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Emily Bain's tips on how to negotiate flexible working

Are you thinking, 'how can I ask for a flexible working arrangement?' Recruitment consultant Emily Bain has some tips for you... 

Asking for flexi work today is now an automatic statutory right (well, after being employed for 26 weeks). But when I was on my first maternity leave it wasn't and I wondered if I could ever go back full-time to my role at a top recruitment agency in London.

My friend and colleague Claire Gray were in the same position. We soon realised we needed to be our own bosses, so we set about establishing a recruitment company of our own on our terms. We built it up gradually around our families and now, seven years on, Claire and I are directors of a thriving business. We still only work three days a week each and flexi hours are available for those that need it on our team too. What’s good for our staff is good for business.

Our combined skills make for a great team - I’m the business developer while Claire runs the day-to-day operations and it really is the strength of our partnership that has enabled flexibility and growth. Here are the tips we offer candidates keen to negotiate *and win* flexible working terms.


1. Be organised and pre-empt the ‘no’s’

Before you negotiate, be aware of the potential no's, and consider the sensible solutions. On the site, which offers advice for both employers and employees, it lists some of the reasonable turn-downs as, ‘an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff’. Before they can use this line on you, find a trusted colleague who is willing to the cover the extra hours you can’t work.

2. Suggest a job shared is a problem halved

ACAS also say, ‘an inability to recruit additional staff’ would be a reasonable turn-down for flexi work. Seek out other parents already employed in the company that you know are desperate for a job-share and sound them out about working together and putting the pair of you forward to your boss.


3. Highlight minimum impact, maximum gain

Never suggest taking without giving. Sell-in the benefits to your current or prospective employer of working that 7-hour, 9-5 day into alternative blocks of time like, say, a 7-2. And clearly demonstrate how your preferred timings will be low impact. Will the timings chime with your peak work times which in turn will lower your personal stress and boost your productivity? Take a look at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau’s checklist for more flexi-working advantages.

4. Present your job in terms of tasks not hours

Be creative with the solutions you offer. Everyone knows a two-day job worked in chunks over three days, or making up the hours of an evening when baby has gone to bed, will mean you’re one step ahead for the next working day. Talk about super-efficient.


5. Put a positive spin on OOO

If your boss isn’t yet running skype catch-ups, google hangouts and still prefers face-to-face, it’s time you streamlined their systems for the digital age. Not only will you get brownie points for future-proofing the biz, it puts the spotlight on operational efficiencies rather than your needs alone. Which makes it so much easier to put in that flexi working request after baby arrives.  It’s all about playing the long-game.


6. Be ‘virtually’ available

If the remote OOO plan doesn’t stick, but you fancy permanently waving goodbye to your commute, consider taking on a Virtual PA role from home. VAs are booked project-by-project and it’s about the tasks completed, rather than the 9-5 hours worked that matter most. Got a laptop, wifi and a phone at home? You’re good to go. And you don’t even need any contacts, as executive support agencies can instantly connect you with well-paying, flexible clients.


7. Start-up your own business

If none of this works for your current or prospective boss, don’t panic. There’s no better time than maternity leave to try something new or even pursue that no-brainer of a business idea you’ve been kicking around for months. All you need now is a like-minded mummy friend to realise it with.  #WorkThatWorks 


:: Emily Bain is the co-founder of Bain and Gray, an executive support recruitment agency that matches high-profile clients with talented staff. 

Emily Bain and Claire Gray