Even before Covid-19, there were many reasons why you might have wished to work remotely a few days a week: keeping your balance on packed commuter trains, sweating profusely on the Tube or being stuck in another seemingly endless traffic jam, to name but a few. Not to mention the time you could save working without the legislated coffee breaks, idle office chat and protracted team lunches.
In 2019, only 5% of active workers in the UK reported working from home for their main job, but more than a quarter had experienced telework. Remote working opportunities have previously varied according to the sector, level of education and experience required, and even age. Welcome to the Jungle has seven convincing arguments so you can get your employer to approve remote working.
The basics of remote working
Telecommuting involves performing work outside your company’s offices, either full-time or just a few days a week. There is no specific legislation dedicated solely to remote working in the UK. Instead, it falls under the category of “flexible working arrangements”, which also includes job-sharing, part-time, compressed hours, flexitime, annualised hours, staggered hours and phased retirement. Any employee who has worked with the same employer for a minimum of 26 weeks is eligible to submit a request for flexible working, known officially as “making a statutory application”. The employer must follow the Acas Code of Practice on flexible working requests and deal with them “in a reasonable manner”. As for any specific arrangements, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) states that employers have the same health and safety responsibilities for remote workers as for any other employees.
Unlike other flexible working arrangements, ensuring physical and emotional health and safety from a distance might require a higher level of organisation. At the same time, it won’t affect your actual hours of work. In fact, it’s likely to boost your efficiency instead. Armed with this knowledge, all that’s left is to convince your employer.
1. Analyse your situation
When asking their employer to allow a remote working arrangement, the classic mistake most employees make is relying on invalid arguments. Make sure you keep your reasons pertinent to your professional situation. This is not an open invitation to whinge about the horrors of public transport or the heartbreak of watching your puppy’s pleading gaze as you go out the door five mornings a week. In order to handle your request reasonably, your employer must be given sensible arguments as to why remote working would work for you.
Prepare your application carefully
Find out the company’s policy: Do you have any colleagues who were work remotely before the lockdown? Was it easy for them? How often was this request been validated pre-Covid?
Make a list of your tasks and responsibilities: Can you perform them remotely? Do you need a more reliable home internet connection? Do you need remote access to a protected site or database? Do you need regular communication with colleagues? Your employer’s answer might be swayed by logistics.
Assess your personal suitability: Are you sufficiently independent and disciplined? Is your remote workspace quiet and good for concentration? How will those closest to you handle the new set-up? Will their living space be impacted as a result?
2. Prove that remote working boosts productivity
If your employer is still undecided on whether remote working is productive or not, point out how efficient working from home can be in terms of time and concentration. It is a fairly well known fact that remote working has a positive impact on overall productivity. Stanford University was the first to demonstrate the benefits that remote working offers businesses in a 2012 study. According to their findings, which have been proved many times since, working remotely boosts the wellbeing of employees and, therefore, productivity. The numbers are hard to ignore: productivity among remote working professionals increased by 13% in nine months. With less time spent on public transport, working from home saves time. It also helps people stay focused. According to a study by the French management innovation consultancy Greenworking, employees in an open-plan office are interrupted 150 times a day compared with less than 50 times for those working remotely.
3. Keep to your schedule
You may find yourself forced to dispel the myth that remote workers laze about in their pyjamas all day. In reality, it is a mistake to think that they don’t stick to schedules. A recent survey of 1,000 UK employees working from home due to Covid-19 found that 34% were worried about working longer hours. While employers new to remote working practices might think it makes things too easy on employees, the reality is most people struggle with concentration and time management outside the office. Set yourself up for success and your employer will be more likely to consider your request. Demonstrate that your designated remote workspace is quieter, closer and more stimulating. You’ll gain a huge advantage if you prove you can work just as well as you can in the office, if not better.
4. Stay connected
Employers can only reasonably consider offering remote working if it does not disrupt business operations as a whole. Give concrete evidence of how you plan to keep in regular contact by using technology such as conference calls, business messaging and team chat apps. Before arguing your case, you might consider which technology would best suit a certain function or individual. Furthermore, be strategic about your proposal: don’t ask to work remotely on a day with a weekly meeting or team breakfast.
5. Increase motivation, reduce sick days
If your employer is a little reluctant and you would be a hard employee to replace, show them that remote working is a good guarantee you will stay with the company. Getting more rest also boosts motivation. According to a study on remote working during lockdown, 40% of UK professionals substituted their commute time for extra sleep. A better work-life balance is also associated with increased employee retention and a rise in loyalty. Explain to your employer that the change would break up your routine and make you more motivated. After a few days of working hard without distractions, you’ll be that much happier to be reunited with your colleagues in the office.
6. Choose a work-friendly environment
To make your proposal credible, make sure you have a designated workspace at home or elsewhere. Reassure your employer that you can effectively perform your duties during normal working hours. Make it professional: show that you won’t be tempted by dirty dishes in the kitchen, a beckoning bed or people-watching from your balcony. Be transparent about your home set-up and way of working. Your boss can then rest easy knowing that your working environment is closely aligned with the company office.
7. Suggest a trial period
While Covid-19 lockdown was a trial period for the entire office, perhaps your employer is still not convinced. If all of your carefully thought-out arguments fall flat, suggest a way you can prove that remote working works. For an agreed period, work remotely one or two days a week. Once this trial period is over, assess the results with your boss or manager. If your performance was near faultless and there were no negative effects for the company, then your employer will be better able to see how successful it could be for everyone.
Now that you’ve got a number of reasonable arguments up your sleeve, it’s time to talk to your employer. You have two options: if your company has the technology in place and is amenable to flexible working, simply broach the subject with your manager when circumstances allow. If he or she agrees straight away, ask for a confirmation email so that you have it in writing. If your company is more old school, compose a short email outlining your request and arguments. The better prepared your request is, the harder it will be to refuse.
Translated by Andrea Schwam
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