Posted September 13, 2021 by Mark Perna
If your office is reopening but you’ve gotten attached to remote work, it’s time to negotiate with your boss. A career coach shares four ways to approach the conversation. Mark’s article, “How To Negotiate For Your Work-From-Home Life And Make Your Boss Happy,” published at Forbes.com on August 17, 2021.
Education, childcare, community, income security, inequality and the political landscape: these are just a few of the things that, for most of us, have been turned upside down these past 18 months. Forging a new “normal” is tough.
Another area where everything changed, of course, was how many people (outside of essential workers) were forced to do their jobs from home. It was a difficult and unwelcome shift for some, especially at first.
Then something interesting happened: many people began to blossom working from their home offices. Not only did they gain extra time by shaving off commutes, but many employees also found they could work more productively than ever. For some, the idea of ever going back to their pre-pandemic office life seemed like a deal breaker.
In fact, a Prudential study conducted earlier this year found that some 87% of adults who’ve been able to work from home during the pandemic want the ability to continue doing so after the pandemic ends.
The rub? More and more employers are calling their employees to come back into the office. So where does that leave those of us who now love the work-from-home life—and don’t want to give it up?
“Now that life is returning to normal, it’s the perfect opportunity to weigh the benefits of jumping back into business as usual,” says Alexa Fischer, Confidence Coach, Entrepreneur and Udemy instructor. “It’s fair to have a candid conversation about the pros and cons of working remotely with the intended outcome of finding a solution that keeps everyone happy and productive.”
Fischer offers four tips on how employees can make the case for continuing to work from home while still making their boss happy. The crux, she says, is to position it as a win-win for everyone.
As you prepare for the conversation, you should take time to evaluate both the benefits of working remotely as well as the disadvantages. Create a list of the pros—and the cons.
For example, if an employee moves to a new state with a lower cost of living that enables them to have a fuller life while still working remotely, there is a benefit for the employer as well.
“By objectively looking at this list of pros and cons, you can get a clearer picture of your relationship to how you want to continue working and why,” says Fischer. “This will also help you better communicate your reasons if you feel you can make an argument for staying remote in the near future.
“A positive attitude, combined with careful preparation, will often yield the best results.”
Another strategy to embrace in your negotiations is to focus on why working from home provides benefits to all parties: both yourself personally and the company.
Fischer suggests reflecting on the past year or so and highlighting the wins you achieved out of your home office:
“Really examine what went well and be prepared to tell those stories and talking points when presenting your argument,” says Fischer. “If you can effectively communicate why you want to continue to work remotely and the benefits that it provides, you have a roadmap for success.”
A common mistake Fischer warns against is making your case for permanent remote work using assumptions and projections about other people’s perspectives. “Own your own truth instead,” she says.
To do that, she advises that when negotiating, it’s a good idea to speak from a personal perspective, using phrases like:
This keeps the focus on your experience, which is harder to argue with than broad statements such as “everyone loves working from home” or “people are more productive outside the office.” It also demonstrates a little humility, in that you can recognize that your experience isn’t the standard for everyone else.
Of course, it’s crucial to keep your employer’s perspective in mind and be flexible during the negotiation process. “You should be open to finding a solution that works for both of you,” says Fischer.
So, if your employer frowns upon the idea of a permanent or exclusive work-from-home plan, you should have at least a few contingencies you’re willing to consider to arrive at a workable solution.
That might mean, for instance, working from the office 50% of the time, or attending important meetings in person on an as-needed basis. “The key is identifying the reasons why working remotely is a win-win option for you both,” says Fischer. “If you’re prepared with some options to consider, plus the reasons behind your suggestions, you set the groundwork for a productive conversation.”
On the other hand, if either side—employee or employer—adopts a rigid take-it-or-leave-it attitude, that’s no longer a negotiation. “It’s likely a ticket to finding a new job,” says Fischer.
Employees and employers alike have all been through a lot over the past year and a half. We need to give ourselves the time and space to get grounded again and find a new sense of balance—to establish a new “normal” that we can all live with. Whether that’s working from home, in the office or somewhere in between, it has to be sustainable for the long term.
As you enter the conversation about your ongoing work arrangements, what matters most is finding the unique solution that makes you—and your boss—happy.