Flexible working sounds amazing in theory. Whether flexi-time, working from home or doing compressed weeks, you get time in the office, the time you need with your child, and everyone is happy. Unfortunately, the reality of it can be a little different. How can you make flexible working work for you? If you are someone who is used to spending long hours in the office, whether because it’s your nature or that’s what’s expected in the business environment where have your career, this can really be a hard adjustment. Below are some tips from my own personal experience. If you have any others, please share them in the comments below.
- First, do not assume that putting in place a flexible working arrangement is not an option for you. Do some research on other areas within your company or industry, so that you have clear examples of what is already happening and what is the norm, and speak to your manager about your needs. It is important to try and be as upfront and transparent with your manager as possible. Once you have a flexible work arrangement in place, I would suggest having follow-up discussions with your manager and colleagues to make sure it is working for everyone involved and remain open to any feedback they have.
- Communicate! It is important that your manager, colleagues, and employees are aware of your hours if they are non-standard, and whether you will be working from within the office or another location. Make sure you keep everyone up to date on any changes to your schedule. Also, make sure that you are contactable via email and phone, and that everyone is aware of the ways to reach you. I would recommend diverting your office phone to your cell if you are working remotely.
- Embrace technology that will help you keep in touch while you are not in the office. If your company uses a messenger service (such as Skype for Business or Microsoft Communicator), then this will be helpful for having short and informal conversations during the day. If you are open to it, then using your laptop to have video calls is another great way to feel like you are in the office when working remotely.
- Encourage others in your team to also work flexibly. It is always easier to work flexibly when there is a culture of it within the workplace. A lot of people are interested in this, but they don’t know how to start. Often by modeling flexible working effectively, you will start to see others jump onboard. So encourage your colleagues as well as your manager to try this too, even if it is for different reasons.
- Flexibility works both ways, so you need to also be open to changing your schedule if there is a specific business requirement to do so. If you work from home one day a week, and a client meeting happens to fall on that day then I would suggest either switching days that week or just come in for the meeting. It is important for your manager to see that you are also flexible, and committed to making this work for everyone. It really helps build trust among the team, which is one of the keys to making this work.
- Give it time. Honestly, it probably took me a year to get comfortable with this. I was so used to doing long hours in the office, and I didn’t feel like part of the team. I also felt judged, which looking back was almost certainly in my head. So go easy on yourself, and give it some time to feel normal. It will happen.