As governments and companies take steps to remove Covid related restrictions; many of us are being asked to return to an office setting. Putting aside any concerns about the virus itself, many employees have learned to enjoy the flexibility and convenience of working from home. According to USA TODAY 40% of Americans prefer to work from home full-time, 35% prefer a home-office hybrid, and 25% want to go back to the office full time (Work from home: Remote work is still popular with many Americans (usatoday.com).
If you are among those hoping to maintain a work from home arrangement going forward, here are a few tips for navigating the request to your employer:
1. Consider fully how it might affect you: During the past year, almost everyone was out of the office and working remotely, so perhaps your impression of working remotely is different than what it might be going forward as people return to the office. It’s possible that by working remotely you might miss out on opportunities to build internal relationships and communicate with people outside of your department. This could affect your ability to have influence within the organization. Working remotely can present problems if regular communication is needed as part of project or people management. Historically, work from home was offered only to individual contributor roles, but with video conferencing and team collaboration tools, there are alternatives for people in leadership/team focused roles. These challenges aren’t impossible to overcome, but it will take awareness of them and a proactive approach to address the lack of in-person interactions.
2. Consider how it will affect your company: If, after considering the pros and cons of a remote work arrangement you still want to pursue that option, the next step is to reflect on how your company will feel about it. A good employment relationship is a win-win for both employee and employer. It is important to take your employer’s perspective into account to ensure that working from home will benefit them as well. Here are a few apprehensions they will likely have:
Availability: A major concern employers have is if the employee will be available when needed. To address this issue, develop a clearly defined schedule of when you will be available and consider forwarding work calls to your cell phone when you’re not at your desk. There may be certain busy times for your department (for example monthly reporting) where it may make sense for you to go into the office. If you are willing to be in the office for critical deadlines you may be able to work remotely during less busy times.
Performance: You should be able to describe clearly how working from home will improve your performance. Identify your key responsibilities and how you will be able to successfully handle them from home. Be prepared to highlight some of the benefits of working remotely, such as removing your commute time frees up more time to work on important projects. Or perhaps being at home you have less distractions and can accomplish more in less time.
One thing you might also want to consider is setting up the work from home as a “trial period”. That way both you and your employer can assess performance over time to make sure things are going well. If your boss knows that they will have opportunity to review and modify the situation if it is not going well, they will be more likely to agree to letting you try it out.
Costs: Another reason for company hesitancy can be due to costs associated with work from home. If there are additional costs beyond what it would be for you to be in the office, you may want to consider offering to cover or split those costs with the employer. Additionally, if you anticipate that you will need to spend a few days a month in the office, consider offering to pay for the additional costs (for example hotel costs) out of your own pocket.
Precedent: If your company/department did not allow work from home prior to Covid they could now be hesitant to agree to working from home. To help overcome this you could research how common it is in your industry and specifically at competitors for employees to be allowed to work from home. You could also ask around your own company to find out whether other departments allow for these arrangements. If other firms allow for this it may be in their best interest to do the same.
From the many conversations I have had with both candidates and companies over the last few months, many companies are more open than ever to remote work arrangements. As you approach your employer, remember to address it as a dialogue and keep in mind that there is a spectrum from fully remote to hybrid to fully in the office. By preparing for the conversation and addressing your employers’ concerns, we hope that you can find the optimal situation going forward.