How to Ask to Work From Home – UK Flexible Working Request Guide

Working from home has become very common in recent years. The pandemic brought with it a radical change to many people’s working environment.

Employees were encouraged to work remotely where possible. Now that some normality has returned, workers are once again having to consider how to ask to work from home.

If you find yourself regularly thinking of good excuses to work from home, it’s time to try and formalise a remote working arrangement.

In this article we’ll look at the best ways to approach a request to work from home and help ensure a good outcome.

Before Submitting a Work From Home Request

Before submitting a work from home request, there are many things you need to carefully consider.

Asking to work from home isn’t as simple just casually dropping it into the next conversation you have with your employer.

It needs to come across as though you have given this much thought. It should also be obvious that you have thought about this situation from all perspectives, not just yours.

What Are Your Reasons to Work From Home?

You need to have a clear reason for asking to work from home. Your reasons for wanting to work remotely must be valid and reasonable.

In other words, wanting to work in your PJs isn’t going to cut it as a good reason. There are, however, many circumstances where working from home is required. For example, as part of a request for a reasonable adjustment on mental health grounds, practical reasons or childcare issues.

Good Reasons to Work from Home

Good reasons to work from home are not just about the needs of the employee. There should be good business reasons too.

In order to make a good case to support your remote working request, you’ll have to consider how the arrangement may benefit your employer’s business. Your request will be stronger if you focus more upon benefits to your employer.

Here are some examples of how to frame your reasons for wanting to WFH with business benefits in mind:-

Improved Employee Wellbeing

Employee wellbeing is important to many companies. By working from home regularly or full time, employees can remove the stress of long commutes and enjoy a more flexible work schedule.

This can reduce stress and increase overall wellbeing. Stress is a major reason for increased staff absence rates. Many forward thinking companies will be aware of this as a benefit of remote working.

Ability to Deep Work

If your work environment has lots of distractions, carving off some WFH time to allow deep work can improve productivity.

Freed from the distractions and interruptions of a busy office, focus is improved, and productivity on those key tasks is vastly improved. 2022 data from the ONS reports that 52% of workers found they were completing work more quickly in their home environment.

Source: Is Hybrid Working Here to Stay? – ONS 2022

Reduced Overheads & Increased Sustainability

Both employer and employee can enjoy reduced overheads when working from home is permitted.

The employer can reduce costs on utilities and office supplies, as well as hybrid working reducing the amount of office space required to operate the business.

Employees can save on commuting time, and the associated costs.

The reduction in commuting and use of resources required to run an office can also reduce the business carbon footprint, and increase sustainability.

Improved Staff Retention & Workforce Flexibility

Offering flexibity with hybrid working or full time WFH can improve staff retention.

Full time office hours often cause families headaches. Offering flexibility around work location and hours means employees enjoy a more relaxed family life. For example, removing the daily commute frees up time to do the school run, or take children for medical appointments.

Flexibility can work both ways, and employees with the benefit of a flexible schedule can create a more agile business. This might mean new markets in different time zones can be accessed.

 Consider Impact on Employer & Work Team

Before broaching the topic with your employer, you must consider all aspects of the proposal first. This includes potential downsides.

This means considering the impact not being physically in the office may have on both our boss and other colleagues.

If you are not in the office, willl it make deadlines harder to reach? Will there be a barrier to team communication if someone isn’t physically there? Will other employees feel resentful of this change?

You should go into your request by emphasising you have considered it from all angles. Be ready to counter any arguments your boss may have. Have a plan on how you will still be reachable at all times and can come in if needed, for example, for performance reviews.

You can go on to say that you don’t foresee this impacting negatively on the team. If anything, you will be more motivated and enthusiastic, getting things done efficiently.

Prepare Your Case

It is important to do your homework on the subject of working from home. Do this long before you open those lines of communication with your boss.

This includes considering if there is a policy in place concerning working from home. If there is, then being familiar with it is a must. It will detail important steps such as the notice period required and how the arrangement will work. In the event there is no policy then check your contract as well.

Do a little research on the other employees’ past and present. Has anyone else been successful in working from home? This includes those who may have needed to temporarily, for example, due to covid or being signed off with stress.

If your research shows that working from home has been allowed in the past or even the present, this is a positive sign. Look into how the arrangement worked, whether a new contract was needed and how the deal was made.

How to Make Your Request to Work From Home

You’ve gathered all the information you need and are now ready to move forwards with your request.

