A woman working from home

Working from home: want to WFH after lockdown lifts? Here’s how to ask your boss for a flexible contract

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According to new research from LinkedIn, more than half of UK workers want to continue working from home for at least a few days a week when lockdown lifts. So what’s the best way to negotiate this kind of arrangement with your boss? We asked a careers expert for her top tips.

When the coronavirus pandemic first hit and many of us were asked to work from home, it came as a bit of a shock to the system. After years of commuting on packed trains and dressing up in workwear on a daily basis, being able to roll out of bed and wear loungewear all day long was a revelation.

Flash forward over four months later, and despite some WFH growing pains and the occasional motivational dip, many people are still loving the newfound freedom of not having to travel into the office.

According to new research from LinkedIn, more than half of UK workers want to continue working from home when lockdown lifts, with 26% saying their ideal set-up would be working from home for three days a week, and spending the other two in some kind of office space.

In this way, being able to work flexibly – with time spent both at home and in the office – seems to be the ‘new normal’ many of us are hoping for. But with some businesses now encouraging employees to return to the office, what’s the best way to talk to your boss about a long-term flexible working arrangement?

We asked LinkedIn careers expert, Charlotte Davies, for her top tips for negotiating a flexible contract as lockdown lifts. Here’s what she had to say. 

1. Know your rights

A woman working from home
How to ask for a flexible contract: research your rights before you ask.

“It can feel daunting to start the conversation with your employer about flexible working, but you are well within your rights to do so,” Davies says. 

“By law, you’re entitled to make a flexible working request if you’ve worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks. Employers must consider requests to work flexibly and will need to have a solid business-related reason to reject it. Familiarise yourself with exactly what you’re entitled to by visiting the ACAS website.

2. Be clear on what you want

“Flexible working comes in very different forms, so it’s important to be clear on what you’re asking for,” Davies explains. 

“Do you want to reduce your hours, compress your hours over fewer days, change your start and finish times, or continue to work remotely?

“Do some research into the kind of flexible schedule that would make the most sense for both you and your employer. If you can show your manager that you have a plan in mind for what your schedule will look like, it’ll be easier for them to buy into it.”

3. Make your case

A woman writing a case for a flexible working arrangement on her laptop
How to negotiate a flexible contract: make your case in writing, with as much detail as possible.

“Once you know what you want, put it in writing,” Davies recommends. “Be as specific as possible on the proposed changes to hours, times or place of work, and package this up as something that will work well for your role and the wider business too.”

She continues: “If you’ve been successfully working from home since lockdown, use some examples of how this has made you more productive on certain tasks. Will working remotely mean you can start earlier or stay connected later to help clients in other time zones, for example?”

4. Speak face to face

“These kinds of conversations typically work best face to face, so line up a meeting in person or via video conference,” Davies suggests. 

“Have your written request in front of you and talk this through before you submit it officially. This will give your boss an opportunity to share any new information that you might not have been aware of – perhaps the senior management team is already considering reshaping the team or ways of working for example.”

Davies continues: “Read through your notes and practice what you’re going to say ahead of the meeting – keeping cool, calm, and collected even if you’re nervous is important. If you don’t sound confident, your boss might not be convinced either.”

5. Be flexible and willing to compromise

A woman on the phone to her employer
How to negotiate a flexible contract: if your employer isn't convinced, suggest a trial period.

“Key to a negotiation is being willing to compromise,” Davies explains. “If your manager is hesitant because they haven’t facilitated flexible working before, suggest a trial period to show that you are willing to make it work.

“A trial period also gives you a great opportunity to check-in on your goals and establish new boundaries around your schedule to ensure that the new working arrangement is actually working well for you too.”

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and women’s issues. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.

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