Five tips for making flex work work
By Ness Stonnill, Founder of Job Pair & Flex Coach
Constantly we’re seeing new research and user case studies on the benefits of flexible work arrangements to employees and organisations and why it’s so important in workplaces today.
Whether you're looking to work part-time hours, job share, work remotely, a compressed working week or other arrangement, here's our key tips on making flexible work work for you and for your workplace.
1. Be clear on what you want
What do you want of your work? How many hours do you want to work? Can you manage your job's (current or new) responsibilities and deliverables in these hours? What else do you want to do/achieve (i.e. train for a marathon, spend 2 workdays with your children)?
Be honest with yourself and be realistic about what works for you (and your family).
2. Know your priorities
Prioritise what’s important to you (professionally & personally). If your 'wants' list is extensive work out what's essential at this point in time and what is 'nice to have' or can be added later. This will help you seek and negotiate a flexible working arrangement that sets you up for success, and won't leave you feeling disappointed, unhappy or guilty.
3. Be open-minded
One of the key qualities of flexibility (work arrangements & mindsets) is open-mindedness. You've got clear on what you want and you've prepared for the conversation about flexible work (or perhaps you're already working flexibly and have a set framework or mindset for how it works). The people around you - your manager, team and HR - may have different thoughts and experiences about how flexible work can work, and add to the conversation and process. Being open-minded about how to bring to life your flexible work aspirations will benefit you and making it a success.
If your workplace is not responsive to flexible work, open up their minds to how it can benefit them, the team and you. Suggest trialing it. What's the worst thing that happens? They say no (this doesn't happen as often as you might think).
4. Set boundaries & stick to them
The purpose of setting boundaries is to protect and take care of yourself. Without boundaries resentment, anger and burnout can transpire. "Healthy boundaries at work help someone find more fulfillment and less stress in their professional life—leaving room for a better personal life."1
Some tips on setting & sticking to boundaries:
Consider what boundaries you have already set & how these are working for you.
Decide what boundaries are needed in your life. Perhaps you have good boundaries at home and can use these at work too.
Determine what is right for you.
Don't feel the need to overexplain - you can say no.
Set consequences and understand why it is important to you. Only declare consequences that one is willing to follow through on, or else the boundaries will not be effective.
Here's an example of boundary setting. A woman in the middle of writing a report might not let a colleague stay long when they drop by her desk. Similarly, that woman might politely decline the same colleague's request to help her with the report because she thinks it's good for her development and time management doing it herself.
Healthy boundaries can help manage demands on people’s time, which when working part-time hours is particularly important.
5. Set & manage expectations
Communication is one of the most important components of work life, and it is key to the success of flexible work. Your workplace might have some flexible working guidelines, which can help with managing expectations upfront. However everyone is different as is every role and employee manager relationship. Setting clear expectations about your flexible work arrangement - the hours you'll work, your responsibilities and deliverables, what you, your manager and team need for it to work - upfront is important, as well as managing expectations ongoing.
Flexible work real stories
For more ideas, inspiration and tips on making flexible work arrangements work for you check out these real stories.
1- Positive Psychology, September 2019, https://positivepsychology.com/great-self-care-setting-healthy-boundaries/