What is Flexible Working? How to Negotiate Flexible Working During an Interview

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May 20, 2021 | 9 Mins Read

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Advancement in technology in today’s modern age has brought along positive adjustments to several industries, including the employment sector. Today, employers, employees and the entire corporate entity can exchange files, communicate and collaborate on tasks without the additional pressure of commuting and dealing with other workplace disruptions. Without any doubt, flexible working arrangements are gradually becoming the new standard moving forward. So, what is flexible working?

What is flexible working?

Flexible working, commonly referred to as flexitime or flextime, is a non-conventional working arrangement that does not have the traditional constraints of a typical job. This new working arrangement considers the worker’s personal needs and allows most individuals to find a healthy balance between personal and employment life. Essentially, flexible working refers to any other working schedule that doesn’t follow the traditional arrangements.

Flexible working methods include:

  • Part-time: A part-time employee works fewer hours than a full-time employee. They work in shifts to keep up with the demands of their employment. There is no defined number of hours determining full-time or part-time employment, although full-time employees often work 35 hours or more a week.
  • Working remotely: Remote working is a method of working that allows employees to work outside of a traditional office setting. It is built on the idea that work should not have to be completed in a certain location to be functional. You can work remotely at home or anywhere else; this method is also known as teleworking.
  • Flexitime: Flexitime is a working schedule that allows workers or employees to alter the starting and finishing hours of their workday, unlike traditional working hours that require employees to work from 9 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon.
  • Job sharing: Job sharing is a form of flexible work in which two employees work part-time hours to finish the work of one full-time employee. 
  • Zero-hours contracts: These are employment contracts with non-guaranteed hours which means that employees can be called when needed and get paid only for the hours they work.
  • Compressed hours: Compressed working hours are a form of flexible working schedule in which employers reduce their usual working week into fewer days. It is about allowing workers the freedom to balance other parts of their lives, and it can be very beneficial for someone who has other major responsibilities.
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Benefits of flexible working

A flexible working arrangement has plenty of benefits for both the employers and the employees. Both the employer and the employee can benefit from flexible working. Employees can obtain a healthier work-life balance, reduced absenteeism, and lower stress levels. It is handy for people who work a second job or working students with other major obligations. However, here are some of the top advantages of flextime.

1. Ease of management

Less demanding management is one-way employers can benefit from flexible working arrangements. Managing employees working on a non-standard shift is easier because they only require managerial input when collaborating with their colleagues in projects or communicating concerns.

2. Reduced stress and burnout

Stress and burnout are the leading causes of poor productivity in any workplace. Encouraging remote working and telecommuting is one of the best ways to reduce stress and burnout, thus ensuring a more productive task force.

Stress is harmful to your wellbeing, so working flexible hours or from home will help you reduce your stress levels by excluding your everyday routine from the equation. Controlling your time often eliminates the need to squeeze tasks between tight working hours, which adds to the pressure and stress.

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3. Job satisfaction

Job satisfaction for employees is the other benefit of flexible working arrangements. Like less stress and burnout, better job satisfaction can help increase employee engagement and performance, thus ensuring high productivity.

In addition to that, the ability to handle your own time will boost your morale and sense of accountability for the job and the business. As a result, you’ll have a greater sense of control over your work, making it more fulfilling and enjoyable.

4. Reduced costs

For employers, flexible working arrangements allow for an increased employee headcount without a larger office space. That can save a company lots of money since there are reduced costs in renting office spaces, buying furniture, and other infrastructure required by in-office employees. Especially if a company is running out of office space, it would be reasonable to hire employees that work from home, whether full-time or part-time, to prevent spending money on larger spaces.

Employees also need to use technology to engage in meetings, presentations and collaborate on projects. With flexible working arrangements, all employees would need access to the internet, a phone, and a computer. In this case, working from home would reduce electricity costs.

5. Enhances retention and attraction

Companies allowing flexible hours for their employees will only help them maintain valuable staff since flexible work schedules are among the most sought-after benefits from their employers. A lot of organisations are still very hesitant when it comes to flexible working arrangements. However, employers who allow this method have a significant comparative advantage in the recruiting process and have access to a much larger pool of talent. 

Since the young generation of employees has different aspirations than their seniors, the acceptance of flexible employment is expected to increase rather than decrease.

How to make a flexible work request during your job interview

Although flexible working arrangements offer plenty of benefits, it is not an inherent employee right. Therefore, it is essential to want to address it during your job interview. It is necessary to be careful about approaching your potential employer concerning flexible working to avoid sending a wrong message. A half-worked approach can leave your employers questioning your commitment to the job.

