There are loads of reasons for wanting to work from home. Maybe you’re exhausted by a long daily commute. Or struggling to do the school-run dash and still get to work on time.
Working remotely saves time and money, and makes it much easier to find your work-life balance. So, how do you convince your boss that it’s a good idea?
We’ve got some top tips to help you feel well-prepared and confident before you have ‘the flex talk’ with your employer.
In the UK, if you’ve been working for your current employer for 26 weeks or more, you’re now entitled to ask about flexible working — which includes working from home. Asking your boss to change your work set-up can feel scary, and there’s no guarantee they’ll say ‘yes’ to your request. But a bit of research and preparation can really help you make a strong case and feel more confident when you have ‘the flex talk’ with your boss. Here’s some key issues to think through.
Find out if anyone else in the organisation already works from home
It can be much easier for managers to agree to your request if they’ve already seen home-working in action. Plus, if you’re not the first, it’s likely that any technical challenges (such as setting up video-calls or sorting out IT security) will have been dealt with already. If you are the first, don’t despair — but be prepared to do a little bit more convincing.
Be clear what you’re asking for, be ready to negotiate, and be flexible
Are you looking to work from home every day, or would one or two days a week be enough? Do you want to add other types of flexi-work into the mix, such as going part-time, or working compressed hours (that’s when you work longer hours, but over fewer days)? Do you want to shift your hours, so you start or finish your work day earlier or later than you do at the moment? Before you sit down with your manager, have a really good think about what types of flexi would make your life easier.
Your employer might not be willing to give you everything you asking for, but you can work with them to seek solutions. For example, if you want to go part-time but they feel the role needs to stay full-time, would they consider a job-share? (Companies like GiniBee and ExecJobShare can help with this.) Be prepared to compromise — but also work out beforehand what’s non-negotiable for you. What do you really need to bring back your work-life balance?
“…work out beforehand what’s non-negotiable for you. What do you really need to bring back your work-life balance?”
“Make clear to your employer that you’re committed to your role. You’re not asking to work from home because your job is an inconvenience…You’re asking because you love what you do, and want to be as productive as possible.”
Show your commitment
Make clear to your employer that you’re committed to your role. You’re not asking to work from home because your job is an inconvenience and not a priority in your life. You’re asking because you love what you do, and want to be as productive as possible. Working from home will let you do a better job of balancing out work and other commitments, which ultimately leaves more time and energy for your employer. (But be sure to steer clear of ‘I’ll leave if you don’t let me do this’ territory — even if that’s how you actually feel!)
Reassure them about childcare
Be ready to reassure your boss that you’re willing to put a good home-working setup in place. For example, you might want to mention that you’ll be keeping your childcare arrangements (if you have kids). We’ve all seen those stock photos of a smiling Mum working at home on her laptop while the baby sleeps next to her — and we all know this is totally bananas. You might be at home, but you’ll still be working, and that doesn’t mix with well with noisy and demanding little people, love ‘em though we do.
Adorable, but not great on a video call
Stay on top of IT issues
Show that you are aware of IT issues. Ask about looking after data, backing up your work, and keeping your home computer virus-free. Offer to work with the IT department (if your employer has one) to iron out any tricky challenges.
If a really fast internet connection is important for your work (for example, if you’ll need to be on lots of conference calls), google ‘internet speed check’ to find loads of free tools that will let you test your connection speed at home.
If only the rest of the house looked like this!
Let your boss know you’ve got a suitably professional workspace (they don’t need to know it’s one corner of a messy room!)
Reassure your boss that you can still represent the organisation and look professional on video calls with colleagues and clients.
I keep one small corner of my living room clear just for this. I know just how to angle the laptop so that whoever is on the other side of the screen only sees me sitting on a sofa, with a white wall behind me — they don’t need to see the hellacious toy-scape that’s often littering the rest of the room!
Have a chat about your working hours
Even if you’re at home, you can still be available during your company’s usual work hours, if that’s what they need. If you’re working part time or unusual hours, explain how you can be contacted, and discuss how your colleagues can reach you if any urgent problems crop up.
Suggest having regular check-ins by phone or email (or whatever tools your team uses) to keep your line manager and colleagues up-to-date with what you’re working on. A lot of remote teams have a short ‘standup’ meeting each day, which is just a quick phone or video call to give everyone chance to share what they’re working on.
