In the second part of our work-life balance series, Andrew Garbutt of Berkshire Consultancy explains how to negotiate effectively for flexible working arrangements
Asking your boss for a change in your working arrangements can seem daunting. But if you make your case so that your manager can see clear business benefits, then your request is more likely to be received sympathetically. So, how do you go about getting what you want?

What are your legal rights?
If your need is driven by changing family responsibilities, find out your legal rights. These range from flexible hours for parents of young children, paternity leave and parental leave, to time off for other dependents – for instance, caring for elderly parents. Check whether your employer has a flexible working policy – does this include the arrangement you propose? Are other companies in your sector operating a similar arrangement?

Prepare your case
Before you approach your employer, you need to consider the issues from their viewpoint:

  • Think through the business implications of your request. How would it affect the work you do? How might it impact on colleagues, managers and customers? If it involves fewer hours, how will the tasks of your job get done?

  • List all the benefits to your employer. What advantages might there be for the business? What savings could the organisation generate from this change? What might your employer lose if you leave your job altogether?

  • Come up with ideas about how it will work in practice. For instance, how would your job be covered when you weren't there? Who would people contact? Could someone else undertake some of your responsibilities?

Pick your moment
When you decide to approach your manager, choose the right time and place to discuss your proposals. Stress the mutual benefits for the business and the customer as well as yourself. State clearly what you want, but be flexible – there might be alternatives you have not considered. Suggest trying your ideas on a trial basis for a defined period. This provides an opportunity to test out the arrangements.

Be ready for your manager's reaction. If the answer is "no", don't take it personally. The refusal might be for good reasons, so find out what they are and show a willingness to explore concerns your manager might have. Make positive suggestions as to how they can be handled.

Remember, in addition to juggling staff needs, managers are concerned about meeting their targets. So the more you have thought about the practicalities of the arrangement, the easier it will be for your manager to accept.

Stress the benefits for the business and the customer as well as yourself – and state clearly what you want