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5 tips to negotiate a work from home schedule

By Fi Darby

If you’ve enjoyed working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, you might not be too thrilled at the prospect of returning to the office. For many Australians, the flexibility of home working has been a positive experience. Advantages include:
  • Less time and finances wasted on commuting
  • Increased adaptability to family needs
  • More time and opportunity to undertake online training
If your employer is preparing for a return to office-based work, you might be feeling anxious about the changes to come. You may also be hoping to keep your recent working arrangements. SkillsTalk provide five tips on how to negotiate a work from home schedule that’ll suit both you and your employer.

Working from home is the new normal.

There’s never been a time when working from home has been so acceptable. Employers who had previously only considered the option have tried it. Even organisations that were against telecommuting have been forced to give it a go. 

A recent study into the opportunities and risks of working from home suggested that, with suitable modifications, around 30% of Australians had the capacity for home working. For lots of companies, many of the initial niggles and doubts around this have now been ironed out. 

Processes have been set up and tested. The pandemic has given working from home a top-notch PR makeover. As a result, it’s more desirable now than it’s ever been before.

Know your rights on flexible work arrangements.

woman working from home

Flexible working is a popular option but Australia’s current Flexibility in the Workplace regulations don’t guarantee it as a right. There’s some suggestion that on-going requirements may bring about changes in this area. 

If you’ve worked for your employer for at least 12-months and meet the criteria below, you can make a request in writing for flexible or home working. You’ll need to explain the changes you’re requesting and your reasons for wanting an adjustment.
  • Parents (or carers) of school age children
  • Carers
  • People with a disability
  • People aged 55 or over
  • People experiencing (or supporting those who experience) domestic violence
Your employer must take your request into consideration, respond within 21 days and explain their reasons. Refusal can only be made on business grounds.

Outline how working from home can benefit you and your employer.

Your employer is far more likely to view your request for telecommuting favourably if you show you’ve considered all the details. Even the most employee-oriented organisation will need to consider productivity and practicality before making a decision. This is where your work-from-home plan can make a big difference. You need to demonstrate your consideration of:
  • Your proposed working location
  • Your proposed weekly and daily timetables
  • Your ability to achieve at the proposed locations
  • Your solutions to any potential issues
  • Your future professional development plans (for example online study)
  • The potential positive impact on your physical and mental wellbeing
Remember, a clear and considered plan will demonstrate your ability to problem solve and work in a flexible manner. An over-emotional plea will not.

Support your request on working from home with research and facts.

negotiation concept

Research facts should always be carefully checked and used sparingly. Your employer is most likely to make their decision based on what they already know about you. However, sprinkling a few facts amongst the specifics of your teleworking request will show you’ve done your homework. We’ve picked three to get you started:
  • Over 1.6 million Australians have been working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. Roy Morgan 2020
  • Most Australians (55%) believe they are more productive when working from home. Mccrindle 2013
  • Over 68% of Australian employers permitted remote working before the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed 2019

Be prepared to answer any questions your employer may have.

It’ll be natural for your employer to have questions about your telecommuting request. Try to work out what these will be and either answer them in your proposal, or plan your answers in advance. It might help to talk to friends who have their own employees or to staff in your HR department before doing this. Possible questions might include:
  • Can you give me an example of where working from home has been successful?
  • Why do you think you are more productive working from home?
  • How important do you think physical meetings and social get-togethers are?
  • Will you still be willing to undertake training if you are working from home?
As you prepare your thoughts on these questions, it’s worth remembering your employer will put productivity near the top of the priority list. This is your opportunity to show the positive side of a working-from-home workforce. Try to give quantifiable examples of previous successes, exhibit a problem solving approach and display a community attitude. As a further persuader, you could start an online course to demonstrate your determination and excitement about the possibilities ahead.

There can be no doubt employment in Australia is in a state of flux. From changes in work patterns and locations to shifts in industry emphases, we should all expect a time of adjustment. How you approach this is up to you. By shifting your work patterns, undertaking online training and demonstrating your ability to work effectively in a remote environment, you’ll be ensuring you remain at the top of your career game.
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