WFH, working hours and unreasonableness

Hi ROF, senior in-houser here with an antiquated company policy forbidding WFH. Criticism has been raised by the CEO about response times for certain complex document reviews, which is an issue for a number of reasons but in large part becase I work in a noisy open-plan office in which I find it impossble to concentrate on lengthy matters with multiple docs etc. The only time I therefore have available to review these matters is in the evening when it is quiet or I have gone home and log on again. I suggested that if I had no meetings on a particular day it might be beneficial to WFH occasionally (not even regularly), which was shot down instantly for no good reason. The CEO has no issue with me working on whatever he wants at weekends, at nighttime or when I am on holiday, but it seems that this counts for nothing. I could point this out, but it will fall on deaf ears and, frankly, after spending every night working into the small hours, I'm too tired to bother. Is it me being unreasonable? Should I buy better headphones for the office? Suck it up? Help me please!

 

was it the ceo who refused your wfh request?

prob agree with warlord. leave.

Yeah, it was the CEO who refused. Working on leaving, but easier said than done sometimes in a fairly small area.

that sort of approach to WFH if you are senior and they have that level of issue with noise (common in open plan offices) seems antiquated.  you're not being unreasonable and I'd also be polishing up the CV and exploring other options (if as you say that's feasible).

Suck it up or leave. 
 

Either the CEO doesn’t trust you or the CEO doesn’t trust people generally and doesn’t want to set a precedent with you. 
 

He may or may not be being unreasonable, but you’re right that if you’ve been there a while already you’re probably on a road to nowhere trying to convince him you’re a special snowflake who can’t concentrate in the environment everyone else works in. 

I think the noise thing is by the by. there is no reason you need to be in a office every day for contract work. a couple of days a week wfh is fine

are there any on site meeting rooms you can book out for a few hours to do cold towel reading?

I agree with the general consensus to leave. Believe me, I am working on it. Arbiter, they do trust me as an individual but you're right to say that they don't trust people generally, which is another big issue in itself. There are meeting rooms that I use from time to time, but the issue there is that I'm on a small laptop screen rather than having two large screens (which I have in the office and at home) or I have to print hundreds of pages all the time, which isn't very Greta.

What ??? - book out a meeting room to yourself. Otherwise just leave and go somewhere with a more flexible policy. 

What is making it difficult? Is it a very small niche that you work in?

In the meantime, Bose noise cancelling headphones are your friend.

Be passive aggressive: buy some Japanese/Chinese folding screens and surround your desk with them, and then wear noise-canceling headphones.

I'd grow some balls with your request before storming out. Don't "suggest it might be beneficial to WFH", tell them outright that to do your job properly you need to work from home so you have space to concentrate.

If they still say no, then leave.

Make the point that wfh is fine with the CEO in the evenings and weekends, so why not during the weekdays?

And +1 for leave.  Life is just too short; they are taking you for a mug. 

I used to work for a partner who trusted no-one and made a fuss whenever anyone suggested wfh, which was once in a blue moon and with piles of reading/drafting to do.   He, however, used to wfh whenever he felt like it, not tell anyone where he was, and when he was quiet.  Go figure.  khunts be khunts.  

 

Even if it was approved would it really make any difference for the rest of the week? Usually flexible working is to allow easier access to outside interests/duties, not because the office working environment or day job is so dire (or at least that's the ostensible reason)

^ That is a very good point. If your CEO is so trussed up about something as "new fangled" as working from home, what else is lacking progressive thinking?

Sounds like a cultural issue that's too much for you to change on your own so I'd fire it off.

Another vote for leave here, if they don't trust you to do a professional job without oversight. I don't get to WFH these days but do at least have my own office/cell.  

Thanks everyone for confirming what I'm generally thinking. It is a fairly small niche I work in, and I have only been in this role a year or so, so I'm conscious not to be seen to be moving around too much either. Japanese/Chinese screens looking like a good interim solution.

you have a legal right to request flexible working if you have been employed for 26 weeks or more.  they have to deal with that request in a reasonable manner. 

It's just a right to "request" though, they don't have to give it to you. 

they have to act fairly

 

not really no they don't. 

most people who WFH are skiving off. 

 

Leave!

