I have been asked to provide answers to FT readers’ management questions. This was my response to a question about negotiating flexible working after maternity leave.
Everyone finds change difficult and your boss, having managed while you were on maternity leave, will probably be hoping for a return to business as usual. Any request you make to change your working arrangements is likely to be seen by your boss as a difficulty.
At the same time though, your boss will, I assume, be keen to hold on to you and so will want to find a way to accommodate your request to retain your skills and experience.
First, you need to make it clear that you are no less committed to your role, your boss and your career because you are making this request. You are simply hoping to balance your new responsibilities with your existing ones to your employer. You can then help make the decision easier for your boss by offering solutions to any potential difficulties.
Explain to your boss that you have thought about how the new arrangement could work. This will include how you will stay in touch with your office, colleagues and customers from home, handle meetings that take place on the day you work from home, and ensure you are not distracted by the needs of your child while working.
You can also discuss what parts of your work fit particularly well with working from home, for example, activities such as report writing, research and detailed analysis.
You will be even more persuasive if you can show how this arrangement will actually benefit your employer.
Useful arguments may include: you won’t need to commute, so will have more energy for your work; you will be less diverted by colleagues or phone calls and so will be more focused and efficient; and you will be working in a way that suits you better and so you will be more committed. You might also want to mention examples of colleagues who have similar working arrangements.
Finally, be prepared to discuss alternatives to the one-day-a-week-at-home model, such as compressed hours and working a nine-day fortnight. These might also work for you and give your boss some comfort.
From a legal point of view, you have the right to ask to work flexibly in your current job, if you have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks.
Your employer has a duty to consider your request seriously and should only refuse it for a good business reason.