How to ask for flexibility in your job

Flexibility is no longer a nice-to-have - it's a must-have. Whether you're looking to improve your work-life balance or simply work in a way that suits you best, flexibility is key. 

10th Apr 2024

While we're making strides towards creating more flexible workplaces, asking for flexible working arrangements can still be challenging. The new UK flexible working legislation from April 2024 has simplified the process and made it easier for some. Unlike before, when you had to wait 26 weeks after starting employment to make a flexible working request, now you can ask for it from day one.

So, how do you approach this conversation with your manager? And how do you make sure your request isn’t overlooked? In this blog post, we'll walk you through a step-by-step guide to asking for flexibility in your job.

Step 1: Know your ‘why’ 🤔

Before you approach your manager, it's important to get crystal clear on your reasons for seeking flexibility. Although you don’t have to disclose this information, it will help your manager understand your motivations to work remotely. This is especially important if you work for a company that is pretty new to working flexibly. 


- 💑 Family obligations or personal commitments

- 🌿 Desire for better work-life balance or self-care

- 🏃‍♂️ Long commute or transportation challenges

- 🧠 Work style preferences or productivity patterns

Take the time to reflect on your ‘why’, and jot down the key points you want to communicate to your manager.

Step 2: Decide what kind of flexibility you want

Flexibility can take many forms, from remote work, to adjusted hours, to job sharing and beyond. Before you make your request, research the various options available to you, and consider which ones align best with your needs and your company's culture.

Some common flexible working arrangements include:

Remote: Remote roles mean you can work from your desired location (within the country you are employed in) all of the time, rather than being tied to an office.

Remote-first: Similar to remote, this means that you can work from your desired location (within the country you are employed in) most of the time. Unlike fully remote working, remote-first roles mean you will have occasional office days, which could be once a month or once a quarter depending on your company.

Hybrid: This type of work environment means there is a balance between in-office and remote work, and is often the most popular amongst candidates as it offers the perfect blend of the two. It is important when searching for a hybrid role that you know exactly what this looks like for you - is it 2-3 days at home, or 4-5 days at home? Is it set in-office days you’re looking for, or do you want to have a choice over when to go in? Make sure you ask your prospective employer these questions to find out if the role is the right fit for you.

Part-time: If you’re looking to work on a part-time basis, this will be your main filter when searching for a new role. Similarly to location freedom, ask your prospective employer exactly how this will work so you can make sure it aligns with any other commitments you may have. 

Compressed hours: Unlike core hours, which give you more freedom over your day, compressed hours give you more freedom over your week. As long as you work the hours required in the week, you can stack these up however suits you best. Do longer days and take the Friday off, or start later on Mondays and make the time back throughout the week - whichever suits you best. 

Once you’ve decided what you’re after, look into your company's existing policies around flexibility. If possible, talk to colleagues who have successfully negotiated flexible arrangements to gather insights and advice.

Step 3: Build your case

To increase your chances of a positive outcome, you can build a strong case for why flexibility is not only beneficial for you but also for your employer. Show that you've thought through the implications of your request and have a plan to ensure your work will still get done at a high level.

Consider addressing:

  • 💪 How flexibility will enhance your productivity and performance
  • 🔧 Tools and strategies you'll use to maintain communication and collaboration
  • 📅 A proposed schedule or plan for how you'll manage your workload
  • 🎯 Metrics or milestones you'll use to track your success
  • 💡 Potential benefits for the company (e.g., cost savings, employee retention)

Be prepared to address any concerns or objections your manager may have, and be open to collaborating on a mutually beneficial solution.

Step 4: Book in a chat to discuss 

Once you've clarified your ‘why’, researched your options, and built your case, it's time to schedule a conversation with your manager. Choose a time when you know your manager will be available and receptive, and give them a heads up about the topic you'd like to discuss in advance.

Remember, the goal is to have an open, honest, and collaborative dialogue, so approach the conversation with a positive mindset.

Step 5: Make your request

With the new flexible working laws taking effect in the UK, employees can now apply for flexible working from their first day on the job. Here are the steps to follow when applying for flexible working arrangements:

Write a written request to your employer. The application must include:

  • The date of the request
  • A statement that this is a statutory request for flexible working
  • Details of how you want to work flexibly and when you want to start
  • A statement indicating if and when you've made a previous application, including the date of the previous request

Your employer will then discuss your request with you and make a decision within 2 months, or longer if agreed upon with you. If your employer agrees to the request, they must then change the terms and conditions of your employment contract.

If your employer disagrees, they must provide reasons for the refusal and discuss this with you before refusing. If you want to complain about the refusal, you can do so through an employment tribunal.

Step 6: Document your new ways of working

If your employer approves your flexible working request, they should write to you with a statement outlining the agreed changes and a start date for flexible working. They should also update your employment contract to incorporate the new terms and conditions. This should be done as soon as possible, but no later than 28 days after the request was approved.

It's time to work in a way that suits your needs!

Asking for flexibility may feel daunting, but with the right approach and preparation, it can also spark positive change in your work and life. By following these steps you'll be well-equipped to make a compelling case and ready to take control of your work life. 

Remember, you deserve to work in a way that aligns with your needs, values, and aspirations.