I tend to put headphones in when I'm working on chunky stuff in the open plan, contemporary classical music with no words so it doesn't distract. It really helps and I think it's almost programmed my brain to know it's time to concentrate when it comes on...

they do have to act fairly

And if they dont you can take them to a tribunal

and that's likely to be a problem for them

so they are likely to pay you off 

Meh, that is a great idea. I am moving into open plan so may need to invest in some decent cans...

Make yourself the DPO and set designated days aside to WFH on 'sensitive GDPR issues'.  Once a fortnight feels about right.

I assume you are making sure that you are up-to-date with CPD which, so I hear, requires one day out of the office each month.

Then you need to keep on top of your externals: if you come up with a panel of 3 with a cycle of quarterly meetings, that's another day per month.

So that's roughly one day per week not being in the office.

TBH your bigger issue isn't working from home, it's managing your workload and bringing in additional internal or external resource to field the work they require of you.  

I have an excellent Spotify playlist that I can share :) Lady P has also had the pleasure too!

Yep! Helped me get through my exams a few years ago. (Wow, time flies!)

Ooh I will definitely take that playlist off you. I am on Apple music though but I am sure I can work a way around that. 

The only solution is to scream I CAN’T WORK UNDER THESE BLOODY CONDITIONS!! and flounce out, papers trailing.

pls report back 

I got my desk moved once.

Literally Clergs, I stopped coming into the office until they moved me back.  Just worked from home and went to meetings. Honestly this happened lol.  Was not looked upon well but wtf cares amirite?

No I’m just OCD as fuck.  And I did not appreciate having my desk moved to the middle of the team “so I could get to know everyone better and so they can see what I actually do.”

Leave me alone and enjoy the billable hours I bring in, I don’t want to people to see and hear what I do in order to male that happen.

I don’t want to people to see and hear what I do. 

I assume you gave up this policy, then. 

Very I wouldn't worry about moving around a bit on your CV.  In my 20 years at work I've worked in over half a dozen firms with stints ranging from 5 years to four months and it's not been a major issue when looking for jobs.

In 12 years a move would take me to a sixth role though Sails...

in order to male that happen.

Don't be so sexist.

I'm in house and I never even thought to ask whether I could WFH, I just did it.

When I changed role internally my job was made WFH because it made sense as I have a national role.

As a senior lawyer I just thought I could manage my own time provided I was available to the business and doing my role.  The business thought the same.

I honestly can't believe it isn't the case of "I'm working from home tomorrow,  I've got a big review and I need the quiet".  

For now, why not go to the Law Society (or other) library just for shit and giggles, not at home but in a quiet place.  Say you need resources and he has no real way of challenging that.

most people who WFH are skiving off. 

This says more about you, wibble, than people who wfh. 

Lol Tecco. Reminds me of a lady here who fell out with one of the partners so she moved to another floor and just started squatting up there at whoever's desk was free each day. 

Pissed the partner right off because she then started getting all the internal referrals from that department reducing his figures somewhat.

I think you can insist that you are allocated a private office space.

no Kimmy it tells you about the lazy people I have worked with in the past - I wfh for 5 years very profitably. 

 

One of the benefits of being senior inhouse even if you are all washed up is that I can come and go as I please within reason and WFH far in excess of the official policy. I don't ask permission to do shit.

I did interview a while back at a supposed fintech where the billionaire founder was supportive of WFH but only  if it was in addition to office hours. I actually lolled and suggested terminating the interview.

You do need to get over this open plan phobia and need for silence. World isn't like that anymore.

4 hours a day of actual proper thinking work is about my limit. No one should be doing more than 20 hours a week of that. It's all the rest of the padding that wastes everyone's time.

How are you supposed to whack off while on a conference call? Article 8 ECHR has been duly ENGAGED.

Potentially massively impractical, but worth asking if you/they have explored possibility of moving you away from open plan. Could you have your own office? Could they get some fitters in to build you one?

LOL, that probably costs more than his annual salary. If they thought that highly of him, they wouldn't be treating him like a child in the first place.

The guy (and by extension) the job sounds completely awful.

Unless you have sold your soul for an absolutely eye-watering pay packet (which sounds unlikely) then you need to stop talking or thinking about leaving and actually leave. 

AWU!

I did interview a while back at a supposed fintech where the billionaire founder was supportive of WFH but only  if it was in addition to office hours. 

 

I'm sorry...!  someone actually said this at an interview to you!

Feel for you bro.

