This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.
Millions of previously office-bound employees started working from home when COVID-19 took the world unawares.
Although the sudden switch wasn’t without its roadblocks, the benefits of working from home have become apparent to even the biggest skeptics.
So much so that many companies are incorporating remote work into their long-term plans.
But even though the pandemic was in many ways the tipping point for remote and flexible work, the reality is that some companies may still want employees to return to the office.
So, what do you do if you’ve come to enjoy working from home and truly feel that remote work is the future of work, but your employer wants you back in the office?
Fortunately, finding a way to continue working from home may not require switching companies.
The following are several tips to negotiate permanent work-from-home employment in your current role.
1. Do your research
If you’re already working from home due to the pandemic, you may be in a prime position to strategize your way to working remotely for the long-term. If you’re not already working from home but want to, these strategies can still apply.
Find out what kind of pre-pandemic remote work policies existed. Did anyone on your team work from home before offices shut down? Did they work remotely full-time or only a day or two each week? How did they get the OK to work from home?
The more information you have on what kinds of policies were in place when things were normal, the clearer your own proposal for the “new normal” will be.
Also, take note of any work-from-home policies your company put in place during the pandemic, and see how they could work to your advantage.
Maybe your company will start phasing employees back into the office slowly, and you can propose to be one of the last groups. This gives the company more time to see what is and isn’t working, and you more time to negotiate.
2. Outline the benefits
One of the most critical aspects of your proposal to keep working from home should be the business rationale for remote working. The good news is that the facts are on your side because working from home has many benefits for employees and employers alike. These include:
- Improved employee performance and productivity: A Stanford study found a 13% improvement in performance when employees worked from home. And 32% of managers say that remote work during the pandemic increased productivity.
- Positive environmental impact: Having employees work from home can reduce greenhouse emissions and positively impact air quality.
- Increased cost savings: Companies can save millions of dollars by reducing overhead costs.
- Happier employees: 60% of employees reported an improved work-life balance after ditching the commute and working from home.
One of the biggest benefits of remote work for employers is ensuring continuity of operations, not just during the pandemic, but during any challenging times.
Even though you’re only one employee (perhaps among thousands), you can still demonstrate how working from home can enable you to provide service without disruption.
“Because the pandemic may ebb and flow with waves following this initial shutdown,” says Brie Weiler Reynolds, career development manager, “your ability to continue working from home will help you, your team, and the company avoid future disruptions if additional stay-at-home orders become necessary, and can help the office return with reduced capacity to aid social distancing efforts in the building.”
3. Create a proposal
Once you’ve done your research and outlined the benefits, create a written proposal.
This is your chance to debunk some of the myths about working from home — such as that workers are less productive and that they miss out by not having face-time with colleagues.
Your request to keep your work-from-home arrangement doesn’t have to be a long, extensive proposal, but having an official document shows that you’ve put a lot of thought into this request and that you are serious about it.
When negotiating permanent work-from-home arrangements, your proposal should include:
- What kind of flexibility you’re looking for (100% remote work, a few days per week working from home, etc.)
- A sample schedule with anticipated work hours
- The business rationale for your proposal. Be ready with data and be able to discuss your goals and how working remotely will help you reach them
- Specifics about how you’ll continue to accomplish your job from home, even if others are in the office — such as an ongoing meeting with colleagues once a week
- The potential impact on clients, co-workers and managers, and how you will manage them
- How you’ll handle regular communication, including when and how you’ll be available, and how you’ll stay in touch with onsite employees
4. Ask for a meeting
When you’re ready to negotiate a permanent work-from-home arrangement, ask for a formal meeting at which you can raise the subject, offer your pitch, then discuss the options.
This also shows your boss that you’re taking this seriously and, therefore, would take working from home seriously.
You may want to run through a few work-at-home options with your supervisor — such as full-time remote work, working part-time from home and partly from the office once it reopens, or some mix that meets everyone’s needs.
However, you should know what your ideal situation is and start there. Try not to make them decide what’s best for you.
Don’t send your request over a casual instant message. A video meeting with your supervisor can go a long way toward persuading your boss to give a long-term work-from-home arrangement a try.
Go in fully prepared, have your talking points ready and make your case. Be confident, and prepare for their questions (and potential solutions) in advance.
5. Show your results
You’ve been given a chance to prove your work-from-home skills during the pandemic. Now’s your time to really show how you’ve kept the quality of your work high and produced as steadily at home as you did in the office.
This is probably the most crucial part of negotiating permanent work-from-home arrangements.
“If you’d like to continue your work-from-home arrangement, you may be able to leverage the success you’ve had working remotely since the pandemic started,” explains career coach Toni Frana. “Let your supervisor know your results, how productive you’ve been and that you’d like to maintain this arrangement if at all possible.”
If you can provide any quantitative facts about your work-from-home productivity (for example, “converted 5% of leads to customers”), then do it! And if you have data to show improved results when working remotely compared to the office, all the better.
“Make it clear that you’ve been as productive or maybe even more productive at home even during this incredibly challenging time,” says Reynolds. “You may have additional responsibilities like child or family care, homeschooling or added burdens of having a partner who is an essential worker, and you’ve been able to maintain your productivity through it all.”
6. Be flexible
Even though your company likely dove in headfirst to remote working during the pandemic, that doesn’t mean your employer is ready to go all-in with permanent remote work yet.
These are unprecedented times, and everyone is coming to terms with new ways of living and working.
It may take more than a few months of “proof” before the company is willing to make long-term changes, but 82% of hiring managers anticipate their workforce being more remote in the future than pre-COVID-19, with nearly half (47%) saying they’ll let employees work remotely full-time.
If there’s any resistance, take it slow and offer extended timelines and trial periods.
“You may propose to continue working remotely through the summer, and then reevaluate in the fall,” suggests Frana. “Suggest that, if things are still going well and the results are there, you’d like a permanent move to working remotely at that time.”
Change takes time, so be patient when negotiating permanent work-from-home arrangements.
7. Get personal
Many people are struggling with how to balance all the parts of their lives now that so much about the future is uncertain.
If you have a supportive manager, consider letting them in on some of your personal challenges and explain how remote work has helped you cope.
“Many workplaces have become more open to discussing personal needs now that the pandemic has forced so many people to combine work and life under one roof,” says Reynolds.
“If your personal needs require you to continue working from home because school is partly or fully remote for the foreseeable future, your parents need additional caregiving, or for any reason, it may be acceptable to explain your situation to your manager or HR and ask them for a continued work-from-home arrangement as an accommodation,” Reynolds adds.
However, Reynolds recommends being cautious about divulging personal details: “Try asking some trusted co-workers whether they think your manager or HR will be supportive, or if they get the sense your personal concerns may be unfairly held against you.”
8. If not now, keep trying
If the previous steps aren’t enough to convince your employer to allow you to continue to work remotely, it may be a matter of timing. Just keep in mind that the odds are in your favor.
Global Workplace Analytics predicts that 25%-30% of the entire U.S. workforce will be working from home several days a week by the end of 2021. That’s compared with 3.6% pre-pandemic!
And the expected growth rate of full-time remote work has more than doubled, from 30% to 65%. The push for remote work is gaining traction.
As the global health crisis continues to evolve, chances are that more businesses will jump on the remote work bandwagon, either committing to going fully remote or offering staff the choice to work from home if and when they want.
Think about approaching your manager again in the future to negotiate a permanent work-from-home arrangement. If things still don’t work out, it may be time to set your sights elsewhere with a company that supports remote work.