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Tips from a tree changer – how to negotiate more flexible working arrangements

When we tree changed three years ago, remote working in my profession was an anomaly.

The kind of work I do is traditionally office-based – you don’t find too many heads of marketing working full-time from a home office, communicating with their team and key contacts virtually!

Negotiating working from home arrangements for our tree change was no mean feat.

A pretty comprehensive plan and months of preparation were involved to ensure I was able to take my fulfilling city job with me when we moved to the country.

Fast forward to 2020, and COVID-19 has rapidly changed the game for remote working in my profession at least.   

For the last few months, many city-based people in roles similar to mine have been working from home and loving the flexibility and balance remote working brings.

With life now starting to slowly return to ‘normal’ for many (sorry Victorian friends!), many people have started thinking about how they approach their employers about incorporating more flexible working arrangements into their city-based roles and lives.

So, if you’re thinking of asking for the ability to work away from the office – regardless of where you live – here are three things I think will set up for a successful discussion with your employer:

1. Base your case on data

The amount of research supporting flexible working arrangements is growing by the day.

This includes hard data quantifying the overall benefits of remote working, including improvements in employee satisfaction, engagement and productivity and hard cost savings for both the employer and employee.

While this is a great starting point for your discussions, it’s better if you can also collect or estimate data for your situation to support your case. Things like:

  • The time saved on travelling between meetings each day that you’ll use to complete more work and improve your productivity.
  • Completing tasks in less time because of fewer interruptions in your workspace.

It will be different for each person and role, but there are many great examples on the internet to spark your thinking here (another case where Google is your friend!)

2. Have a plan that anticipates your employer’s likely objections

We can only hope that the forced COVID-19 lockdowns have shown employers their people are ready and able to work productively from home.

But just in case, it’s essential to arm yourself with a comprehensive plan of how you’ll ensure you can work effectively offsite when you approach your employer.

Include things like your home office set up (don’t forget to cover how it meets OH&S requirements), your phone and internet connectivity including speed and your back up plan if things fail, along with arrangements for child care while you’re working, if needed.

Make sure you anticipate your employers’ potential objections to you working remotely and have answers ready to go on how you’ll manage them.

Technology, including secure video conferencing tools, mean questions like ‘how will you attend meetings’ and ‘how will you stay connected with the team’ are now unlikely to feature. But you should consider things like:

  • How can we reach you quickly if we need to?
  • How will you stay connected to the team socially?

The most important thing is to demonstrate you’re approaching the opportunity to work remotely with a plan that ensures you’ll continue to meet your responsibilities.

3. Start with a trial run

COVID-19 has already presented people with the perfect opportunity to show employers they can be trusted to work out of the office.

However, if you think your employer will be nervous about making it a permanent, post lockdown arrangement, suggest a trial run.

Start with something small, for a set time, like one permanent day a week worked remotely, for three months.

Make sure you arrange a review at the end of the trial and agree upfront what success looks like and what it will mean for agreeing on an ongoing arrangement.

Bonus tip: be flexible!

When you ask your employer to let you work remotely, you’re effectively asking them to be flexible with you, so it’s important to return that favour when needed.

This can mean changing your arrangements to be in the office for important meetings, or to help through busy periods. For me, this meant being willing to travel at least once each month to attend important meetings face to face.

Are you hoping to introduce more remote work to your working arrangements in the future?

I’d love to hear your thoughts – leave a comment below!

Working from home, Tree Changer style!



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