How Flexible Are You?

We live in a world where there are ever-increasing options for how we work.  This allows us much more flexibility when it comes to fitting work into the things we want to do with the rest of our lives.

Many books have been written about how to earn more money by working less hours.  I particularly enjoyed reading “The 4-hour Work Week” by Timothy Ferris last summer.  He had some really interesting advice for entrepreneurs, but also for people who work in office-based settings.

For lots of us, we have more options that many people believe.  We tend to assume that the only option is the one that was offered to us as our basic employment contract.  This is quite often the 9-5 concept.

Requesting Flexible Working

If you are based in the UK, you have the right to make a request for flexible working once within a 12 month period.  This may get accepted or rejected by your employer and there is the right to appeal.  You may have to look up the legalities of it in your country before you choose to have a conversation with your line manager.

Flexible Working – Your Options

There are a variety of different options available when it comes to flexible working.  Here are the most common ones:

Part-time working: work is generally considered part-time when you are contracted to work anything less than full-time hours.

 Term-time working: you are on a permanent contract but can take paid/unpaid leave during school holidays.  There are different ways pay can be calculated so you can receive consistent pay each month, so make sure you do some research and calculations before you request this option.

Job-sharing: a form of part-time working where two people share the responsibility for a job between them.  While the salary and annual leave allowance would be distributed proportionally between the two parties, there would be additional costs for the employer for other benefits.

Flexitime: this allows you to choose, within certain set limits, when to begin and end work.

Compressed hours: compressed working weeks (or fortnights) don’t necessarily involve a reduction in total hours or any extension in choice over which hours are worked. The central feature is reallocation of work into fewer and longer blocks during the week. For example, this could be 4 days working 10 hours per day instead of 5 days working 8 hours per day.  Make sure you calculate the legally required break times into your working day.  For the UK, this would be 20 mins break after every 6 hours of working.

Annual hours: the total number of hours to be worked over the year is fixed but there is variation over the year in the length of the working day and week. You may or may not have an element of choice over your working patterns.

Working from home on a regular basis: this is where you would regularly spend time working from home.  This option is more feasible for some roles than others. You may have to employ some creativity to figure out how this might work for the kind of role you do.  It is also important to ensure that you have an appropriate space to work at home, without interruptions.

Mobile working/teleworking: this permits employees to work all or part of their working week at a location remote from the employer’s workplace.

Career breaks: career breaks, or sabbaticals, are extended periods of leave – normally unpaid – of up to five years or more.  People are starting to use this to have an extended holiday (travel round the world or a chosen continent).  Women have been using this option for years to take time off to raise their children.  Some people use a career break to see if they can launch their own business.

Commissioned outcomes: there are no fixed hours, but only an output target that an individual is working towards.

Zero-hours contracts: an individual has no guarantee of a minimum number of working hours, so they can be called upon as and when required and paid just for the hours they work. These types of contracts have received a lot of bad press in recent years, however they do provide an enormous amount of flexibility for those who use them responsibly.

There are many more options out there when it comes to flexible working.  As you can imagine, it also includes being self-employed and doing contract work.

If You Believe, You Can Achieve!

Your imagination is your limit here.  What are you able to come up with that might add some flexibility into your working life?  Being clear about what you want, what the implications would be for you and your employer, and providing a variety of options that may work for both parties will increase your likelihood of any request being approved.

Good luck if this is something you might want to pursue.

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