When Maree Mamo took up an executive level job at a national energy company, she wasn’t about to give up her flexible working hours.
In previous roles, the Melbourne mum-of-two had been able to negotiate a compressed working week and Fridays off. So, when she started at AGL as general manager of Customer, Digital and Data about 18 months ago she was happy to see they embraced flexibility.
Maree was able to ensure that by working a bit longer from the office Monday to Thursday (and from home during the evenings when needed) she had Friday’s off to attend her children’s school assemblies.
Now a champion for AGL’s flexible working policy, Maree shares her top tips for negotiating a flexible working week.
1. Do your homework.
Whether it’s making a presentation to your current employer or going for a new job – doing your research is important.
“Schedule a meeting and do your homework. Think about what it is you’re looking for. think about what it is the expectations are of you and your role and how you could fulfil those expectations in an alternative way,” Maree says.
“Take consideration of what some of the thoughts of the organisation might be and what their needs are, so you can ideally present some great possible options up front in that conversation.”
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For example, if you spend 30 minutes clearing emails each night, could you be leaving a half hour earlier and doing that on the train home from work (or once the kids are asleep) instead of in the office?
And if you’re going for a new job, a quick peek around a larger company’s website should turn up some company mottos or values that you can check against your own.
“I would encourage people to seek out employers who have policies and cultures that align with your own personal values.”
2. Value yourself.
Make sure you know what you’re worth going in and keep in mind your skills and experience, Maree recommends.
“What is it about you that makes you highly valuable? I think particularly women need to get in touch with what that is. That makes a compelling argument in any negotiation,” she says.
Whether it’s your five years in the industry, the sales targets you exceed month-on-month or the workplace initiatives you’ve introduced – all the reasons that have helped you land (or might get you) the job are the reasons why you’re worth making flexible arrangements for.
3. Know what you want and ask for it.
When raising the topic of flexibility, Maree advises being very clear on what you're asking for, "because the more clearly you can articulate it, the better".
Maree says the clearer you are on what you want from the arrangements, ie: leaving at 3pm on Tuesdays because that's the day of your child's swimming lessons, "the richer the conversation around how those needs can be accommodated".
4. Be up front and raise the topic early.
Maree concedes that five years ago she would have recommended leaving the conversation of flexible hours until late in the recruitment process, but now sees things differently.
"I think now people can entertain it earlier on in the process and even before because more organisations are realising the need to be flexible in order to attract and retain top talent."
"My view is, bring it up early and have the open conversation.
"It can potentially backfire if you leave it to the end of negotiations because it could be perceived as something other than authentic."
4. Help the employer to trust you.
Maree says not all her employers have been as progressive and ready to embrace flexibility as AGL.
She says during these "challenging" negotiations she worked with the company to help them to understand how it could work.
"Having been a pioneer of flexibility over the years, there's been different organisations that have had different levels of appetite, some that have really needed to understand you as a person, your commitment and how you work to trust that it can work."
5. Be open to other solutions.
Maree advises being clear on what you want, but also being open to the suggestions of your employer.
"Be open to the fact that what you land on may be different to what you're suggesting, but going into it with an open dialogue about how we can make this work for everyone involved."
Once you're in the job be clear about your expectations.
Maree says being clear on how the arrangement will work from both sides is important. For example, Maree's workplace knows she can be contacted on her Friday off, but also that she is only to be called in urgent circumstances.
"I think it's about creating those expectations up front and sticking to those, both for yourself and for the organisation," she says.
"If you have blurred lines it can be hard for the organisation to work with you, so it helps on both fronts."
Have you negotiated flexible working hours? Tell us about it in the comments.