Many employers in today’s modern workplaces are willing to negotiate a flexible working arrangement if your resume convinces them that you are a highly valued employee. However, with the right approach during your job interview, you would not need a decorated resume to convince your employer that it is easy for you to work from home and still get the job done. So, how do you request flexible working hours?

Tips for negotiating a flexible working arrangement

Research information about the company’s employment culture

Negotiating a flexible working arrangement would be much easier for you if you have points that can help you in the process. Therefore, ensure you uncover some clues about the company’s employment culture that can help you decide when and how directly to bring up the topic during the interview. You can find such information on the company’s website in the ‘careers’ section.

It is worth doing your research before an interview to see if the organisation is willing to consider flexible working. You could visit the company’s website, do research on the company’s employment culture and see if they project a modern, forward-thinking and diverse image. You could also figure out if they seem to be a community of strong values. Additionally, all of this indicates that flexible working is possible.

Many companies today recognise that workplace flexibility ensures both productivity and employee retention. Therefore, it would not be surprising to learn that a flexible working schedule is one of the desirable employment features of your future employers.

If the website’s ‘Career’ section does not cover anything concerning telecommuting or any other form of flexible work arrangement, check for indicators that the company openly acknowledges personal life outside of work. Such indicators can include artwork and or family pictures on desks, walls, or cubicles in the offices. With these clues before the interview, you can determine when and how to introduce the flexible working arrangement topic.

Devise a strategy

Even with the clues above, you still need to convince your employers that you can work remotely and still deliver on your work obligations. That’s why you may have to create a strategy for how you will get the job done within the framework you are proposing. Essentially, your plan should describe how you can compensate for any time you would not be physically present at the office. Remote working or going to work outside of the regular workday could be part of your strategy.

For instance, you can propose an arrangement where you come to the office earlier than other employees to spare a few hours to pick your kid from school in the afternoon or evening. The key is to devise a strategy that suits your circumstances and required of you by the employers.

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When should you ask for flexibility?

It is tricky to know the right time to request flexibility. Before applying for the position? During the interview stage or after you’ve been given the job? While asking right away can save you time, waiting for the interview stage will encourage you to understand the business and its culture better. At the end of the interview, especially if it went well since it will give you a better chance, bring up flexible hours. You may already have piqued their attention at this stage and will be more open and willing to your request. 

If you have experience with flexible working with your previous jobs, you could demonstrate how it went, explain that it could benefit all parties, and show that you can do it effectively. Additionally, be prepared to address any concerns that the employer might have.

However, another option is to wait until after you’ve been given the job position. This way, you will be free to treat your flexible working proposal as a normal part of the negotiating process. Any employee has the right to request flexible working hours after they have worked at the company for six months.

Clearly state why you need a flexible working arrangement.

Every individual has a unique basis for requesting a flexible working arrangement. Therefore, you need to state your grounds and how long you intend to work under a restructured work schedule. Remember to be straightforward on what you want so you can suggest a clear and specific job agreement to your employer. Whether you are proposing a temporary or a more permanent restructuring of your work arrangement, you need to state it during the interview. 

Balancing work and life depends on the person and is different for anyone; however, if you’re going to be working fewer hours, you need to consider and be realistic about what you will do and achieve during that time. If you agree to more work than you can take, you’re unlikely to be satisfied with the results. Keep in mind that both you and your employer need to benefit from flexible working. Additionally, you will need to prove that you can meet the employer’s expectations when performing a flexible schedule.

Most employers would gladly grant you a flexible working arrangement if you have reasonable grounds and they are convinced your personal life would not affect your productivity at work. 

Suggest a trial period for your proposed arrangement

If an employer is not convinced that your proposition would work, they are more likely to deny your request for an adjusted working arrangement. That’s why it is a good idea to counter with another proposition of a trial period, where they can evaluate the viability of your strategy. 

It is vital to evaluate whether the current routine is as convenient as you wanted. During the one or two-month trial period, you have to convince your employers that you can deliver on your work obligations while working under the restructured arrangement. When some time has passed, you should check in and see how things are going, and if you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, you and your boss should try to work out a new agreement.

Conclusion

It can be tricky and even risky to negotiate a flexible working arrangement with your potential employer during the interview. However, knowing when and how to bring up the topic can help you convince your employers to grant your request. If you have an upcoming job interview where you intend to make a flexible work request, use the tips above to increase your chances of getting your way with the employers.

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