Steven Patrick Morrissey once said that “shyness is nice, and shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you’d like to.” That’s certainly the case for UK workers, 21% of whom are ‘too shy’ to ask their employers for flexible working.
Perhaps that’s because bosses aren’t always receptive to the idea. Research has found that 34% of employers don’t offer any type of flexible working initiative, despite the many reported benefits for both staff and businesses and the plentitude of flexible workspaces available.
If you believe that flexible working, maybe even remote working too, is the right move for you, but are either too shy to raise the topic, this is the guide for you.
Prove that flexible working is good for the business
The advantages to the worker (you) are easily explained. Who wants to spend two commutes a day breathing in petrol, stuck in traffic or surrounded by stale bus air? The advantages for businesses are less obvious, and they need to be clear to convince owners of their merit.
Happier workers are more productive workers. A 2015 study found that employees who were placed on a flexibility program were happier at work and less prone to burnout than their office-dwelling colleagues. This can mean less sick days, less turnover, and less cost for businesses. The Balance suggests that adopting flexible working leads to “increased employee morale, engagement, and commitment to the organisation.”
In fact, embracing flexible working as a company-wide initiative can actually save businesses money on high office rents. For instance, providers like WeWork and i2 Office offer flexible workspaces to businesses that can be hired for as little a financial commitment as half a day’s rent. These spaces offer professional alternative environments to the traditional office, allowing employers and employees to maintain a professional image, even when out of the office.
Remind your boss of their vested interest in you being happy
Explain why this move is important for you. Of course, the reasons may well overlap with the previous point, but what is good for you can also be good for the business. Emphasize why a flexible working arrangement will help you both personally and professionally.
Don’t say that you can’t cope with the 9 to 5, instead reiterate your commitment and enthusiasm for the job, and show that you believe this will help you to be your best more of the time. Be specific and show how this new way of working will actually work in practice. Perhaps this will involve creating a timetable or a new working schedule. Sorting out these details will help make your case for flexible working watertight. For this reason, it is a good idea to make the request in both writing and in person.
If you feel your circumstances at home makes flexible working all the more essential don’t be afraid to say so. Speaking to The Guardian, Natalie Pancheri, HR Policy Adviser at the London School of Economics, calls for businesses to recognise that individuals have different needs both inside and outside of work.
For example, single parents or carers might find it impossible to spend 40 to 50 hours away from their home a week, flexible working is a way of keeping these people economically productive.
Pancheri argues that “embedding a culture of flexibility begins to chip away at the types of issues that can prevent women from advancing their careers, as well as making sure that this becomes the norm rather than ‘special treatment’ that may be resented by others.”
Remember the law is on your side
It’s important to remember that you are absolutely within your rights to ask for a flexible working arrangement. As of April 2014, all employees who have been with their employer for 26 weeks or more have the right to request flexible working.
Similarly, workers who have children aged 16 or under, or of disabled children under the age of 18, have the right to ask their employer if they can work remotely and the employer has to reasonably consider all requests. If you are unsure for whatever reason about your right to request flexible working, be sure to visit the flexible working page at gov.uk.
Of course, your boss may well turn around and say “no”, but they must give a valid reason for doing so. In fact, if employers do decline it has to be for one of eight reasons:
– the burden of additional costs
– an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
– an inability to recruit additional staff
– a detrimental impact on quality
– a detrimental impact on performance
– detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
– insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
– a planned structural change to your business.
If you don’t feel their answer fulfills these criteria, you will be able to appeal this decision –even if your business doesn’t have an appeal process. If your request is still turned down, and you feel that the reasons for this are unwarranted and unfair, there are still options open to you.
In this situation, Citizens Advice suggest referring your request to Acas/Labour Relations Agency who can resolve the dispute. As a last resort, you may be able to make a claim to an employment tribunal.
Hopefully, with your clear arguments, data and a clear plan, not only will you business be happy for you to move to flexible working, they’ll be more than happy to book you into a flexible workspace as soon as possible.