Millions of previously office-bound employees started working from home when COVID-19 took the world by storm. Although the sudden switch wasn’t without its roadblocks, the benefits of working from home have become apparent to even the biggest skeptics. So much so that many companies are incorporating remote work into their long-term plans.
But even though the pandemic was, in many ways, the tipping point for remote and flexible work, the reality is that some companies may still want employees to return to the office.
So, what do you do if you’ve come to enjoy working from home and truly feel that remote work is the future of work, but your employer wants you back in the office?
Fortunately, finding a way to continue working from home may not require switching companies. It might be possible to negotiate permanent work-from-home employment in your current role.
How to Make Your Work-From-Home Arrangements Permanent
1. Do Your Research
If you’re already working from home due to the pandemic, you may be in a prime position to strategize your way to working remotely for the long-term. If you’re not already working from home but want to, these strategies can still apply.
Find out what kind of pre-pandemic remote work policies existed. Did anyone on your team work from home before offices shut down? Did they work remotely full-time or only a day or two each week? How did they get the OK to work from home? The more information you have on what kinds of policies were in place when things were “normal,” the clearer your own proposal for the “new normal” will be.
Also, take note of any work-from-home policies your company put in place during the pandemic, and see how they could work to your advantage. Maybe your company will start phasing employees back into the office slowly, and you can propose to be one of the last groups. This gives the company more time to see what is and isn’t working, and you more time to negotiate.
2. Outline the Benefits
One of the most critical aspects of your proposal to keep working from home should be the business rationale for remote working. The good news is that the facts are on your side because working from home has many benefits for employees and employers alike.
One of the biggest benefits of remote work for employers is ensuring continuity of operations, not just during the pandemic, but during any challenging times. Even though you’re only one employee (perhaps among thousands), you can still demonstrate how working from home can enable you to provide service without disruption.
“Because the pandemic may ebb and flow with waves following this initial shutdown,” says Brie Weiler Reynolds, Career Development Manager, “your ability to continue working from home will help you, your team, and the company avoid future disruptions if additional stay-at-home orders become necessary, and can help the office return with reduced capacity to aid social distancing efforts in the building.”
3. Create a Proposal
Once you’ve done your research and outlined the benefits, create a written proposal. This is your chance to debunk some of the myths about working from home—like that workers are less productive and that they miss out by not having face-time with colleagues.
Your request to keep your work-from-home arrangement doesn’t have to be a long, extensive proposal, but having an official document shows that you’ve put a lot of thought into this request and that you are serious about it.
When negotiating permanent work-from-home arrangements, your proposal should include:
- What kind of flexibility you’re looking for (100% remote work, a few day per week working from home, etc.)
- A sample schedule with anticipated work hours
- The business rationale for your proposal. Be ready with data and be able discuss your goals and how working remotely will help you reach them
- Specifics about how you’ll continue to accomplish your job from home, even if others are in the office—such as a ongoing meeting with colleagues once a week
- The potential impact on clients, coworkers, and managers, and how you will manage them
- How you’ll handle regular communication, including when and how you’ll be available, and how you’ll stay in touch with onsite employees
4. Ask for a Meeting
When you’re ready to negotiate a permanent work-from-home arrangement, ask for a formal meeting where you can raise the subject, offer your pitch, then discuss the options. This also shows your boss that you’re taking this seriously, and therefore, would take working from home seriously.
You may want to run through a few work-at-home options with your supervisor—such as full-time remote work, working part-time from home and partly from the office once it reopens, or some mix that meets everyone’s needs. But, know what your ideal situation is and start there. Try not to make them decide what’s best for you.
Don’t send your request over a casual IM. A video meeting with your supervisor can go a long way toward persuading your boss to give a long-term work-from-home arrangement a try. Go in fully prepared, have your talking points ready, and make your case. Be confident, and prepare for their questions (and potential solutions) in advance.
5. Show Your Results
You’ve been given a chance to prove your work-from-home skills during the pandemic. Now’s your time to really show how you’ve kept the quality of your work high and produced as steadily at home as you did in the office. This is probably the most crucial part of negotiating permanent work-from-home arrangements.
“If you’d like to continue your work from home arrangement, you may be able to leverage the success you’ve had working remotely since the pandemic started,” explains Career Coach, Toni Frana. “Let your supervisor know your results, how productive you’ve been, and that you’d like to maintain this arrangement if at all possible.”
If you can provide any quantitative facts about your work-from-home productivity (i.e., “converted 5% of leads to customers”), then do it! And if you have data to show improved results when working remotely compared to the office, all the better.
“Make it clear that you’ve been as productive or maybe even more productive at home even during this incredibly challenging time,” explains Reynolds. “You may have additional responsibilities like child or family care, homeschooling, or added burdens of having a partner who is an essential worker, and you’ve been able to maintain your productivity through it all. Let your employer imagine how well you’ll do as a long-term remote worker without all those added distractions and challenges!”
6. Be Flexible
Even though your company likely dove in headfirst to remote working during the pandemic, that doesn’t mean your employer is ready to go all-in with permanent remote work…yet. These are unprecedented times, and everyone is coming to terms with new ways of living and working.
It may take more than a few months of “proof” before the company is willing to make long-term changes, but 82% of hiring managers anticipate their workforce being more remote in the future than pre-COVID, with nearly half (47%) saying they’ll let employees work remotely full-time.
If there’s any resistance, take it slow and offer extended timelines and trial periods. “You may propose to continue working remotely through the summer, and then reevaluate in the fall. Suggest that, if things are still going well and the results are there, you’d like a permanent move to working remotely at that time,” suggests Frana.
Change takes time, so be patient when negotiating permanent work-from-home arrangements.
7. Get Personal
Many people are struggling with how to balance all the parts of their lives now that so much about the future is uncertain. If you have a supportive manager, consider letting them in on some of your personal challenges, and explain how remote work has helped you cope.
“Many workplaces have become more open to discussing personal needs now that the pandemic has forced so many people to combine work and life under one roof,” says Reynolds. “If your personal needs require you to continue working from home because school is partly or fully remote for the foreseeable future, your parents need additional caregiving, or for any reason, it may be acceptable to explain your situation to your manager or HR and ask them for a continued work-from-home arrangement as an accommodation.”
However, Reynolds recommends being cautious about divulging personal details. “Some workplaces or managers simply won’t be understanding about your personal reasons for wanting or needing to keep working remotely. If your workplace doesn’t seem very supportive, generally, about the personal lives of its employees, it may actually backfire for you to bring up family or life responsibilities as justification for working remotely. Try asking some trusted coworkers whether they think your manager or HR will be supportive, or if they get the sense your personal concerns may be unfairly held against you.”
8. If Not Now, Keep Trying
If the steps above aren’t enough to convince your employer to allow you to continue to work remotely, it may be a matter of timing. Just keep in mind that the odds are in your favor. Global Workplace Analytics predicts that 25-30% of the entire U.S. workforce will be working from home several days a week by the end of 2021. That’s compared to 3.6% pre-pandemic! And, the expected growth rate of full-time remote work has more than doubled, from 30% to 65%.
The push for remote work is gaining traction. And as the global health crisis continues to evolve, chances are that more businesses will jump on the remote work bandwagon, either committing to going fully remote or offering staff the choice to work from home if and when they want.
Think about approaching your manager again in the future to negotiate a permanent work-from-home arrangement. If things still don’t work out, it may be time to set your sights elsewhere with a company that supports remote work.
Sample Template for Requesting Permanent Work-from-Home Arrangements
So, what do these eight steps look like in action? We put together a template for you on Instagram. Check it out!
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