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How to successfully request flexible working hours

From June 30th this year, anyone who has been with the same employer for at least 26 weeks is legally entitled to make a written or verbal request for flexible working hours. For many who’re juggling work, family and caring commitments this is a welcome move forward.

If you’re considering applying for flexible working hours we share tips for stating your case to your employer, how to work well from home and what to watch out for when making a request.

Convincing your employer

Formally requesting flexible working hours usually means more time working from home and less time in the office which, while convenient for you may not be so helpful for your employer.

Ignoring the scepticism of colleagues who perhaps aren’t privy to your personal circumstances and focusing on the benefit for you and your family will help you to present a confident case to your employer.

Remote working may sound to your employer like you’re susceptible to distraction and are perhaps shirking your responsibilities but it’s an opportunity for you to show that you’re committed to making your job and care obligations work alongside each other.

Stating your case

To boost your chances of having your flexible working request approved, it’s important to plan what and where the positives lie for your employer.

Make a plan. Outlining a proposed schedule of work with allotted tasks and clearly explaining to your employer the advantages of working from home or changing your current contracted hours puts you in a strong position to promote your case.

Keeping on track. Traceability of working hours and accountability for tasks completed becomes vital if you’re requesting to work from home. Using a time management system that’s linked to your office’s software or even manually time-sheeting your work hours will help you to keep a record of what you’re doing and allow your employer to keep track of your progress.

Communicate. Staying connected via phone or email is essential to working relationships. Create a workspace that’s away from distractions if possible and if not find a place that’s comfortable to work in. Being available to talk when working from home proves to your employer that you’re present, focused and able to get in touch quickly should problems arise.

Work smart. Taking the opportunity to fill waiting periods – if you’re taking your parent to hospital or GP appointments – with email conversation can help you to keep on top of admin while leaving longer periods of time free for onerous tasks.

Collaboration. Using software and online applications specifically designed for file sharing and working on team projects such as Google Drive or Dropbox may help make homeworking a more streamline process. Depending on company policy you may be able to ask your IT department to install the company’s drives on your personal computer to make file access from home much easier.

Flexibility. Asking an employer for flexible working hours is all well and good as long as you’re prepared to be flexible as well. Working out the best solution for both of you may not always be smooth sailing and so a compromise could have to be reached. If you want to fit your job around child and elderly care this might mean working unsociable hours – early in the morning or evenings – in order to keep up with your workload.

Challenges of requesting flexible working

Reaching retirement. According to a national survey workers over the age of 55 were the least likely to have submitted a flexible working request. If you’re nearing the realms of retirement concerns for job security may mean you place personal needs below professional commitments. This can often lead to a point of crisis when caring responsibilities inevitably interfere with productivity at work.

Loyalty vs. life balance. Those who’ve worked at the same company for a long period of time may feel they’re unable to ask for a change to their contracted hours for fear of upsetting the apple cart. But flexible working hours are as much about empowering the employee to do their job well within time frames they’ve set as it is about getting the best out of workers from an employer’s perspective.

Value for money. This may sound like corporate speak but if caring for an ageing parent is exhausting your energies and distracting you both day and night it’s important to raise this with your employer. A good manager should recognise and value your honesty while offering ways to adapt your current working day. If you’re faced with negativity or unfair treatment it could be worth speaking to your HR department, appealing the decision or even taking your company to an employment tribunal.

Is bigger better? Working for a smaller company could mean that a flexible working request is more likely to be rejected as they may have limited resources to facilitate a change in your working hours from full to part time. Larger companies with more employees should be able to shift some of your role’s responsibilities to other people within the office if needs be but they may be less sympathetic to your personal situation.

Should I stay or should I go? If you feel your eldercare commitments are encroaching on work hours you may need to make the difficult decision between continuing on in your career or leaving work to provide care for your parent. Should you find you’re spending over 35 hours caring and you’ve given up your job in order to do so you should be able to apply for Carer’s Allowance.

If you’re struggling to cope with the demands of work and care it may be worth making a flexible working request to help relieve the stress of continually looking after everyone else’s needs rather than focusing on your own.

More information on how to apply for flexible working can be found on the ACAS website.

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