Have you been working from home since March 2020? Hearing rumblings that you will be expected to go back to in-person work this year? If the thought of returning to your physical workplace unsettles you, this guide is for you. We spoke with several experts on negotiating work-from-home agreements with employers. Here are some tips:
Do your research.
Before asking your manager if you can work from home permanently, find out whether any other employees have been granted this benefit.
Speak up now as policies are being crafted.
Be transparent about your desire to work remotely. "If an employee wants to continue to work from home, they should share their perspective with their manager," career coach Angela Copeland said. "Not all companies are willing or able to accommodate such requests long term, but if you don't speak up, your manager won't know."
In many workplaces, remote work arrangements are generally decided categorically rather than on a case-by-case basis, employment adviser and litigator Michelle Strowhiro said. Employers usually don't want to give an exception to one person that they wouldn't give to another worker in a similar role.
That's why it's important to speak up about your wishes to work remotely now, before official policies are crafted.
Have a plan in place.
Approach management with a plan for what you want and how you can continue to get your work done effectively. This includes information such as proposed work hours and how you will handle meetings with colleagues who are working in person. "It goes back to building that trust, so they know that there's a plan in place," industrial and organizational psychologist Sertrice Grice said.
Understanding your employer's concerns about a permanent remote work arrangement can be key to crafting a successful plan. For example, if your manager wants every worker to attend big meetings in person, you could agree to travel to the office every few weeks for larger gatherings.
Make a business case — as well as an emotional case.
Emphasize how a remote work arrangement would make sense for your team and the business as a whole. For example, if you are part of a global team based in Southern California but want to work remotely from New York, you could be better equipped to interact with European clients by working East Coast hours. "Those kinds of things are really compelling," said organizational psychologist Lauren Catenacci.
Appealing to your employer's mission may also strengthen your case. For example, if you work for a company that caters to families, Catenacci said you could have success pitching a switch to permanent remote work if you frame it as the best option for your family, as well as the business.
Highlight your successes over the last year.
You should approach negotiation for remote work as a win-win situation for you and your employer, executive coach Bonnie Marcus said. If you've already been working remotely throughout the pandemic, you may have an easier time advocating to make it permanent. "You can build a case from not what you think you can do … but actually from what you have accomplished and how productive you were," she said.
It can be helpful to showcase your successes in an organized document or slide show, said Teresa Lee, founder of career coaching service PathUp.
Offer a trial period.
One way to demonstrate how well you would do as a remote worker at your current job: Ask for a trial period, during which you can showcase your ability to get your work done while at home. Use this time to show your boss that your productivity and performance will not suffer while working remotely. Marcus also suggests working on a collaborative project with your manager during this time, which could help reinforce how reliable you are working from home.
Consider a compromise.
Even if you are hoping to exclusively work from home, think about whether you would be willing to come into the office a few days a week — or a few days per quarter — for some in-person face time. You don't need to disclose this willingness right away in the negotiation process, but it could be helpful in the long run. "If you really want to work from home 100% [of the time], I wouldn't lead with that," Marcus said. "But that could be your fallback."
It's important to understand the expectations your manager has for your level of communication. How quickly do they expect you to respond to e-mail? Are you comfortable with your boss texting you?
Setting up expectations and boundaries is key to success, especially if your boss is used to keeping a close eye on employees, Copeland said. "You may even need to agree to go out of your way to over-communicate. … You're finding new and different ways to show your boss that you're working."
Get things in writing
If you've been offered a job and successfully negotiate for an option to work remotely, be sure to get this agreement in writing, either within the offer letter or otherwise committed in writing.
If you have been at your company for a few years and negotiate to work from home permanently, you should at least have the agreement in writing via e-mail. "Always follow up with an e-mail and say, you know, 'We had this meeting on Oct. 1, and I just want to confirm that this is what we agreed to,' " Marcus said.
Try again later.
If your boss seems resistant to granting employees a permanent work-from-home arrangement, it could be worth revisiting the issue a few months down the line. "It's really hard for a boss to say everyone can be remote at this point," Lee said. "If they say yes to one person, everyone's going to want the same thing."
This is especially helpful if you keep doing a great job at work. "The best thing you can do to advocate for your remote work case is to do excellent work," Lee said. "Once you're invaluable, they will want to keep you."
Be prepared to hear no.
Despite your best efforts, your employer may still require a return to your physical workplace. "Some organizations just won't budge," Catenacci said. "If you are committed to working from home, now is the time to start looking for a company that aligns to this goal."