August 21, 2017
3 things I learnt from asking for a flexible work arrangement
By: Michelle Genford

Everything moves so quickly in today’s digital age and the lines between work and life continue to blur (who else treats their desk like their dinner table? #amiright?). It has become increasingly important to set boundaries that will enable you to be your whole self – at work and at home.

We see so many organisations embrace flexibility in different ways. Many have policies in place to support flexible working – the upcoming Australian HR Awards has an award category specifically for this. However, how do we get a proper understanding of how these policies will apply to us as individuals, each with a different set of circumstances?

Alongside the conversation of your salary expectations, seeking out information about an organisation’s approach to flexible working can feel awkward. After having many conversations with candidates on work/life balance and culture, as well as having to navigate the situation myself twice after returning to work from parental leave, I present to you my tips on how best to ask for that flexible work arrangement:

1. Be mindful:
Take the time to reflect and really understand what is driving your need for flexible working – what are the things that are important to you, what are your non-negotiables? Use this as a basis to understand how work can best fit in with your life commitments.

2. Be confident:
Articulate what flexible work arrangement best suits your needs, outside of the context of what you believe can be offered. Set your own boundaries, and be confident in your abilities and the value that you bring to any role regardless of “face-time”. It is important, though, to level-set your expectations. For example, it would be rare for a company to agree to pay a full-time salary for a 60% work schedule. One day maybe!

3. Be curious:
Don’t be afraid to proactively ask questions from the first conversation. The sooner you get an understanding of the organisation’s approach to flexibility, the better it will be for you. For example, Accenture offers a broad spectrum of both formal and informal flexible work options, however the most meaningful conversation will be about how those work options would be best applied to your individual circumstance. You may also consider connecting with a potential colleague for a coffee catch up to broaden your network and find out more from a peer-level.

Once you have determined the flexible work option that will suit you – proactively present a scenario for acceptance or for further conversation. The quickest, clearest outcome will be gained from stating “this is what I want” rather than “oh, gosh, I don’t know, what can you offer me?”.

And finally, share the love! The more dialogue we create about our own flexible working options, the sooner it will be known as just “working”.

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