Creating your dream job

Juggling our work-home-life balance can be tricky. So what can you do when work starts to take over? Susan Moir shares how to negotiate a more flexible role.

“I have been working in a sales role in a full-on environment, sometimes up to 48 hours a week. I would like a more flexible working arrangement. So how do I get started? And what will the likely trade-offs be?” Jenny

Most of us think of a dream job as one which affords both flexibility for relationships and interests and stimulation at work. I’m here to shatter the myth of work and life balance. No careers give balance. You give it to yourself. But, to be honest, it’s impossible to have total balance. Invariably one is more important to you than the other.

Many companies are prepared to offer flexible working arrangements, indeed some industries such as retail, hospitality and health depend on people being available outside of normal office hours. The trick is not so much to get flexibility, but to achieve it without losing engaging work or lowering your salary. 

To get started, first be good at what you do.  Before you talk to your current boss make sure you capture on paper your achievements and the value you bring to the business. The flexibility you can negotiate is directly commensurate with how well your firm regards you and how much you have proven your worth before you started negotiating.

Spell out what is in it for them and put this in writing. Be clear about what it is you want, and think long and hard about possible objections your employer may have. Come up with potential solutions to those problems and be ready to argue your case. It’s a good idea to talk to your colleagues about this, as you may find that someone else in the organisation would also like to work flexibly. This could mean that you find ways to cover work between you. Then you can go in with a mini business plan to show how your ideas might work.

Know your bottom line. The rather obvious reason is that you get paid a proportion of your full time salary. Many people seem to forget that if they only work some of the hours, they only get paid for some of the hours and that their leave and other benefits are also reduced.

There are inevitably likely to be limitations. For example, flexible working is not usually conducive to managing large numbers of people. You may find you are not in the same position you once were for promotions or travel—not because these options are unavailable to you but because they would tip the juggling act out of kilter. Moving to a new organisation whilst retaining the flexible arrangements you have in place in your current organisation may be difficult. Sometimes you may feel you are in conflict with your own personal ambition. Think of it as a dimmer switch, the ambition is still there and can be allowed to shine more at a later time of your choosing.

Time is almost always of the essence. You may experience the need for self-discipline and intense productivity more keenly than when you worked full-time. It’s really important though to be in the moment; don’t spend your time at work thinking about the issues going on outside work and vice versa. Be where you are and focus on that.

Flexible working arrangements allow you to make more decisions for yourself, as opposed to someone else making them for you. This doesn’t mean you’ll have an ideal work-life balance. It does mean you’ll have a life you have made for yourself. Which might be the best we can hope for.


168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think By Laura Vanderkam. Portfolio Hardcover.
Blog with many useful articles on working flexibly: