Flexible work is the hot new trend, with a number of traditionally inflexible businesses rushing to introduce the policy.

Many full-time employees are drawn to the idea of flexible work, lured in by thoughts of spending more time with the kids, avoiding the commute, exercising more, starting a side-hustle, or just having more time to relax.

With workers crying out for more flexible working practices, businesses – large and small – are realising the need to accommodate them, in order to retain their talent and remain competitive.

If you’re returning to work, but don’t want to commit to full-time 9-5 (or, perhaps, you’re already working full-time and want to renegotiate your role) this article will help you with the negotiation process.

1. Educate Yourself.

The first step to effectively negotiating for flexible work is to do your research. Make sure you know where you stand legally, and know what your company’s bottom-line policy on flex work is.

If they don’t proactively support flexible working, that doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate for it, though. As well we all know, change happens constantly in business, so none of these things are set in stone.

Taking time to understand what the policy is from the get-go means you’re better placed to negotiate confidently, whether or not there’s a precedent.

2. Identify Your Needs.

Simply going to your boss armed with the notion that you’d like to, “you know, work flexibly” simply isn’t enough.

Flexible working encompasses loads of different ideas, from part-time working to the compressed workweek (same hours, over less days), remote working to job sharing.

Spend some time thinking about why you want to work flexibly, what you hope to achieve by doing so, and which arrangements might help you meet that need.

That way, your request will be much more credible – and less likely to be turned down.

3. Identify Your Value.

Many of us just aren’t that good at talking about ourselves.

Colleagues, friends, family… it’s much easier to analyse someone else’s strengths than our own.  However, being able to elucidate your value clearly is critical to successfully negotiating for flexible time.

Take some time to evaluate your key skills, and the core achievements – preferably quantifiable – that back those up.

Time spent doing this now will be invaluable when you’re actually face-to-face with your boss. Implicit in any request for flexible working is the understanding that them not agreeing might result in you leaving the business.

When I say implicit, I do mean implicit, by the way – under no circumstances should your request be some sort of veiled threat. By focusing on what your value to the business is though, you remind your boss in a positive way of why they want to keep you on board.
4. Focus On The Benefits.

It can be easy to focus on why we want or need flexible working, especially if the issue has been bubbling away under the surface for a while.

I’m under so much pressure at the moment” or “I never see my kids before they go to sleep” and other such declarations are unlikely to help your cause, though.

Granting flexible work shouldn’t be about “doing you a favour” – it should (and mostly does) make the best business sense for your company.

Identify the specific needs your company has and align your request to those needs.

Come back to the specific value you offer the company – if you can show your boss why flexible working will help you better deliver that value, you’re much more likely to get a positive response.

5. …But Don’t Ignore The Negatives.

Any successful negotiation rests on overcoming objections, and it’s a rare company that has no preliminary objections at all.

Rather than glossing over them and hoping your boss focusses purely on the positives, you should address their concerns head on.

Identify potential negatives and explain how you’ll overcome them, whether that’s hitting targets, attending relevant meetings or being available when you’re needed for off-the-cuff support.

6. Be Prepared To Compromise.

Negotiation is a two-way process, so don’t just talk at your boss.

You’re not trying to “pitch” them so much as open up the conversation and work out a mutually beneficial solution.

Don’t view this as a you/me scenario – position it instead as a problem you need to solve, together. As such, invite transparency and open communication. Ask directly what their concerns are, and be open to discussing alternative options.

This is why identifying your needs is so important beforehand – as long as those needs are met, then an alternative arrangement might work better for everyone.

7. Get Colleagues Onside.

You need to be a little careful talking to colleagues, as you don’t want to be perceived as having gone behind the decision-maker’s back.

At the same time, it can be helpful to sensitively broach the subject and gauge your colleagues’ reaction.

Resistance from your team, or any knock-on impact on their productivity or morale, are likely to be major concerns for your manager.

If you can show you’ve considered this and have some sensible suggestions to mitigate this risk, you’re more likely to get a positive response.

8. Be Confident.

Confidence really is the lynchpin that holds your request together!

Women especially have a tendency to prioritise the needs of others over their own, and this can come across as lack of confidence or conviction.

The important thing to remember is that you’re not subservient, you’re not asking for favours and you’re certainly not requesting flexible work because you can’t cope.

It’s well established that employees who work flexibly are more productive and bring more to the business – if anything, you’re doing your boss a favour by working out a way to add more value.

Don’t put your manager on a pedestal. You’re a strong, independent professional who is taking ownership of your career and your needs – there’s absolutely no weakness in that. Own it.