I observe:

1. You are Senior

2. it’s 2020

3. It’s easier to apologise for wfh (and you damn well shouldn’t have to) than ask permission like a school boy

 

I would just do it, let them know in the am by email and then show results ( not that you should have to

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, the people I interviewed with were lovely but that was the response when I asked about WFH. Over near Liverpool Street was it?

On my third week here i asked to do 3 days a week working from home and my CEO couldnt have cared less approved it instantly, i thought i would have to negotiate or like settle at 1 or 2 at best lol so yeah you need to leave my work life balance is A1 right now 

Apparently my boss used to be funny about WFH but then he wanted to recruit someone senior who said she would not come to the office more than twice a week and now thanks to her he kind of has to let everyone do it.

Wfh is the dream, this has actually made me want to stay in this workplace long term, which is something i havent felt for any company ive worked for, might be something worth pointing out to your ceo 

Just out of interest, verytired, is the CEO also the owner of this business?

Thanks everyone! Kenny, yes, the CEO is the owner. Which I think makes the issue more irresolvable.

That's a difficult one. I was in a similar position to you and I resolved to never again work for an owner-managed business. You won't change the owner's approach. Unless he/she looks like they are exiting soon, get out asap.

I also work in an owner managed business and we have similar issues. I can WFH sometimes, but for some reason can't make it a regular thing. Nothing will change, despite the fact the the owner religiously tracks everything we do (apart from our internet use, which seems daft) and can do so just as effectively if I am WFH or in the office. Also planning on leaving.

Interesting that the owner tracks everything you do Tangent Boy. Our entries/exits from the office are logged and emailed to all staff and to their managers, there is CCTV everywhere and a general sense of paranoia. In a company with 1,000 staff (and growing) it seems an insane approach.

This sounds like absolute madness! Are you guys working for one of the hitlers or something 

Yes.

Ours is far less than that tbf. It's tracking via the software that we use. Morale is similar to how you describe. Think is that you can cheat the tracking because it's not very smart software. 

I cheat the entry/exit by going out of another door. And make phone calls in the one meeting room where I know the sound recording doesn't work.

The paranoia is ingrained in these people. They mistrust most of their staff, except for maybe a very small clique of sycophants who tend to be quite incompetent. The owner is good at what the business does, but usually isn't skilled at running a business. They don't bring the right people in to help because they fear ceding power. They completely demoralise the majority of staff and staff turnover is pretty high as a result.

They may also have a hobby or interest that seems to be bankrolled by the business. They think the business' money is their personal piggy bank and "corporate governance" is a term they have never met.

Kenny, you've got it in one with the first paragraph. Second paragraph half right. The business is totally and utterly their life so there are no hobbies or interests, but corporate governance is non-existent.

I worked in a similar environment (paranoid owner-manager, also a bully) some years back.  I lasted 2 months, which was longer than any of my 6 immediate predecessors...

The thing that is so frustrating is that this place could be good. Like, really good. There are so many talented and experienced people whose advice is ignored, or who cannot do the job properly because they are surrounded by incompetence.

The CCTV is a great one. The building I worked at had greater CCTV coverage than Fort Knox. The business' fleet cars all had trackers fitted and these were regularly checked. If they wanted to bin someone they'd get IT to check their internet usage. Most websites (including BBC!) were blocked, but if you had been on a site that was not directly related to work that was how they got rid of you. They will run rough-shod over employment law.

The owner-manager is also probably the only director. In our case, he was the only one able to sign cheques. This was a global business and he travelled regularly. If a cheque needed to be signed when he was away, you had to wait until he returned (could be a weeks away).

They probably also don't understand what a lawyer does. They will ask you to look at stupid, irrelevant things, but won't consider taking advice on the big, strategic issues. You will then be in fire-fighting mode when the consequences of their stupid decisions land.    

The wasted potential is what really got to me vt. A larger competitor could come in, buy the business for a great price and turn it into a gold mine. 

And make phone calls in the one meeting room where I know the sound recording doesn't work.

this is an old KGB trick

like pretending the interview is over but leaving a mic on

I mean - the "safe" phone is the one that's the MOST bugged

Hire a motorvan for a week (charged to expenses). Put it in the car park. Preferably with a sign advertising your company. 

Move your home screens and printer into it. If necessary hire a generator too

Let it be known that the local press and trade mag of your industry are coming round shortly to interview you 

What your advice would be to someone applying for a junior counsel positions?

Is junior counsel meant to suck it up and work in the office 24/7 or should she ask to wfh once or twice a week?