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How to negotiate a work-from-home arrangement permanently

No commute, wearing comfy pants 24/7, and the chance to toss in a load of laundry between Zoom calls are just a few perks that people have enjoyed about working remotely.

COVID-19 has fast-tracked remote work, with 56% of Americans now working remotely most or some of the time, according to a Gallup survey. And many of those workers — 61% in fact — want to stay working remotely even post-pandemic, according to Live Career.

But as more people get vaccinated and life returns closer to normal, more companies will be calling their employees back to the office. About 75% of employers said they expect at least half of their office employees to be working in the office by July 2021, according to PWC’s U.S. remote work survey.

Still, that’s only half their workforce, and many companies recognize that a return to the days where most people worked in the office most of the time isn’t likely. If you’re hoping to make remote work a permanent arrangement, start that conversation with your manager as soon as possible, said Dorianne St Fleur, an HR leader, diversity and inclusion strategist, and founder of consulting company, Your Career Girl.

Smiling african American millennial female student in headphones and glasses sit at desk watch webinar making notes, happy biracial young woman in earphones work study using computer write in notebook
(Photo: Getty Creative) (fizkes via Getty Images)

“If you can, talk to your manager well ahead of the company announcement so your manager is aware of your preferences and can keep that in mind as decisions are being made,” she said.

But even if your company has already made an announcement about a return to working in the office, it’s not too late to negotiate a fully remote or hybrid work schedule. Here’s how.

Prep your productivity stats

Before you reach out to your manager, spend a little time doing some prep work.

First figure out exactly what you’re asking for. Before the pandemic, Jordan Carroll, a career and life coach, would have recommended starting small by asking to work remotely one or two days a week. But you can probably go bigger now than you have more than a year’s worth of remote working results to point to.

“And if you’re an employee who has really knocked it out of the park during this remote time," Carroll said, "then maybe there’s a good chance of being allowed to go fully remote.”

If you’re asking for a hybrid approach, suggest a specific schedule. For example, if you want to work from home three days a week, name the days and explain why you chose those ones. For example, maybe those are the days when you typically have fewer meetings.

Handsome Software Engineer Works on a UX / UI Mobile App Template, Uses Personal Computer. Freelance Programmer Working At Home from Cozy Living Room.
(Photo: Getty Creative) (gorodenkoff via Getty Images)

Next, pull together a few remote work productivity stats. For example, did you finish a project ahead of schedule or boost your company’s social media stats? You can also include ways you’ve put that time you previously spent commuting toward things that benefit the company like taking a class or finally getting around to that back-burner project.

“Share specific stats about how you’ve been able to increase or maintain your productivity,” St Fleur said. At the same time, throwing in too many stats and figures “positions remote work as a perk you have to qualify for instead of a mutually beneficial working arrangement,” she said. So focus more on ways to show how remote work has helped you do your best work than overloading your boss with numbers.

You can humanize your story by pointing out how remote work has allowed you to focus more, improved your work-life balance, and made you happier, but don’t forget to position this as a good thing for your company, too.

How to overcome objections

(Photo: Getty Creative)
(Photo: Getty Creative) (Oscar Wong via Getty Images)

Once you have a handle on what you want to ask for and some solid examples of how you’ve thrived during remote work, reach out to your boss. Address this topic the same way you would any other work-related matter with your manager, St Fleur said.

“If you normally talk through concerns or questions via the weekly call with your boss, there’s no reason to send a formal email if that’s not your norm,” she said.

In the past, employers often objected to remote work because it would hurt productivity and employee morale. Those have been proven mostly wrong, but expect objections that mainly come down to concerns around harming communication, team building, and company culture.

“Some of those are a bit hard to deny, but if you’ve done things to get to know the people on your team virtually, point those out,” Carroll said.

Name specific ways you’ve kept up with communication with your boss and peers and how you can build more camaraderie in the future. Also mention ways you can be flexible like coming into the office for important meetings or events.

At the end of the day, if you’re a committed employee who is well-liked by your company, there’s a good chance they’ll want to work with you, Carroll said, even remotely.

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