How to pitch for the flexible working you want

Many working dads have got used to new ways of working this year. We’ve expert advice on how to pitch for the flexible working arrangement you want as the nation goes back to work

Agile Working


With Boris Johnson’s call for workers to return to the office, we asked Jessica Chivers, top return-to-work psychologist, author and founder of The Talent Keeper Specialists to share her thoughts on how fathers can pitch for flexibility and new ways of working.

Back in 1984 when Freddie Mercury was singing about wanting to break free my dad was a man liberated from gender stereotypes and it was him, not my mum, who picked me up from primary. He got out of school a couple of hours ahead of my mum – they were teachers not teen parents. Given her complete job love and his lack of it, it made sense for him to quickly scuttle away from work whilst my mum stayed on.

These last few months have given many parents the ability to ‘break free’ from the usual routines of dashed drops and rushed returns at the end of the working day. I know many dads have enjoyed the extra time with their kids. And in many households there’s been a much more equal approach to the domestic load. I also know that many men have continued to feel the same burden of presenteeism (albeit on Zoom) and have been fairly worn out because of it. They’ve found being at home difficult. One father I coached recently even went as far as renting a private office because he couldn’t find focus in their small London flat with two young children.

I’m wondering how this strange time has been for you? Have you found a new and better way of combining work and family life? If not, what would ‘breaking free’ look and sound like for you?

It stands to reason that if the way you’ve been working has felt good – you’ve been getting the work done and having time for life beyond – you’ll want to hang onto this new way of doing things. So how can you maintain, or find the new flex you want, when you’re asked to return to the office? Here are my five top tips for having a conversation with your boss:

Know your ideal scenario

You might have noticed some days have been better than others during the last few months. Thinking about what characterised the better days can help you work out how you’d ideally like to combine work with family as we move into a ‘new normal.’ Think about your ideal blend of work locations (e.g. office and home); start and finish times; when you’d like the major meetings to go in your diary; and when you’d like to have uninterrupted solo time for ‘deep work.’

Ask you boss how it’s been for them

Get your boss talking about what she or he has enjoyed over the past few months. What’s worked? Why? What ways of working do they want to keep from these weird weeks? This primes him or her to listen to how it’s been for you, what you want to keep and why.

Explain what’s worked well for you and play up the positives

“I’m glad you asked…” comes your reply when your boss asks what ways of working you’d like to keep. This is where you talk about how you’ve really noticed you have much more focused and fruitful days when….A, B & C and how you see a future where…X, Y & Z (you sharing your ideal scenario).

Consider your team and explain how you’ll mitigate any downsides

Add in a couple of points about how you see your new suggested way of working being actively good for the team (or at least not negatively impacting their performance/cohesion/wellbeing).

Talk about a trial

Yes I know we’ve just had one massive trial of working differently (which has largely proved that trusting employees to work from home yields positive results). But some bosses need to hear the word ‘trial’ to feel comfortable. So talk about giving your suggested way of working a go for 12 weeks and then reviewing it.

Of course, if you have a brilliant boss you won’t need these tips.

Best of luck with your pitch to break free from the old ways.

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