Flexible work is not JUST remote work. Flexible work is any type of work that is done differently to the usual 9 to 5 routine. To this end, flexible work can be hours of work (for example, part time work, compressed hours and extended hours), patterns of work (such as job sharing or split shifts) or location of work (such as working from home or in another location to care for an elderly parent and continue working).
The answer to this will depend on whether you have an enterprise agreement, common law contract or are covered under a Modern Award and how long you have been employed. If you have an enterprise agreement, look to the terms of the enterprise agreement. If you are covered by a Modern Award or have a common law contract, the National Employment Standards (in Australia) give you the right to request flexible work provided you are a parent (or have responsibility for the care of a child, are a carer, have a disability, are 55 years or older, are experiencing family violence or are supporting a family member dealing with violence.
Subject to your right to request flexible arrangements (see the categories above from the Fair Work Act 2009), your employer must consider your request. However, the request can be denied if the employer makes out a case on reasonable business grounds to refuse the request. Reasonable business grounds can be things such as the requested change would be too costly to implement, it is impractical as it would involve changing other employees’ arrangements also or the request would leave to a significant loss of productivity or have a negative impact on customer service in the organisation.
Under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), your request for flexible work must be in writing and outline the flexible arrangements sought and the reasons you are seeking the change. In my view you should also outline how agreeing to your request will benefit your employer and also anticipate any roadblocks to your employer saying yes. For example, if you can show that it won’t disrupt your team or the office in anyway then your employer may be more likely to grant your request.
Ensure you look at any company documentation BEFORE the meeting (such as flexible work policies). Going in to the meeting remain calm, cool and collected. Ensure you have notes setting out your needs and the change you propose to make. You should be realistic. For example, only ask to work from home if you can realistically do so by phone and email contact. If your occupation requires face to face contact with clients you may not be able to work from home exclusively but your employer might grant you a day week if you frame the request right and have administrative tasks or similar to undertake on that work from home day.
To be successful in building a business case for flexible work you have to show your employer how it will benefit both the organisation AND you to work flexibly. For example, if you can show you are more productive at home and will save the company money, this will go a long way towards convincing your organisation to let you work from home.
There are many strategies that can help you feel more part of your team when you work remotely. All strategies fall under the broad theme of “communication”. For example, you can start a social network group (like a private facebook group) and share photos and thoughts on books you are reading/ details about your day. It is also important that all virtual teams get together in person regularly for a team huddle to consolidate their online relationship and work better as a team.
We live in a digital age where you order everything from your dinner to your uber online. It makes sense that the world of work is also moving online. Employers look at social media accounts now before making an offer of employment. Why not get on the front foot and control your media. Not only will it help you secure new employment, a media presence can help demonstrate to a current employer that you bring value to your organisation, making any request for flexible work arrangements more likely to be met.
No! You owe it to yourself and your employer to do your job the best way you can. If you are more productive at home in your tracksuit pants and ugg boots, I suggest you embrace that. If some face to face contact is necessary or desirable, think about how you can adjust your schedule to allow for 3 days at home per week and 2 days in the office. With careful scheduling, you can keep your “at home” days for large amounts of uninterrupted work and have the 2 office days as meeting days. The beauty of flexible work is that you do what suits YOU.
There is no requirement for organisations to have a flexible work policy in place. However, a flexible work policy is useful to ensure an organisation shows it is meeting basic legal obligations and that it is committed to providing a flexible work environment for employees. A policy also helps to ensure employees have clear expectations about what will and will not be considered and that management can make consistent decisions about requests from employees for flexible work requests.
If you are looking for a new flexible role (as opposed to asking to change your current role to a more flexible arrangement) it is important to be clear from the outset on your need for flexibility. Do not apply for and accept a part time job only to tell the employer you wish to work part time. There are specialist agencies and companies out there that recruit for flexible or remote roles. My advice is to go with one of those organisations if flexibility is a deal breaker. At least you know everyone is on the same page that way! Check out my “Tracksuit Friends” section for recruiters specialising in flexible roles.