WORKING a three-day week could be the way to go for millions of workers.
Even before the pandemic, a handful of companies were trialling three and four-day weeks.
Many of us are seeing the benefits that working flexibly can be highly beneficial and not have an impact on the amount of work we're required to do.
It can be a daunting task though, asking your employer for more flexibility.
But it is something we should all have access to.
The Sun spoke to Laura Braithwaite, mum-of-three and co-founder of Liberty Hive, who first started working flexibly nine years ago.
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She shares her advice on how to ask an employer for support.
Be upfront about what you want
Laura, 51 and based in London, has worked at various media agencies throughout her career and began working flexibly when there wasn't much talk about hybrid working.
Wanting to have more freedom, while still working full time, Laura decided to put the question to her boss.
She said: "I did it in a proactive way and said, 'why don't you try it out, three days a week'."
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Workers have the right to ask for a four-day week, or to make a different flexible working request.
There are a few restrictions, but it applies to most employees including parents, carers and those returning from maternity leave.
You have to be legally classed as an employee and have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks.
You can only make one request in a 12-month period.
Your boss has to consider your request but they don't have to agree to it
In 1999, the mum of three ended up working a three-day week for nine years, and pro-rated her pay – her children are now 24,22 and 17.
Once her youngest turned five, she went back to five days a week in 2008.
Her husband Chris, who is 55 years old, evenly shared childcare duties with Laura, taking the youngest to nursery every day while Laura dropped the older ones at school, for example.
As an expert in working flexibly, Laura said one of the main things employees should do is to be upfront with their boss.
She said you should always ask for what you want and when you do, explain how the flexibility will not only affect you but also your peers and the company.
For example, it might create a better work ethic, or maybe attract new talent if they know the company is open to flexible working.
You could even argue that it can help with childcare costs.
One dad The Sun spoke to said he and his wife have saved £3,000 a year after he asked his boss for a four-day week.
Over the next few years, Laura moved roles and worked for a company which allowed her to work flexibly in a different way – she was full-time but was able to pop off during the day for school runs and appointments.
It gave her great flexibility and her boss was extremely supportive, but she then decided she wanted to further her career.
Having worked within media for decades, Laura realised there was a gap in the market for a media agency that prioritised helping people work how they want to.
She paired up with colleague and friend Kate to launch Liberty Hive which matches media specialists who want to work hybrid with companies that support that.
Have a clear idea about what flexibility looks like to you
Laura said one thing to do if you're thinking of approaching your boss and asking for a schedule change, or are in the middle of interviews and want to negotiate, is to know what you want.
She said: "Have an idea of how you do want to work."
She said it's important to be prepared as flexibility is individual to everyone.
For example, someone may want to work five days a week but be able to start at 8am one day but 10am the next.
But someone else may find 9am-5am Monday to Wednesday is the best option for them.
She said: "I think you'll be surprised how supportive people can be but I think you have to have a very clear idea of what flexibility looks like to you."
Make sure you're clear about what you want too, she recommended.
While of course, you should ask for what you want (if you don't ask you don't get), she also said you should be sensible with what you ask for and do your own calculations on hours and salary.
The pandemic has spurred a rethink of working hours at many companies as millions were forced to work from home during lockdowns.
Around 70 firms with more than 3,000 staff have signed up to take part in a six-month pilot which will give workers an extra day off each week.
They will work four days a week but get paid the same salary as a five-day working week.
Do your research on how the company works
Laura said that if you're in the process of finding the job, do your research on what it offers.
"Hybrid" can mean different things with companies, she said.
Hybrid working is a model that offers employees flexibility on where and when they work.
The term has many variations – some employers may allow their employees to work remotely full-time or part-time or a mixture of office work and remote working.
Even before the pandemic, 77% of UK employees favoured hybrid working, according to a report by Adecco Group.
Therefore, it's important you understand exactly what hybrid means to the company you could be joining – though this can also apply to the one you're already at.
She said: "It's definitely worth doing your research around how the company works because what we're finding is that post-Covid everybody is working quite differently.
"So you've got some companies who say they're a face-to-face company so that's in the office every day.
"I'm not saying any model is right or wrong but for whatever reasons people have different flexibility policies," Laura added.
Ask them what they'd be willing to do for you and your needs.
"Is it certain set days, are there certain days you can pick where you work from home?"
She suggested reading about them or speaking to someone in the company if you know them.
It isn't just for those with children
Perhaps one of the misconceptions around hybrid working is that it should just be for those with children but that really isn't the case.
Laura stressed that anyone should be able to work flexibly.
It may be that you're wanting to care for an elderly relative, or you have a pet or even you want the flexibility to pop off for appointments.
Even if you don't have a "responsibility" you should still have a right to rethink how you want to work.
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She said: "We've proven it really can work, I'm not saying we all want to be at home five days a week."
"I can't see that it should be restricted just because you have children or pets, it should be for everybody."
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