Now Is the Time to Ask to Keep Working Remote

If work-from-home life suits you, here’s how to convince your boss to make the arrangement continue even after the coronavirus crisis passes.

Author: Jennifer N. Dienst       

remote work

For those people working from who want to stay fully remote, it’s time to put a plan into action that will convince the boss to allow it.

With several vaccines now clearly on the horizon, it won’t be long before companies announce their timelines for a return to the office. For some, it will be a welcome shift back to normal. But others have discovered that they prefer working from home and may be pondering how to persuade their bosses to allow them to make the switch permanent.

According to a recent survey by FlexJobs, a site for remote job seekers, 65 percent of respondents want to stay fully remote post-pandemic and 31 percent want a hybrid arrangement, splitting their work hours between their home and office.

FlexJobs surveyed more than 4,000 of its members/audience in August and September 2020 for the report, finding that 95 percent of respondents said that they have been equally or more productive while working from home verses working from the office. “A quieter work environment” and “fewer interruptions from colleagues” ranked as the most popular reasons why their job performance improved, and “more control over their workplace” and a “more comfortable work environment” trailed closely behind them.

In a recent episode of Harvard Business Review’s advice podcast, Dear HBR, professor Ashley Whillans, author of Time Smart: How to Reclaim Your Time and Live a Happier Life, advises that those who want to stay fully remote should start putting a plan into action. “Because of the pandemic, things have changed. Now is as good of a time as any to take down the old guard and reimagine new ways of work and start these conversations,” she said.

“A lot of senior leadership that I’ve been chatting with has had to change their opinion on work-from-home, because, otherwise, there is no other way for their organizations to stay open,” Whillans added. “So there is more leverage for you as an employee to negotiate with your boss and your senior leadership.”

Depending on your workplace’s culture as well as history with remote work, that may be easy for some and challenging for others. The key is preparation. According to FlexJobs, a good place to start is crafting a proposal that demonstrates the value of working from home, not just for you but for your company. Cite research like the above-mentioned study and include a plan that outlines the arrangement. It’s also important to address how transitions will be navigated, anticipating any logistical hurdles from the get-go — for example, how will you coordinate scheduling and communication with your team? Can your work systems be securely accessed at home? A FlexJobs career coach offers templates on Instagram to negotiate with your employer (see below).

Beyond working through the fine print, make it a point to highlight how remote work is “actually something that’s going to help us in the long run,” said HBR’s senior editor Alison Beard during the podcast. She explained that it’s important to demonstrate why remote work will make a company more effective and attract more talent — bigger-picture benefits that go beyond the individual perks for you, and that senior leadership may not immediately recognize.

“That kind of conversation, Whillans said, “could help move the needle on some of these organizations that are somewhat more resistant — maybe for good reason, who knows — around work-from-home and remote work options.”

Jennifer N. Dienst is managing editor of Convene.