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Flexible working: Everything you need to know

The possibility of returning to work has never felt so daunting.

Along with the uncertainty of exactly when offices are likely to be up and running again, there is the added worry of how safe your return to work may actually be.

From reduced office capacity to adhere to social distancing measures, to possible shift patterns, it is not likely that you will be returning to the working style that you once knew. We’ve taken an in-depth look at what offices are expected to be like after Covid-19 and what measures you can expect to see on your return to work in our latest blog.

A mobile phone screen showing Covid-19 advice.

This uncertainty, and with the rise in people working from home during the lockdown, has meant that many workers are considering at least one type of flexible working for the foreseeable future. Our blog covers just why 13 million Brits want to continue working from home, even after the lockdown restrictions are lifted.

Understanding your flexible working rights as an employee is essential as you anticipate your return to work. Whether you have to consider childcare or you’re simply cornered for your and your family's health, it’s important to know what flexible working arrangements are available to you.

Can I ask for flexible working?

If you have been working for the same employer for at least 26 weeks and haven’t made a previous flexible working request in the last 12 months, then you will be eligible for the full variety of flexible working choices and have a legal right to request any one of these.

However, before deciding and beginning an application for the flexible working option that suits you best, it is essential to communicate with your employer and understand what preparations are already in place for your return to work. It’s important to keep this communication open throughout the process to ensure that you are aware of what will be required of you if, and when, you are back in the office.

These are unprecedented times and to help ease the stress of going back to work, we’ve explored the types of flexible working that are available and the ones that will be most useful to you as further lockdown updates are announced.

Working from home

For many office workers, transitioning to working from home may be the easiest option, especially if you are within a digital role. Remaining at home can help to ease issues with childcare, help you avoid busy commutes and relieve any health concerns you may have.

However, it can raise issues of productivity and job efficiency for your employer who may be worried that you will be more distracted and not able to complete your job tasks effectively.

If you have been working from home for several months, then your employer may already be satisfied with your productivity levels and ability to stay focused as you work. During these months, you may have also proven to your employer that working from home can be just as effective as working within the office and that in either location, you can continue to get good results.

A desk with a small plant and laptop.

Others who are considering working from home for the first time, may face the challenge of having to prove to their employers just how successful this type of flexible working can be. Deciding to set up a home office or dedicated workspace in your house is a great way to help show your working commitment to your employer.

Having a dedicated workspace at home will ensure that you are able to focus on your work and efficiently complete your set tasks. Our range of office desks offers a variety of desk shapes in different sizes, meaning that you will be able to find the perfect desk for your space. 

Discussing setting up a home office with your employer may prompt an opportunity to claim expenses back for any of your work equipment. You may also be entitled to claim tax relief on any expenses incurred due to working remotely. For more information check out our blog on claiming tax relief for working from home.

Part-time

Reducing your hours and working part-time could be a great way to ensure that you’re only at the office for a limited amount of time and for fewer days each week. Steadily returning to work like this, can help to ease yourself back into work and your return to the office.

To avoid the financial worry that can occur from your drop in salary due to working part-time, you may be able to combine this with working remotely. Discussing this option with your employer may help you to find the right, and best, balance for you between returning to work and financial security. Having this open conversation with your employer will help to reduce your stress and give you clarity on your new work routine.  

Compressed hours

If you’re worried about the financial impact of being in the office for fewer days a week and that working part-time just isn’t an option for you, then compressed hours could be a better alternative. 

Compressed hours means that you will be able to continue to work full-time hours but over fewer days. This may lead to longer days but will ensure that your contact with others is reduced overall. This type of flexible working may also be a great solution for those with children or needing to care for others.

Working long hour days, will likely mean that you will be alone on the premises and may need to have a key for the office. This arrangement will need to be discussed with your employer and confirmed as to what responsibilities you will then have. If this cannot be arranged, then there may be a possibility of compressed hours combined with working remotely.

Job sharing

Two women looking at a laptop.

Similar to working part-time, job sharing allows you to reduce your working hours by splitting a job role with other employees. As well as decreasing your workload, this flexible working option means that you will not be required to be in the office as much as you were.

Like working part-time, opting to job share is likely to see a decrease in your salary. To avoid financial strain, it is crucial to discuss this option with your employer to discover a balance between lessening your workload but still receiving your required salary.

Flexitime

If you’re looking for a flexible working solution that allows you to continue working full-time hours with the choice of flexible starting and finishing times, then flexitime is an option that might suit you best. This working style can be a great option for adapting your schedule week by week to suit childcare needs, appointments and avoiding busy commutes.

From your core working hours agreed with your employer, you can then keep your team informed with your start and end times as well as updating any out of office messages. This option allows you to return to the office as well as the freedom to manage your own time effectively.

Staggered hours

This flexible working option allows for employees to have different start and finishing times as well as different break times. This means that social distancing measures can be upheld and that your office remains a safe place to work.

This is likely to be a popular option used within many workplaces to reduce the amount of people in the office at any one time. If this hasn’t already been mentioned regarding your return to work, then it may be worthwhile approaching your employer with this suggestion, not only for yourself but, for the wider business to keep everyone safe.

If you decide to pursue any flexible working options, it is important to clarify with your employer if these changes are permanent or just a variation of your contract. Whatever the changes, the new agreed way of working should be notified within a new contract. For more information regarding your flexible working rights as an employee visit Gov.uk.

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