How to handle a flexible work request

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If you are an employee learn how you can request flexible work arrangements.

Flexible work schedules can be a key reason employees choose to join or remain with your organization. Flexible schedules can take many forms: part-time work, compressed work weeks, working from home, amended start and finish times, working remotely, or a combination of these. While not all options apply to every job position, it’s more important than ever to consider how flexibility might help build a more positive and supportive workplace while still delivering the overall results needed to maintain viable business outcomes.

1. Recognize your bias
First, assess any underlying assumptions that may form your views on flexible working. Perhaps you don’t see the value in flexible working. Do you find yourself judging the validity of the request rather than focusing on any impact it may have on outcomes? With an open mind, use the tips below to stay focused on the possibilities, recognizing ways you may lead differently to create a positive opportunity for all members of your team.

2. Lean on your organization’s policy and know the law
Next, examine your organization’s policy, which should be based on relevant legislation. When looking at the policy and procedure for flexible work requests, consider your role, including timeframes for responding, and provide a reasonable rationale for supporting or declining these requests. In some situations, an employee may have a legal right to request a flexible work schedule, but it varies on a case by case basis. Consult your HR team for policy guidance.

3. Consider informal versus formal requests
Any change to an employee’s working arrangement can have legal implications or health and safety considerations. While not all requests will be ongoing or need formalizing, you must confirm with HR before agreeing to or finalizing new arrangements.

4. Ensure goals and performance objectives are clear
Be sure to establish a clear process for setting objectives and tracking progress with regularly scheduled check-ins– a key part of ensuring the success of flexible schedules for all involved. As with any project, generic or unmeasurable goals will compromise the success of a flexible arrangement. It’s essential to integrate discussions on the front-end to determine exactly ‘how’ flexible schedules will meet the specific, measurable objectives you aim to achieve.

5. Set clear boundaries and don’t leave communication to chance
Boundaries are simply a way of discussing what’s acceptable and what isn’t. By setting clear expectations from the start, you can reduce potential frustrations from all parties. For example, “It’s okay that you work from home on Friday, but it’s not okay to be out of contact via phone and email for the whole day. Let’s agree on what communication channels will work best.”

6. Think about the whole team
Many employers report success with flexible work allowances when they invite all team members to participate in flexible-working design sessions. These sessions are where employees and managers work together to develop team-based flexibility solutions, rather than managers doing this in isolation or with just one employee. This transparency offers an opportunity to validate the needs and concerns of each team member while giving them agency in the decisions that will impact them all.

7. Consider a trial period
Before locking in a flexible arrangement, you may want to implement a 3-to-6-month trial period with regular reviews embedded in the arrangement, keeping in mind that you may need to make adjustments quickly if issues arise. If you adopt a trial approach, be sure to document the terms of your agreement.

8. Leverage the physical space and technology
Spend time understanding how your workplace technology may support or compromise the flexible work arrangements across your team. From remote access and IT security to the provision of additional hardware, it’s important to support each employee’s digital experience. It’s also worth ensuring that your employee plans to use the workspace are fit for purpose from a privacy and safety perspective.

9. Remember that flexible work arrangements can flex
Flexible working is flexible in nature. With clear boundaries, measurable goals, and open communication, you’ll always have the opportunity to review arrangements and make adjustments as needed.

Circle In are proud to have partnered with Gemma Saunders, Founder of Workplace Edit, to develop this resource.

Managers can make or break an employee experience. It’s imperative that you support and invest in your people so that they feel empowered to manage their careers and caring responsibilities.

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