In the first of a limited series, Siobhan Fairgreaves talks about her experience of transitioning to remote working when she moved across the country with her military partner and how finding the Military Coworking Network helped to reassure her that this risk would pay off.
The ability to continue working and building a successful career whilst also being a military partner was a huge worry for me as I planned for a future where I would hopefully be able to live with my partner whose career would mean he had to move every two years.
I had always loved the idea of working from home and, having worked occasional freelance projects alongside full time office roles, I was confident I had the discipline to do so successfully. It helps that my career as a science writer is extremely portable- give me an internet connection and something to write on and I’m good to go. This was no accident, I’d already moved a lot before becoming a military partner and there is still plenty of world to see so it had always made sense to try and have a career I could pick up and go. The biggest problem I had to overcome was convincing my employer that this was the case and I could still be an excellent employee even if they couldn’t physically see me in the office.
I started the process by learning my rights. I found it easy to access the information on the government website and quickly learned that anyone who has been employed for at least 26 weeks is eligible to request flexible working, this includes remote working. Employers then have a legal responsibility to deal with requests in a “reasonable manner” and they have three months to make a decision. After discussing my intentions with my line manager, the next step for me was to put together a written application.
In my case, this application was a brief document which covered my working hours, agreed times to return to the office and whether I would need any additional support to carry out my role remotely. I completed the application in February 2020.
Just a few weeks later, lockdown hit the UK and our office staff all quickly transitioned to completely remote working. Though my application was technically redundant at that point I was keen to make sure it didn’t get forgotten completely. Nobody knew how long lockdown would last back then and I didn’t want to move house then find out I was expected back in the office every day. Luckily I was able to continue the conversations and had a 6 month remote working trial approved in May, with a review agreed for October 2020 before the trial ended.
I was delighted to be able to keep my job and keen to make sure I made the most of the opportunity when I moved to a new area but I didn’t know anybody else in my position at the time. Whilst looking for opportunities to network with other remote workers I stumbled across the Military Coworking Network. I couldn’t believe my eyes- a whole community of people in such similar situations seemed too good to be true. I quickly joined the Facebook group and from day 1 have found myself encouraged, inspired and supported by the incredible team that is the Military Coworking Network.
I moved house in July when restrictions allowed and, after a couple of days off to unpack, I was officially working from home! We are very lucky in our new home to have space I can use exclusively as an office and it has often been my favourite room in the house. It really feels like a symbol of my achievements so far and I’m proud that I have been able to continuing supporting the healthcare industry through my work whilst going through a lot of personal changes, and a global pandemic.
Of course, various homeworking restrictions and lockdowns across the UK have meant that my colleagues have also remained largely remote since March 2020. Though my efforts in securing a trial of remote working ended up largely unnecessary, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more about employment rights and to connect with groups of other people who have been working remotely and growing their careers for many years.
I’m excited to see what the future holds and know that the amazing community of the Military Coworking Network will always be on hand for advice, support or to cheer me on when I need it. I hope that one advantage to come out of this devastating pandemic will be increased flexibility for more employees and a willingness to overcome geographical differences in order to continue career development.
Written by Siobhan Fairgreaves.