Point out the benefits to the organisation
This might be tough if you’re in a junior role. But if you’re in a more senior management position, you could try highlighting the strategic benefits that come from allowing remote working. For example, it shows the company’s committment to creating a flexible workplace. That can help attract and retain a more diverse mix of people (including parents, carers and people with health conditions.)
Remote working can also reduce office costs. And allowing more staff to work from home takes cars off the roads, reducing the company’s carbon footprint.
Offer to have a trial ‘work from home’ period
It can help to suggest a trial period, to see if working from home is a good fit for you and your employer. You could offer to start small, perhaps working from home for just one or two days per week to begin with. After a couple of months, you can both review whether it’s working, before moving to more days based at home if everyone is happy.
Once they’ve said yes (hopefully!)
Talk through the details
Yay, they’ve agreed! That’s fantastic. But before you bin your bus pass, it’s worth ironing out some details. For example, if your employer doesn’t have a home-working policy yet, you could ask them to consider putting one in place. ACAS have done most of the hard work already — take a look at their template homeworking policy starting on page 12 of their Guide to Homeworking.
It’s also worth having a conversation about health and safety. Your employer should treat you the same as other staff members — so you could ask if they’d be willing to help with costs for things like getting a decent office chair (or perhaps let you borrow one from work)? Check insurance: if you’re using work equipment at home, is that covered by your insurer, or your employers’? And make sure you’re clear which costs you can claim back (such as phone calls to the office) and which you probably can’t (such as heating your home).
IT and security
Make sure you understand any guidance on data protection. What do you have to do to keep data safe when you’re working from home? Are there any extra security measures you should put in place (such as better passwords or encryption on your phone and laptop)? Things have tightened up a lot since the introduction of the EU ‘GDPR’ data protection rules. So, you might need to make sure that family members don’t have access to your work computer, for example.
Ask your employer if there are any rules you should know about where you can work. For example, is it OK if you want to pop out to a local cafe with your laptop and work over a public wifi connection? (If you handle personal data, this is probably not a good idea!) Also, have a think about what you’ll do if you have an IT meltdown — talk to your IT department or IT service provider and let them know you’ll be working at home, before you hit trouble.
Be proactive and keep communicating
Communication is vital when you work from home. Especially to start with, be really proactive about keeping in touch. It can be a big change for some managers to move from seeing their team around them, to trusting that you are ‘out there somewhere’ getting on with your work. A quick phone call or email is all it takes to touch base. If you can manage it, going along to some meetings in person can help you feel part of the team, and gives you a chance to catch-up with colleagues face-to-face.
If you’re working part-time or flexible hours, let the rest of the team know when you’re available, and how they can reach you if they really need to outside those time. Be friendly but firm — asking for your input during the occasional work emergency is fine, but constantly asking you to do things on your non-work days is not.
If you’re the only one in your team working from home, it can be easy for colleagues in the office to accidentally leave you out of meetings or discussions. Try not to take it personally. Instead, if this seems to be happening, try offering to organise the video calls for the next few meetings (that way, you’ll definitely be included!) And you could try asking a work friend to schedule a Friday lunch and video chat, to help you stay in touch.
Think of it as ABC — Always Be Communicating.
Give yourself time to adjust
For most of us, remote working is new, and can bring its own challenges. Give yourself time to adjust. Treat working from home like any new skill — be prepared to experiment a bit with new tools and ways of doing things. If something really isn’t working, don’t struggle on alone; let your line manager or colleagues know. And give yourself chance to enjoy it! If I’m having a crazy busy week, just being able to nip outside for lunch in the garden, or taking time to enjoy walking the kids home from school, always makes me smile.
I hope this helps you feel a bit more prepared to have ‘the flex talk’ with your boss. myworkhive has loads of resources to help employers find out about remote working (and employers are welcome to get in touch with us, too — we’ll help if we can!) Plus our Remote Jobs Guide has lots of articles for you about all aspects of remote working. To get you started, our Checklist will help you set up your home office, and our guide to Staying Visible When you Work from Home will help you keep your career on track.
Happy Remote Working!
Lucy, Founder, myworkhive