After more than a year of pandemic-induced working from home, many professionals have realized that they clearly prefer to continue some version of working from home (hybrid or full) longer term. While they may be looking forward to eliminating commutes, enjoying more solitude and enhancing work-life balance, they’re probably not looking forward to having that conversation with their boss. Depending on the pre-pandemic culture of the organization and the nature of one’s work, this could certainly be a big ask, but there is a right way to approach it.
Author of Always Wear Pants: And 99 Other Tips for Surviving and Thriving While You Work from Home, Kevin Rizer shares four powerful tips for anyone preparing for that delicate but important conversation.
Tip #1 – Focus primarily on benefits for the team/company, not you
While you obviously wouldn’t request to continue remote working if it didn’t benefit you, Rizer suggests that it’s a mistake to focus there. “Frame your request not by how working remotely will benefit you, but how it can benefit your company,” explains Rizer. “It’s not enough that you enjoy the flexibility of working from home. Explain how, without a commute, you can get more done, or why the lack of interruptions and disruptions in the office means you can perform at an even higher level.” While you certainly don’t need to build a literal business case for remote working, it certainly helps to approach the discussion with that mindset.
Tip #2 – Bring data
I once had a boss who had a quote on his wall that read, “In God we trust. All others bring data.” I’ve never forgotten that and since then always tried to back my arguments up with verifiable facts. Similarly, Rizer suggests showing up with data in hand to help strengthen your case for long term remote working. “If you have been working remotely for some time, look into your metrics,” he insists. “Ideally, you have performed at (or even exceeded) the level you were at when you were at the office. This is powerful information you can use to your advantage.”
Tip #3 – Be flexible
While it’s easy for us to focus on what we want, it can prove most effective to go into the discussion giving thought to what your boss or organization might want or what concerns they might have about your working remotely long term. One way to minimize those concerns is to approach the discussion with a clear intention of flexibility. “Perhaps your boss wants you in the office a few days a month, or there are important sales meetings, training, or conferences that the company really needs you to attend,” Rizer suggests. “Show your willingness to make sure that the key elements of your job don’t fall by the wayside if you work remotely.” Indeed, letting them know that you acknowledge and expect that there would be events you’d need to attend in person proactively minimizes the anxiety they may have around high priority activities.
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Tip #4 – Suggest a trial period
While your boss may not be ready to approve long term work from home five minutes after you pitch it, the idea of a trial can be really appealing (and much harder to decline.) Rizer insists, “Suggesting a trial period of 3-6 months can be a great way to bring a reluctant boss or HR manager around to your way of looking at the prospect of you working remotely.” A trial obviously minimizes their commitment level and risk, and it gives you an opportunity to actually show them how well the remote arrangement can continue to work even as others are returning to the office.
Requesting a long-term work from home arrangement can be intimidating as many organizations are chomping at the bit to get back into the office, but for many professionals this will undoubtedly be the right move. For many remote working critics, the Covid-19 pandemic experience has proven that working from home actually can work quite well, but many managers and leaders will certainly still be resistant to the idea. If you’re planning to ask for long term work from home status, anticipate possible resistance, plan your approach and make your case. You’ll be glad you did.