We are now at the stage where your flexible working request has been approved, and you can now look forward to a different working day. Depending upon the type of request, statutory, non-statutory or company sponsored scheme, there are a number of issues to take into consideration. Pushing through an agreement for your request is not the end of the story; it is just the start of the next stage.
- Changes to your contract
- Making the most of your new working arrangements
- Making your changes work
In this section we will assume that non-statutory and company sponsored schemes are managed under the same terms and conditions. So, now you have managed to negotiate your flexible working request, what next?
The statutory process is a more formal legally binding path down which you walk with your employer. There are protections and responsibilities for all parties but in general, any statutory request will result in a permanent change to your employment contract. At this stage it is important that all parties discuss the practical details of any changes and put them in place.
Even though this type of request is seen as “permanent” it may be in the best interest of both parties to agree a formal review process. It may be that three months, six months or a year down the line, you sit down together and consider whether the changes are working as planned. It may be that:-
- Everything works perfectly and no further changes are required
- Additional relatively small changes may be required to improve the situation
- The changes have not worked for both parties, leaving the potential to revert to original working hours
It is important that the review process, assuming one is required, is discussed and approved in detail during initial negotiations. No stone should be left unturned!
While the legal standing of a statutory and non-statutory flexible working request is very different, the outcome is very similar. For example, any changes agreed to your working hours would be reflected in an updating of your employment contract. As with the statutory request, there is no reason why you should not discuss a trial period and an in-depth review further down the line.
The only major difference with a non-statutory request is your legal right to appeal. This is part of the statutory request process but not a formal part of a non-statutory request. Action taken as a consequence of discrimination is a whole different matter covered by employee legal protections.
While many people prefer to work on handshakes and “my word is my bond”, people can change their minds and employees come and go. Therefore, if you reach an agreement with your employer regarding flexible working hours, make sure this is put in writing as soon as possible. Where the changes are permanent, you should ask for a copy of your updated employment contract.
We have heard of numerous nightmare scenarios where agreements have been made only for these to be overruled by directors and business owners. When you reach agreement on your flexible working request, make sure confirmation and acceptance is received in writing. Leave nothing to chance!
Once agreement has been reached on flexible working hours, many people automatically switch off and move into working mode. This is a perfect approach, as you need to demonstrate the changes work as expected, but this is not the end of the story. You should still be mindful of your long-term working relationship not only with your employer but also with your colleagues.
Here we have 10 ways you can make your new working arrangement a success for all parties:-
As many flexible working requests will involve working from home/remotely, it is important there is a clear line of communication with your colleagues/management. It is important that you are contactable during your new working hours, and even outside of these hours in an emergency. The moment that your employer suspects you are not always contactable within working hours, is the moment that your arrangement may start to unravel.
While this is obvious, you should maintain clear targets so that all parties know where they stand. However, as an employee working out of the office there can be a temptation to overstretch on productivity/output. Many flexible workers fall into the trap of thinking “enough is never enough”, often working additional hours for no pay. Set yourself achievable targets; communicate with your employer and remember you are not a charity, do not work additional hours free of charge!
When working in an office environment, your colleagues will often become aware of your successes with praise and adulation following. There is a tendency, for those working at home/remotely, to miss out on this element of the working environment. In order to demonstrate that your new working practices work, you need to “blow your own trumpet” and let everybody know about your successes. Let them know that your contribution to the workplace is still important.
It is obviously very important to plan ahead, know where you stand and let your employer know where they stand, while maintaining a degree of flexibility. Just because you are not in the office, or your hours have been adjusted, doesn’t necessarily change your overall role in the workplace. You still need to play your part as a team/workforce member while ensuring others do not take advantage. It may be that your colleagues will also need to plan ahead in more detail, as failure to do so could have a knock-on effect to your workflow. As long as all parties are aware of their responsibilities then planning and flexibility should come as second nature.
It is very important that you have backup plans with your colleagues and in your private life. With the best will in the world, there will be occasions where you may be called upon to go into the office, work additional hours or issues in your private life might change. It would be sensible to discuss potential emergencies with your partner, family and friends so that plans are in place.
You will probably find that your employer is still relatively flexible with regards to emergencies, especially those involving childcare. However, take nothing for granted!
Unfortunately, many people automatically assume that if you convert to a flexible working day (possibly working from home) then you are not eligible to apply for workplace promotions. This is not the case. While your employer is still obliged to take the most “appropriate candidate” they cannot discriminate against you simply because you work at home. As a member of the workforce, they are obliged to make you aware of any promotions available or additional employment positions. It is not a case of out of sight out of mind.
As many employees work as part of a team nowadays, it is important to maintain team spirit as part of your new working practice. Regular communication, helping one another, discussing issues and socialising, all help to maintain a strong team spirit. Many people today are looking to improve their work/life balance which may involve the assistance of colleagues. Make sure you are there for each other.
Whether you use a whiteboard in the office, electronic calendar or some other form of diary, it is important that all members of your team have access. When working from home, many people fail to update their calendars as regularly as they should. This can and will have a knock-on effect to your colleagues, wasting time, effort and money when, for example, arranging meetings. Keep your calendar up to date; keep your lines of communication open and the workforce mechanics should run like clockwork.
Once your flexible working hours have been agreed, there can be a tendency to simply put your head down and work, work, work. It is only when you take a step back and look at the situation from a distance, that issues and potential changes may become clear. Your colleagues might also appreciate asking for their feedback regarding your new arrangements and how it is working for them. They may have small issues, which left unattended could become significant and impact team spirit. Tackle these issues head on, make the necessary changes and make sure that you lift your head from the desk from time to time!
Working practices change, employment laws change and very often the structure of the workforce will change. Even though your flexible working request has been approved, and relevant changes made, additional adjustments and flexibility may be required further down the line. While it is important to ensure that your employer does not take advantage of your situation, you still need to be a team player.
Many people automatically assume that once their changes have been approved, and put in place, that is the end of the story. It is very rarely that working practices remain constant over a long period of time. As a consequence, as an employee and a team player, you may need to make further compromises and demonstrate a degree of flexibility going forward. Even though you are working from home in your “own bubble”, your flexible working life and working practices will still be impacted by changes in the traditional workplace.