You should know that there are two ways in which you can tackle your working from home request. You can either put in a formal or informal request. Let’s look at both options now.

Formal Flexible Working Request

A formal flexible working request usually involves using an official form or writing an official letter. To make a formal request, you must have been employed continuously for 26 weeks.

You need to be clear with your request and try to include as much relevant information as you can. Find out if your employer uses a form for this specific request and if not try to make your request as professional as possible.

You should outline the reasons for making this request and demonstrate you have thought of the advantages and possible issues. Any potential problems should be met with a solution. Should your request be based on disability, then you should mention the relevant laws associated with this.

See Also:

Informal Request to Work From Home

An informal request can be made if you do not qualify to make a formal request, or you do not feel you need to.

This will involve initiating a meeting with your employer to discuss your flexible working request. It probably isn’t ideal to simply turn up to work one day and land this request on your boss.

Instead, plan a meeting for a time that suits you both. This gives you the time you need to put your request together. You can then present your case to your manager using your notes and research.

Things to Bear in Mind When You Make Your Request

Should you wish to paint your request in the best possible light, then you will want to bear a few things in mind.

The build up and preparation of your request can make all the difference. Your manager will want to see that you are taking this seriously and have considered all the implications. Let’s look at some of the important things to think about when it is time to put that request in. 

Choosing the Right Time

Timing is everything when it comes to something as pivotal as requesting to work from home.

You don’t want to be just dropping this on your boss. The best thing you can do is to request a meeting with them. They will then be aware that you have something you want to discuss so it will not come as a complete shock.

Request a meeting and then come armed to the meeting with your notes. Make sure you get all your points across as succinctly as possible. Should it be an outright no, maybe there is a negotiation to be had.

If your reason for this change is due to the commute which you aren’t paid for, then it wouldn’t be unreasonable to ask for travelling expenses. Alternatively, a pay rise could help make the commute more worthwhile

Make Sure You Communicate Benefits to Employer & Employee

When making your case, you should make it very clear that you have taken into account the workplace as a whole.

This means considering the impact it could have on both employer and the other employees. Outline all the benefits you can think of, including:

  • Increased productivity
  • Fewer overheads in the office.
  • Less time commuting.
  • Reducing carbon footprint.
  • Reduce any tensions in the office.
  • Reduced absences.
  • Encourages positive mental health.
  • Encompasses all staff capabilities.
  • Reduces staff turnover.

Be Prepared to Compromise

It might not result in a simple yes or no response and there may be a need for some compromises.

Your boss might not be sure this approach will work and they may suggest trialling it before saying yes. Or, if you’ve requested full time WFH they might be willing to let you work from home part time.

It is important to consider such compromises as otherwise, you end up shooting yourself in the foot.

After Your Work From Home Request

You’ve done the hard bit and made your request. Now it is a case of sitting tight and waiting for that decision.

This will be done formally and you should be aware of the timescale for this decision to be made. It could be up to three months in some companies. Should you fail to hear anything after a  long period, then it is worth chasing this up. It may be that it got put to the bottom of the boss’s to do list and subsequently got forgotten about.

Try not to come across as annoyed or irritated when following it up. A quick, polite email is all that is required to give your boss a gentle nudge. Be patient where possible and have faith that the correct process has been followed.

If Your Request is Turned Down

The worst outcome for the employee is that the flexible work request is declined.

When this happens, your employer should give you the reasons for this refusal. It might be based on practical reasons, not wanting other staff to follow suit, or for other reasons. You should look at the reasons carefully before pondering your next step.

If you feel the reasons are unfair or discriminative, then you can appeal this decision. You should inform your boss of your intentions and they will let you know the official procedure.

You could potentially try and negotiate to find a middle ground. This could include a pay rise, working from home every Friday or something else you feel could work.

The other option you have in the event of being refused is to accept the decision and carry on. You may feel you tried and are happy with their reasons for refusal. Or you might start looking at other job options where remote work is encouraged.

If Your Request is Approved

The best outcome is that your request is approved and you will soon be able to work from home.

You must make a firm plan for this and demonstrate this to those it will affect. This includes things like being contactable at all times and remaining professional when at home. Your boss may want to draw up a new contract to cover this remote work. You should show your willingness to step up by taking a proactive role.

Have a conversation with your employer and colleagues to finalise any details. Be sure everyone understands the new arrangement and you come up with a new strategy for working at home. This will involve having a dedicated workspace, keeping noise to a minimum and keeping to your agreed work hours.

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