Social distancing rules aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 forced mass remote working onto a significant percentage of professionals across the globe. While this was designed as a temporary stopgap, many employees have come to appreciate the benefits of working from home and wish to retain some form of flexibility once they transition back into co-located workspaces.
While the level of flexibility that can realistically be achieved on a long-term, sustainable basis will likely differ from that experienced during this crisis period, it’s clear that the world of work will never return to its pre-coronavirus state. After this experience, and based on the conversations we’re having with employers, there is a new-found appreciation for and acceptance of continued flexibility.
However, what this looks like will vary from organisation to organisation. Therefore, if you would like to continue working from home, you need to approach your manager with a plan, backed by supporting evidence, and a willingness to flex to find a mutually beneficial solution. Here’s how.
1. Define your best-practice work from home plan
Over the past few weeks, you’ve established a home office and spent time reviewing and refining your working day to maximise productivity and minimise distractions in order to deliver your tasks on time. You may have also improved your time management skills while simultaneously learning to use video conferencing tools to maintain – and in some cases increase – meaningful communication with colleagues and stakeholders.
Throughout this process, you’ve identified what works best for you when working remotely. Consequently, you can now clearly articulate your best-practice work from home strategy to your boss, while also reassuring her or him that all potential hurdles have been overcome. In short, you can present a solid logistical foundation to continue to work successfully from home.
2. Prepare evidence
Next, prepare supporting evidence to demonstrate your recent achievements while working remotely. The aim here is to prove that you can successfully deliver what is required of you remotely. At a minimum, you should be able to show that your productivity has remained at pre-remote working levels.
Having said this, many people have found that there are additional, sometimes unexpected, benefits from working from home. For example, for some the lack of ambient chatter improves their productivity, while others are forced to take greater ownership of their job tasks. A contact of mine said that working from home has forced people to collect and analyse meaningful data, which has positively impacted their understanding of their customers’ needs.
So, identify the benefits your own remote working experience has provided and, crucially, collect data to demonstrate the additional value to your employer. For example, the percentage increase in work completed or improved planning or execution of your individual tasks. If you are short on ideas for relevant quantifiable results, try these tips. While these were designed to evidence results in a CV, they work just as well to demonstrate how you have maintained your productivity and achieved additional benefits while working remotely.
3. Focus on the benefits to the organisation, not just to you
Next, schedule a meeting with your manager to present and discuss your request. Let her or him know the reason for the meeting so that they can also prepare and do not feel railroaded.
When it comes time for this meeting, present your request professionally and openly, supported by the evidence you’ve prepared. Crucially, focus on the gains for your organisation, not just for you. For example, rather than only talking about your reduced commute giving you more time to spend with your family, focus on how you start each day refreshed at peak productivity, which you maintain because of your distraction-free environment.
4. Be flexible – and prepare a fall-back position
Naturally, there will be some challenges which you’ll need to address before you can come to a mutually beneficial arrangement with your manager. Try to anticipate these by putting yourself in your manager’s shoes and viewing your request from their perspective – what would their objections be?
One of the most common you’re likely to face is the lack of social interactions and impromptu conversations that occur when employees work side-by-side. These create a sense of team camaraderie and reinforce the organisation’s culture, while keeping staff connected.
While this is harder to replicate remotely, it’s not impossible. As forced working from home has shown, collaboration and video conference tools have enabled teams and organisations to maintain their culture and sense of teamwork and connectivity.
Another objection could stem from whether certain tasks are more difficult to complete remotely. For example, if you manage others or spend a lot of time liaising with colleagues or stakeholders, it may not be practical to continue to work exclusively from home.
In such cases, perhaps you could devise a plan whereby you continue to use video conference tools to work remotely on certain days and come into the office on others for in-person conversations.
Ultimately, this middle ground could be the solution that works best for both you and your employer. After all, with many employers looking forward to re-establishing the in-person interactions of a co-located office, perhaps you could suggest part-time remote working so that you still maintain some contact with your in-office colleagues, while working remotely the rest of the week? This allows you to balance and enjoy the benefits of both scenarios.
5. Follow up
In most cases, your manager will need time to consider your proposal. Therefore, email your boss after the meeting to thank them for their time, summarise your proposal and the benefits to the organisation, and attach your supporting evidence for their further consideration.
Be prepared to discuss your situation further, and don’t forget that any successful negotiation requires an open mindset and a willingness to flex to an arrangement that suits you both.
With these tips, you should be able to balance your wish to continue to work remotely with the practicality of doing so. Good luck.