In 2020, millions of workers participated in the great remote experiment.
While working from home wasn’t always easy, the majority proved they can do their jobs just as well, if not better, while remote.
Remote workers also benefited from spending more time with family and avoiding the daily commute.
Many workers are now not prepared to lose these benefits, but some companies are asking their employees back to the office.
As a result, employers today are grappling with the “Great Resignation”: 4.3 million workers in America quit their jobs in August, while 39% of workers have said they would consider quitting if their employers aren’t flexible about remote work.
The last year has proven that workers don’t have to be in an office full-time to be productive and trustworthy employees. So how can staff convince their employers to let them stay remote?
To help, here is my step-by-step guide to help employees communicate the business case for remote or flexible work with their current employer, including expert guidance from our team at Remote, plus advice from workers who successfully advocated for remote work within their own organizations.
1. Find an advocate
The first step is to identify the right person(s) within your organization to support your request.
Choose someone with the power to make decisions who is familiar with your performance. This will typically be your manager or an HR partner.
“If you think there might be a bigger need for a remote or hybrid policy across the company, you can also suggest an employee survey focused on remote work.”
2. Come with facts
Don’t have the conversation about staying remote without facts on your side.
Sarah Aviram, an HR leader and author of the book Remotivation, created a presentation to convince her boss to let her go remote in 2018.
“In the presentation, I listed out all possible concerns they might have and how we could mitigate them,” she explains. “But it doesn’t have to be in a deck format. It could be a conversation where you’re bringing in relevant facts and data.”
Be flexible and collaborative in the conversation and bring strong evidence to back up your request.
3. Understand what drives your company
As the company’s director of talent development, Sarah was already researching workforce trends to help her company stay competitive in hiring.
She found that the biggest trends were around remote work and distributed teams, which reflected her own desire to work remotely.
However, she didn’t lead the conversation by asking to work remotely. She started at a macro level, explaining these trends to her CEO.
“I thought I would start by bringing the data to the table. I asked him if he agreed that this was the future, and he did! Then I asked, ‘Do you agree that offering flexibility as a perk would make us more competitive in hiring and retaining?’ He agreed.”
Then Sarah shared her idea to work while traveling as an experiment for what they could potentially offer as a perk to future employees. Her CEO said she should do it!
“I think my success came from starting at a macro level about remote work and bringing it down in a funnel to me as an individual and my personal interest in remote work,” she adds.
4. Emphasize the business value
Speaking under a pseudonym, Arnold Cooper, a tech leader at a large organization, made his case by arguing that he could get his best work done while remote.
“As much as I wanted to stay remote, I knew that it wasn’t just about what I wanted,” he says. “It was about what was going to add the highest value to the business.”
Arnold used two years of quantitative data related to his work performance to make the business case for his boss.
“This made the answer really easy for him because I could prove that I can deliver the most value to the business in a full-time remote scenario,” he explains.
It can be helpful to talk about your future at the company and what impact you can make.
Explain that the best way you can make that impact is to have more flexibility because of what it offers you mentally, emotionally, and practically.
5. Appeal to their human side
In some cases, a human argument might be the best way to persuade your employer.
If you feel comfortable doing so, tell your employer why it’s important for you as an individual to work remotely.
Perhaps the flexibility helps you to spend more time with your children. Depending on the situation and your relationship with your boss, a human argument might get them to approve your request.
6. Know the data
Additionally, most employers care about retention because it is so expensive to hire and train new staff.
According to Gallup: “The cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary.”
If you’re a valued team member with a lot of domain expertise, it can be worth it for your employer to reach a compromise.
7. Offer a contingency agreement
Reassure your employer by offering a contingency plan if they become unhappy with your performance while remote.
In Sarah’s case, she promised to return to the office immediately if needed.
“During my presentation, I said ‘This is an experiment. If at any point you think I’m not performing, I’ll come home.’ That made them feel better about it.”
8. Create a plan to make remote work
Seal the deal by establishing how you will successfully work remotely. If you want to travel or relocate, agree to a schedule to mitigate any concerns about working from a different time zone (assuming your company is not yet working asynchronously).
Make a plan that your manager can formally approve and set clear expectations for your role. This will help you demonstrate that regardless of where you’re working, you’re able to meet your goals.
9. Remove all doubt about remote work
We know remote work is possible and productive. Many of us have been doing it since March 2020, so you’re not asking to do something entirely new.
If your employer remains hesitant, ask questions and bring the conversation back to your proven success as a remote worker during the pandemic.
Mention how well you were able to collaborate with your peers, managers, and team members while remote during the pandemic.
10. Know when to look for something new
Unfortunately, not all companies will be ready to let employees remain flexible.
If strict rules around returning to the office don’t match what you want in your life and career, it might be time to seek out another opportunity.
The good news is, 66% of employers plan to increase remote and flexible options (per our Workforce Revolution Report) and it’s estimated that over half of all knowledge workers will be remote by 2022.
If you value flexibility and being able to work remote or hybrid, you have the power to make it happen.
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