Talking to your boss about family needs and flexible working

Written by Career Mums

9th March 2022

Asking for flexible working arrangements

Talking to your boss about family needs and flexible working.

*updated 2022

It’s no surprise to those of us trying to juggle a busy family life with a demanding job, that flexible working can be a gift. Knowing we can work from home when the children need us, choosing hours and location to suit is fast becoming a new way of earning a living for many. So, what if it’s appealing to you but not on offer in your current role. How do you approach your boss about building flexibility into your everyday career and get the option that works best for your family? Below we explore ways to take the leap with those non statutory requests and seize a working week that’s right for your family.

Be confident

Family needs are important and flexible working works. It’s ok to let your boss know that you have family commitments. The chances are they will be juggling roles too and there shouldn’t be any shame attached to acknowledging how busy life can be with a young family. Employees who feel heard and supported are more likely to be productive, suffer less stress and value their company. Employers are keen to attract top talent and a healthy work/life balance is something on everyone’s wish list, particularly due to the pandemic. Your boss is likely to understand and want to retain your skills so be confident in your approach.

It’s all about the detail

Going to your boss with a clear, detailed plan is much less likely to see your pleas misunderstood. You don’t need to list every household chore, or discuss the logistics of dropping and collecting multiple children from after school clubs within a two hour window whilst entertaining a toddler on the back seat the entire time- but being honest about your family’s daily needs is key if you’re going to help your boss understand the importance of flexibility in your life.

Remember any change in routine is likely to impact your boss and colleagues so think about these details in advance of your meeting too and offer solutions to ensure disruption is minimal.

Detail extends to preparation so go with clear objectives in mind. Are you going in there to finalise a deal or would you be over the moon with an “I’ll get back to you”? Waving a new contract to be signed might lead to disappointment if your boss thought you were scheduled for a brief chat.

Know your audience

We often assume that people respond to situations in the same way we do. But we’re all different and have our own way of interpreting information. Some of us like detail whereas others like short, sweet and to the point. Think about what type of person your boss is. Do they often ask you to clarify the finer points before making decisions – or do they like it when you come in, give them a brief overview, and say it’s all in hand?

Tailor your approach accordingly.

Of course, it’s important to ensure you feel heard but if you know your boss finds lengthy rhetoric challenging, keep it short. Equally, if your boss likes to gather every available fact and figure, go in armed and ready with as many diagrams, folders and pie charts as you can carry. You are more likely to get a positive response if you can meet the needs of your boss as well as explaining the importance of your own.

Be willing to compromise

We rarely get exactly what we want without having to compromise. Expectations are vital but this is about flexible working so being prepared to bend a little yourself is helpful too. Clearly define what you would like to achieve but stay open to your boss’s alternative offers and suggestions. They might recommend an approach you hadn’t thought about (but is very appealing) so listening to their ideas could present a new opportunity. Perhaps you could suggest a staggered approach to a new start. Giving your boss time to get used to a new way of working and ensuring you have everything in place to ensure a smooth transition. Your willingness to find a solution for both parties is unlikely to go unnoticed and you’re putting steps in place which will lead to a more positive outcome in the long run.

What if it’s a no?

Whilst a flat refusal isn’t much fun to consider, being open to the possibility you might not get what you’re asking for makes sense. There could be a host of reasons why your boss is unable, or unwilling, to accommodate your request but it doesn’t have to end in conflict.  If you are clear in your own mind about what you’re going to do with a no, you are less likely to react in the moment potentially leading to a difficult exchange.

Making a big decision about your job is better done thoughtfully and with consideration. Emotions might run high if you are denied your request but try to retreat gracefully and allow yourself time to respond in the right way. If a no means you have to part company, tell your boss in a professional manner and embrace a new start knowing you have the choice to take a job that provides the flexibility for your family you are looking for.

And remember…

We are here to support you! The Career-Mums team have been assisting working parents in their careers for over 5 years.  If you’d like more personalised support to help you land your next role, book your Spotlight on your Career Coaching programme.

For further help and support around juggling life as a busy parent, check out our Working Parents coaching programme. 

Join our Career-Mums Club free community on Facebook for regular support and inspiration as a working parent.

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