The present economic climate may work in your favour. With the market tough, many employers are more open to the idea of employees working flexibly, so approaching them could be timely.
1. Clarify your thoughts
Have in mind what you ideally would achieve and what you are happy to accept. For example, in an ideal scenario you could aim for a three-day-week, while being prepared to accept four working days as a compromise.
2. Check your rights
In some instances the law provides employees with statutory rights to ask for a flexible working pattern. Visit http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/Employees/Flexibleworking/index.htm to check this out. The site also explains the formal procedure involved.
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3. What's in it for them?
When you are persuading a boss to offer you flexible working, you need to look at it from their perspective. What will they gain by agreeing to you working flexible hours? For example, you may be able to suggest ways in which you could condense your role to be covered in three days, thereby saving 40% in salary; or allowing a colleague the opportunity to learn your role under your guidance to take over from you in two years' time – succession planning is key in most companies.
4. Answer the 'well, OK but....'
Think in advance of objections they could raise. Show the employer you have thought about the impact working flexibly might have on the business and how you and they could deal most effectively with this.
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5. An objection made can be a good thing
An employer saying 'it wouldn't work with you only here for three days a week' is not necessarily ruling out the idea of flexible working. Perhaps they would be happy to agree to a four-day week.
6. Timing is everything.
Ask for the meeting to discuss flexible working when the boss is in a positive frame of mind - not after they've just come out of a gruelling board meeting.
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7. Does a colleague feel the same way?
There is every chance a colleague also wants to discuss flexible hours. They may be in a similar position to you, or perhaps they are a working mum who wants to spend more time at home. Discussing a job share as a solution could prove beneficial.
Written by Marc Lockley, a negotiation coach, is a regular contributor to Saga online and the writer of a fortnightly consumer column for Guardian online called 'the Negotiator'.