Working sure went in for a makeover in these two years. This requires workforces and their bosses to keep adapting. Image Credit: Shutterstock

The turbulence of recent times in responding to and working through a pandemic opened peoples’ eyes – and minds - to alternative ways of working. More companies were starting to acknowledge the importance of flexibility before COVID-19 made remote working mandatory overnight, proving that productivity comes in many different forms outside of the 9-to-5. However, now, the gap is widening between what employers and their employees are comfortable with long-term.

According to Ernst & Young’s EY Work Reimagined Employer Survey 2021, 90 per cent of employees want flexibility, but 35 per cent of employers want a full return to the office. A lack of clarity is also causing problems, caused by poor communication between bosses and staff. In another survey from LinkedIn, 7 in 10 working women in India have quit (or considered quitting) due to a lack of flexibility.

We’re at a pivotal point in the future of work. But rather than feeling powerless as an employee, there are several things you can do to take control and negotiate the terms you want, whether that’s remote working, flexible hours, a pay rise, or a promotion.

- Decide what you want. Firstly, you need to be absolutely sure about what you’re looking for in the workplace and why. It helps to consider what benefits these changes will bring to your personal life and/or your career development. You can’t expect your manager to be a mind-reader; once you have clear objectives, you need to communicate them.

Break the scenario down for the senior team by being as specific as possible; for example, if you want flexible working, how will that look, what will your hours be, and how will you ensure the quality of your work remains consistent? Likewise, if you would like a pay rise, be honest about how much, and then explain why you can justify that figure.

- Know your worth. The majority of people underestimate their abilities and value at work, even those who appear to be self-assured from the outside. If you don’t believe in what you can offer, you won’t be able to fight your corner to elicit the most favourable outcome. A good way to develop more confidence is to list your skills and strengths, alongside any positive feedback you have received in the past.

Then, use that information to sell yourself. When it comes to requesting a pay rise, people often link it to their length of service or compare themselves to others on the team – ‘if they got one, then so should I’. Instead, focus on believing that you actually deserve the raise based on performance.

- Be transparent. Transparency is essential when having the ‘talk’ with your manager. When you’re asking for what you want, be honest about any logistical commitments or responsibilities you have (like childcare). There is far more danger in leaving things unsaid and constantly having to juggle everything, as this can quickly cause resentment on both sides. People value honesty, and the worst thing you can get back is a no.

- Improve your EQ. Emotional intelligence has a massive impact on the success of your career. When you have a higher EQ you are better able to deal with your own emotions and those of the people around you. Take a step back and think about your manager’s motivations - what is their agenda, and what challenges might they be facing?

Identify their leadership and communication styles so that you can interact with them more effectively by speaking their ‘language’. It’s beneficial to build a personal relationship with your boss if possible, to create a better connection. As in most situations, likeability is a significant factor in getting ahead.

- Check your contract. On a more practical note, don’t forget to go through your employment contract properly to find out what you are entitled to and what parameters you have to work within. For example, if your contract specifies certain hours and you find yourself regularly working over and above these, you may be in a stronger position to negotiate to do overtime from home or only working a half-day on a Friday to compensate.

- Suggest a trial. If you’re coming up against resistance, it makes sense to suggest a trial period to see how the new situation works for both parties. Change is usually easier to accept when things aren’t set in stone. But you must be prepared to properly assess how the trial went and go equipped with any evidence at the end of it to support your position. A trial period should help to alleviate any doubts from the people above that you were right all along.