Did you know that all UK employees have a legal right to request flexible working – not just parents or carers?
Having the right to ask for flexibility is great, but the reality is that flexible working requests often get turned down. Here are some reasons why your boss doesn’t want to let you work flexibly – and what you can about it.
1. Your employer doesn’t trust you
If your employer is hemming and hawing about your request to work from home a few days a week, it’s possible that they think ‘working from home’ is a euphemism for ‘watching Jeremy Kyle while periodically responding to emails so you think I’m doing stuff.’
What you can do: Ask for a trial period of a few months so you can show them that you’re capable of doing just as much work from home – probably more, because you’re not distracted by office chatter, wasting time with a long commute or exhausted from early mornings and stressful nursery runs.
When my husband got a job in another city four hours away a few years ago, I asked my employer if I could work from home most of the time and travel up to Glasgow every few weeks for meetings.
I was taking a big chance. My employer didn’t officially support homeworking. There were over 1,000 employees at my organisation, and not a single one worked from home.
But they let me do it for nearly two years.
Why? Because I’d been working there for seven years, and they knew they could trust me. If I said I was working, they knew I was actually working.
We agreed to try it for a few months to see if it worked. It did. I got to keep my job despite the move, and my employer got to keep a dedicated employee. Everyone was happy.
If you’ve proven yourself to be a responsible, hardworking employee, your employer should be up for at least trying out flexible working. If, however, you’ve been the sort of employee who turns up late and then dicks around on Facebook all afternoon…well, your employer probably has a point. I wouldn’t trust you either.
2. You made the request all about you
When you ask for flexible working arrangements, don’t make it all about you.
“Working reduced hours will help me manage my childcare better.”
“Working from home will be easier for me.”
“Different working hours would suit my schedule.”
I mean, all those things could be true, but you need to show your employer how flexible working arrangements can be beneficial to both of you.
What you can do: Explain how your request will make things better for you and your employer.
“Working reduced hours will help me manage my childcare better, and because I won’t have to worry so much about childcare, I can be more focused on my work when I’m in the office.”
“Working from home will mean I don’t have to do a long commute to the office every day, which will mean I have more time to work on my projects.”
“Working flexible hours will allow me to do the nursery run in the morning and afternoon but still be available during core office hours for meetings.”
3. Your employer is new to this
If your employer turns down your flexible working request, it may be that they just don’t have any experience with flexible working and don’t understand how it can work.
What you can do: There’s a lot of evidence out there that flexible working can – and does – benefit employers. Show it to them.
Here are some articles that you can casually drop in their inbox:
- Why now is the time to embrace flexible working
- Flexible working boosts profits and productivity, say majority of employers
- What are the benefits of flexible working?
- The benefits of flexible working for SMEs
4. Your job doesn’t suit flexible working
Your employer has the right to turn down your flexible working request if they have a good business reason for doing so. And sometimes, even if your employer has the best intentions, they legitimately can’t make it work.
If you work in a shop, for example, you can’t exactly say, “So, is it cool if I work from home on Mondays?” That’s obvious. But your employer may also might turn down a request to reduce your hours because there’s no one else who can cover your work, or say you can’t change your hours because they need your support at specific times.
What you can do: If your set hours don’t suit you, ask your employer if there are other roles in the company that may suit a flexible working schedule better. You never know – there may be opportunities that neither of you had ever considered before. If not, it may be time to move on and try something new.
5. Your employer is an a-hole
Some bosses are just terrible people. No logical arguments or articles about the benefits of flexible working are going to change that.
What you can do: Leave. Be polite about it, because you may need to use them as a reference. But seriously – don’t stick around. There’s bound to be an employer out there who gets that your skills are awesome and couldn’t give less of a shit where or when you use them, as long as the job gets done.