Working Mum Cartoon: Wanting To Ask For Flexible Working Arrangements: Yellow Eve Illustration

How to ask for flexible working arrangements

Jo Phillips, professional executive women’s coach, explains how to ask for flexible working arrangements. First Jo breaks down how to build a compelling argument, then she explains how to nail the conversation itself with your employer.

“If you’re afraid to use your voice, give up your seat at the table.”
– Michelle Obama

This resonates. It’s harsh, but it’s so true. When it comes to flexible working, we need to ask what for what we need.

It’s likely that you’re good at your job, people look to you to answer the tricky questions, you are the one who has the answers and yet, you’re tired – smiling, but tired. It’s because you don’t have balance, you’re up at 6am – to sort the house, sort the kids and off to work. It’s full on before you finish work, sort the kids, do the evening activities and here we go again… What you really need is some flexibility.

You’re stuck. You want flexibility but think, ‘What if I ask for flexibility and I’m seen as incapable? What will my male counterparts think? What will my boss think? Will I be overlooked for those important projects or a promotion? In a covid market will that make me less employable?’

So many of my clients worry about the F word, and it doesn’t have to be a difficult conversation. 

According to ACAS, You might be able to make a ‘flexible working request’ to your employer if you want to, reduce your hours, change or have flexibility with your start or finish time, do compressed hours, work from home or elsewhere, and share the job with someone else. You can ask for the change to be for all working days, or specific days and shifts or perhaps for school term hours.

What’s the legislation surrounding flexible working?

Interestingly, if you have worked for your employer for the last 26 weeks, you are legally classed as an employee. If you’ve not made any other flexible working request in the last 12 months, employers should make a decision within 3 months. All employees have the right to request flexible working, including if you’re a parent, a carer, or returning from maternity leave. If you’re a parent or carer, your employer might have other ways for you to take time off. For example, parental leave to look after your child or time off for dependants. Check your workplace’s policy.

So this is straight forward right? Nope, some employers will try everything they can to decline your request. So, let’s look at why and when flexible working can be declined, (taken from

  • Extra costs that will damage the business.
  • The work cannot be reorganised among other staff people cannot be recruited to do the work.
  • Flexible working will affect quality and performance.
  • The business will not be able to meet customer demand
  • There’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times
  • The business is planning changes to the workforce

Think like your boss! Find the solutions for your employer before you ask. Think outside the box. What do you need? And how can you make this happen to help to get your request accepted? You need to make it very difficult for them to decline. And now combine that with the below.

Top tips to make the conversation a ‘winner’

1 – Structure your ‘utopian’ list.

For example: to work school hours every day. Write down, ‘I want this because… I want to work until 3 every day so that I can collect my kids from school. I want to work term time only. I want an early finish every Friday. I want to condense 5 days into 4 by working in the evening because…’

2 –  Define your ‘I can live with this’ list

I need to pick up the kids from school three times per week, so that I can see my kids and so that my mental health and internal compass feels comfortable. Whilst I haven’t got everything I want, I have what I need.

3 – Have a game-changer list

Your game-changer list is your ‘I can’t live without this flexibility’ list i.e. picking up my kids twice a week, and an early Friday finish at 4pm.

Get prepared, spend some time thinking about what you need. Do you need school hours? Do you need to finish early on a Friday? Would it suit you to work school hours but carry on into the evening?

If you don’t get a yes, what would be a good compromise? Come up with some combinations of flexi-packages that could fit and suit you, if you don’t ask you don’t get.

Become a member illustration.

What’s the benefit of your employer allowing you flexible working?
  • A 2012 CIPD survey estimated that about 76% of over 2,500 managers surveyed cited retention as one of the more popular employer benefits of flexible working.
  • Offering the option strengthens employee loyalty to a company as encouraging long-term commitment. This enhances the company culture and reduces the costs associated with recruiting and training new employees.
  • Flexible work promotes happier and less stressed employees, who feel valued.
  • Research shows it’s a top consideration when attracting new employees – a flexible working culture is amongst the top criteria for applicants.

More benefits are here.

The F word shouldn’t be a dirty word. As one of my woman crushes says, “If you’re afraid to use your voice, give up your seat.” I say use your voice in an informed and precise manner that provides clear reasons and some solutions from your employers’ perspectives. By doing this, you will get exactly what you need.

Jo Phillips

I’m the founder of, a professional executive women’s coaching practice. I am uniquely placed to help you uplevel your confidence by mastering your mindset, identify those internal barriers which are showing up and holding you back from making  changes in your career and life.

My signature programme ‘Reset and Radiate’, has been designed specifically for you, to give you the best results using my tools and techniques researched and designed for the busy, corporate women.

Join Jo’s free ‘I Am Remarkable’ 90 minute group coaching session on Thursday 22nd October. By the end of the session, you will feel much more confident about self-promotion. Register your place here.

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