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Dear Liz, I’d like to work from home but I’m worried my boss won’t approve. Can you help?

Dear Liz, I’d like to work from home but I’m worried my boss won’t approve. Can you help?
I’d like to work from home at least two days a week but I’m worried my boss won’t approve. I have no children, I’m not looking after an elderly relative but I have a long commute and I feel this would help me get a better work-life balance. Please could you give me some advice on how I should approach the topic?

To answer your question requires some legal context and I reference, via these hyperlinks, guidance available on the Working Families and Acas websites.

You should note that you do not have a right to change your working hours, but you may have a right to request flexible working under the statutory procedure, depending on whether or not you meet the eligibility criteria.

Whilst anyone can try and negotiate a change to their working pattern with their employer at any time, you can only put in one statutory request for flexible working every 12 months.

Details of how to make a formal, flexible working request under the statutory scheme, are in the above linked web pages.

So, you can see the legal framework and you can make this formal request. However, a request does not mean it will be approved. I would suggest that before making any request, you think about why you want to make this request and whether your absence from the agency for 8 days a month, would be realistic. For the most part, agency life is about teams and collaboration. Whilst a great deal can be achieved away from the agency every now and again, how sustainable is this for your particular role and team?

I would suggest that if your agency agrees to flexibility, you try out a day or two a month and see if it works for you and the agency. If it works and everyone is comfortable with the arrangement, you might try taking out a bit more time away from the office. I don’t know your role, but more than two days a week, especially if you are client facing and with pitch responsibilities, is not always an easy thing to do. It is not impossible, but needs reassurance that the balls will stay in the air and neither the team nor clients will be impacted by your absence. How will you attend meetings, how accessible are agency systems, drives and documents?

If you are not client facing, you may still need to be present in the office for a certain amount of time, to deal with your internal clients. Any agile working arrangements require flexibility from both sides. Whilst you might want to work from home on a Thursday and Friday, work load and holiday cover may mean that you are required in the office on these days one week. The flexible arrangement needs to be just that.

Perhaps think through the impact of a negative response to your request; how might you manage the commute, what practical alternatives could you offer? Carefully think through your application and if all else fails, you could agree to try it out as an experiment.  If it does not work, you revert back to the current situation.

Experience builds trust and sometimes our fear around trying something new only sits in our heads. Our fears may not turn out to be reality. But we do need to be realistic and flexible within our requests for flexibility.

If you have an HR-related issue that you need answering by our expert Liz Nottingham, Agency HR Director, FIPA, please contact us at social@ipa.co.uk. Any questions published will appear anonymously.

Last updated 14/08/2017

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