Flexible working: how to get your line manager on board

How to support your Line Manager to love the fact you work flexibly!

Perhaps you need to start later in order to do the morning school runs. Or you want to work three longer days so you can spend precious time with your young children on the other two.

Whatever the reason, it’s not something you can easily do without your line manager’s support. While all employees who have been working for an employer for 26 weeks or more have the right to request flexible working, the reality is that getting buy-in can take a bit of work. But don’t worry, we’ve got plenty of experience on that front.

Remember that it’s not just for your benefit

When it comes to negotiating flexible working, remember that this isn’t just about you. While your employer hopefully does care about your wellbeing, they also have a duty to the business. So the best way to approach a flexible working request is to set out the business benefits. And there are lots of them!

For a start, offering flexible options gives businesses a real competitive advantage for attracting and retaining top talent. Think about it - if you had two job roles open to you, one that was flexible and one that wasn’t, which would you choose?

But that’s not all. For larger companies, flexible working can help tackle diversity issues by encouraging more women into the workplace while also addressing the gender pay gap by allowing women to rise to more senior roles. And then there’s the fact that home working can allow businesses to downsize their offices, saving money on overheads while creating a more agile workforce.

Whether you’re approaching your current line manager or going for an interview, remember to make the business case for the flexible working options you’re negotiating for. And be prepared to explore all the options so that you can find a middle ground where both your needs and those of the business are being equally served.

Show your line manager they can trust you

It’s our opinion that employers should, by default, trust their members of staff. After all, why would you hire someone if you thought they were going to start slacking off the moment your back was turned? As Ernest Hemingway is reported to have said, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

But trust is also a two-way street and is something that we can accelerate through our actions. If your line manager offers to trial home working for a set period, for example, make sure you reassure them appropriately. That could be by checking in at set times, agreeing to keep an online log of work completed or using project tracking software to keep them in the loop.

Keep communicating with key stakeholders

We’ve found that line managers can sometimes struggle with overseeing flexible teams because it undermines their feeling of being in control. If the employees they’re responsible for are all working in different ways, on different days and across different locations, how can they be sure that the work is really getting done and getting done properly?

The key to dealing with these worries is to ensure that there is regular communication between you as a flexible employee and both your line manager and other members of your team. It’s important that expectations are established in advance and that there are project management tools in place that allow everyone to check in on progress whenever they need to.

Your line manager might find it easier to give you flexibility over your hours if you track them on a timesheet, for example. Or it might be easier for them to monitor your home working if you’re able to agree set output targets or project deadlines.

Remember, communication goes both ways - if you can’t pop over to your line manager’s desk to ask them a quick question because they’re not in the same room as you, you need to ensure there is some way of getting your answers. There are plenty of great apps for this, such as Trello and Slack, not to mention WhatsApp.

Help them to understand flexible working better

When it comes to flexible working, every company - and every line manager - will sit somewhere on a spectrum. At the one extreme there are those that are passionately embracing this hugely beneficial way of working. At the other there are the risk averse organisations that haven’t fully understood the business benefits it can bring.

If you’re already in a role then you’ll probably know where your employer sits. If they’re at the less flexible end then it could be that they simply need educating about the benefits that flexible working can bring. Because as we’ve already seen, there are plenty.

These businesses may well be operating under the assumption that changing the way they work will be too difficult, expensive or time consuming to be worth it. Perhaps they think flexible means working less when actually it means working differently.

At 2to3days we’re passionate about supporting mothers to find roles that help them use their skills and experience and find fulfilment at work without having to compromise on their family life. That’s why we’ve created Managing flexible teams: The Ultimate Guide for Line Managers. If you’re keen to encourage your workplace to be more flexible, why not flag it up for your line manager’s attention? It may be the start of a whole new way of working.

And do have a read of it yourself. You’re far more likely to secure a flexible working arrangement if you understand your line manager’s perspective and know how to best support them in creating a culture of flexibility.

Have you joined the 2to3days hood? We’re on a mission to get mothers into fulfilling flexible roles that use their skills and experience without forcing them to compromise on their home life. So far 28,000 people have joined our movement. If you’re not yet one of them, join today.