyed higher retention rates and less sick days.

But if your company is reluctant, how do you go about asking for flexible working? How can you position your request to be taken as an opportunity for them not to miss, and how do you overcome their objections?

The first thing to be aware of is that if you have worked in your role for more than 26 weeks, your employer is legally obliged to consider one flexible working request a year (yes just one!!). However, the downside is, they aren’t obliged to undertake the request.

So, you need to make your one request count. And you can do this by preparing and doing your homework. By having facts, examples and answers to questions, you have the opportunity to state your case so well they have no choice but to agree.

Firstly, ensure you check your Employee Handbook to see if your Employer already has a position on remote, flexible working. The handbook may contain guidelines on making requests, policy restrictions and any other notable requirements. This information can help formulate your proposal.

Working Pattern

State your existing work pattern, and your proposed new one. Explain when you would ideally like this change to come in to affect.  Offer some ways in which you think you can make this new working pattern work and try and identify what problems your employer might see and make suggestions as to how such a change can be dealt with.

Be Reassuring

Tell them you want your flexible working to succeed enough to make sure it does. Offer a two-way flexibility and suggest you can do all you can to manage this yourself.  Reassure your employer that you are looking to just change your work pattern, in order to make you happier in your role and thereby more loyal and therefore more productive. If they are really sticking, perhaps offer a trial period – once schools are back and life is a little more normal. This will prove that productivity and efficiencies really do go up.

Offer good communications

With shared outlook calendars there has never been an easier time to see, quickly, where and when someone is working.  time can be allocated for specific deadlines and projects.  There are a host of communication platforms to keep up to date as well as by email – WhatsApp groups and Slack are common apps that can ease communications when staff are increasingly working more mobile.

Address Concerns Head On

They may resist the request over concerns for how it would affect the business negatively. By meeting this head on, you can name the concerns and provide a solution. For example,

“By giving you this arrangement, we are opening ourselves up to lots of requests from others.”

This can be seen as a positive thing. Not only are they making themselves a more attractive employer to existing and potential employees, but they can gain improved productivity and efficiencies. They could also open themselves up to a wider recruitment pool since employees don’t need to live a commutable distance.  many job applicants will look to see how popular flexible working is in the workplace so offering this will make them an employer of choice.

“What about meetings?”

Provide the option of agreeing core hours when you are required in the office and suggest more scheduled meetings. This can also help with productivity.  Equally, you can recognise that more organisations now are trying to reduce the amount of travelling and instead utilising technology to enable staff to engage with meetings etc using GOTOmeeting and zoom or Skype.

“It’s fine every now and then but how does it work on a daily basis?”

Look to see if others in the business have done it well – what have they done to ensure it works?

Propose that you set measurable objectives to work to and allocate time to report in. This will provide them with reassurance that you are working as hard, if not harder, than in the office.  The important thing is that you can still deliver on the tasks you are set!

Suggest a job share or longer hours in the office on particular days.

Consider how it would work in a crisis situation (if applicable) and if being available on the phone will be enough.

Be Personal

Be honest and tell them why you are asking for this request. It’s not just because you fancy it, but because it will have a positive impact to your life, your mental health, your family and/or your productivity levels.

By considering this from both sides, you can ensure your one request a year is positive, convincing and allays their fears.  Plan and prepare with a clear proposal and they will have to take your request seriously. Keeping employees happy is far easier and more cost effective than having to find your replacement.

As military spouses, the ability to incorporate flexible working patterns is a make or break when it comes to holding on to your job and career. But as well as making sure your employer knows how important this is to you personally, and how committed you are to making it work, ensure you can present key advantages to their bottom line because cost efficiencies and improved productivity are more likely to get their attention.

For more information or advice, email us at

With thanks to Caroline Rochford,