Wouldn’t it be great to work the hours you want, when you want?
Although more and more companies are starting to take notice of the benefits and importance of flexible work options for employees (namely: increased productivity, morale and retention), it is still a concept that is difficult for many Hong Kong employers to embrace. So how do you negotiate more flexibility? Here are five tips to get the conversation going.
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1. Know your ask
It seems basic but it is essential to have a clearly defined “ask” before presenting it to your manager. There are many forms of flexible work options out there, so it is paramount to define the work format you are asking for and why you are asking for it. Do you want to work from home on certain days? Are you looking to leave the office by 5pm but can be available later in the evening? Do you want to work four days a week? Think through the type of flexibility you need and the implications around it before you approach your employer (or prospective employer) with a request.
2. Do your research
According to the IWG Global Workspace Survey, approximately 85% of businesses with flexible work policies think they are more productive as a result. It’s up to you to paint a picture of how working flexibly can work. Speak to peers who have an arrangement like this at your current company (or at other companies) to understand the benefits and challenges of each situation. Highlight to your employer how these situations have worked successfully before. It is equally important to explain why you think a flexible schedule will also benefit the company. For instance, it sends a message to the broader organisation that the company prioritises the work/life balance of its employees.
3. Don’t underestimate your value to the organisation!
In creating your case for flexibility draw on your personal performance as to why it can work. Use examples as to how you have successfully worked independently before, or driven a process where you worked with colleagues in other locations etc. Furthermore, don’t underestimate your own value, particularly if you have worked with the organisation for several years. Companies know that there is a cost (both time and money) in having to replace a great employee and, let’s face it, losing an employee hurts their retention ratios. If you have been an excellent performer, chances are they will be willing to entertain a flexible work schedule rather than lose a top-tier employee.
4. Have a strategy
When discussing the logistics around working flexibly with your employer, devise a clear framework to manage expectations. First and foremost is the flexibility you are asking for temporary or permanent? If you think your request for flexibility is one that will change after several years, highlight this to your employer. It’s a great way to illustrate your commitment to the organisation. But if you are looking for something part time for the foreseeable future, be firm in your ask. One of the biggest challenges in transitioning from full time to part time is establishing clear boundaries as to when you are available (and when you are not!). When it comes to the day to day implementation, be ready to offer guidelines about when you expect to be online and any anticipated changes to specific duties. Ideally flexibility is going to allow you to be more productive and add value (just without the face time). Talk to your employer about how you will maintain your most critical responsibilities and ensure that there are no interruptions or hiccups to those that you propose to delegate or reassign.
5. Be prepared to be flexible!
You may not get exactly what you are asking for in your initial request. Be prepared for some push back from your employer and have responses ready. Are you willing to take a pay cut? How will you maintain client relationships? Think through the challenges and be ready to offer up some solutions. Often, Hong Kong employers are worried that employees will take advantage of working from home if they cannot physically see their employee’s productivity. Suggest a trial run to further illustrate how it can work for everyone.