How to convince your boss to let you keep working from home
The pandemic upended many things, including the way we work. And there are few reasons to go back to the old normal, especially if you’ve found something better.
Of course, not all bosses agree.
And even as they embraced working from home at the outset of the pandemic, some companies are now racing to get teams back into offices. If yours is one of them, here’s some advice for convincing a reluctant boss to embrace remote work.
Ask for what you want
It may be a cliché, but it’s true. You don’t get what you don’t ask for.
“If this is something that’s of value for you, you have to bring it forward and shoot your shot,” says Sertrice Grice, chief consulting officer and cofounder at Mattingly Solutions, which focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion work. “Don’t be afraid of the conversation.”
Not asking for a permanent work from home arrangement could signal to your boss that you’re comfortable, maybe even excited, about the prospect of returning to the office.
Grice recommends coming to the conversation with examples of how you excelled when working from home. Nowadays, it’s less about asking permission and more about having earned the privilege. “The question isn’t can I, it’s why can’t I continue,” she says.
Make it about more than just you
You’re not the only one who prefers remote work.
More than 90% of people surveyed by Gallup in September said they wanted to continue working from home. Of those, more than half would prefer a hybrid work environment, while 37% want to trade their cubicles for their home offices permanently.
“Not having to commute, needing flexibility to balance work and personal obligations, and improved well-being (which likely results from having more time) are the top-cited reasons for preferring remote work,” Gallup said.
To help your manager see the big picture, frame your request broadly with a focus on the company as a whole. “Make it about how this benefits everyone versus asking for special treatment,” Grice says.
One way to do this is by offering to help develop an official remote working policy. “There are many employees out there who have realized the benefits of remote work,” Grice says. “You could help create a policy that works for the broader organization as well as for you.”
Build a case
Working from home during the pandemic gives you a lot of real-life examples to draw from as you’re making your argument, which is exactly what you should do.
For example, Zoom meeting transcripts can be used as notes, making it easier for participants to focus on the conversation at hand. Meetings can be easier to schedule without commutes to schedule around.
It’s okay to say, “Not only was I able to do my job remotely, but it actually helped me perform better,” Grice says.
You’re likely not the only one who feels that way, something that’s especially true for workers of color in office jobs.
Black people working office jobs are more likely to prefer full-time remote working arrangements, according to an April report from Future Forum, a professional consortium backed by Slack.
That research found only 3% of Black professionals want to return to offices full-time. Workers of color prefer working from home because it reduces the need for them to code switch to fit in and cuts down on microaggressions that can make being in an office miserable, the study said.
Meanwhile in a 2019 Glassdoor survey, 42% of U.S. employees reported experiencing or witnessing race or gender discrimination at work. One in three people surveyed reported having experienced or witnessed LGBTQ discrimination. Nearly half of all respondents reported experiencing or witnessing ageism.
“We have to speak up for ourselves and tell our managers what we need and why,” says Minda Harts, the author of two books, including The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table. “We can’t assume people know what we’ve been dealing with.”
Part of the diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts companies are touting is to hear people out, she explains. “The only part of this equation that we can solve is how we advocate for ourselves and what we advocate for.”
Outline clear pathways for communication
One of the most frequent arguments against working from home is that it makes it harder for spontaneous creativity, the kind of thing that used to emerge in cafeterias and around water coolers. But nowadays, colleagues don’t pop up over your shoulder. They ping you on Slack.
“People who need that interaction will do it virtually,” Grice says. “That Slack message, that text. It’s not that those spontaneous meetings have disappeared. What’s been altered is how they’re appearing.”
If there are specific tools that facilitate the types of interactions your boss is concerned about, mention them and provide examples of how you’ve used them during the pandemic.
It can also be helpful to set up regular meetings with your boss and key colleagues. You could lean on away messages to communicate your current status or set schedules of when you’ll be available for phone calls and by email.
“One reason people are reluctant is because they don’t trust their employees to do the job,” Grice says. “You have to show your employer they can trust you.”
Pointing to your pandemic track record is an excellent way to do this.
Be open to compromise
Just because your boss doesn’t want you to permanently work from home full-time doesn’t mean you can’t find a hybrid approach that allows you to meet in the middle.
This could be going into the office once or twice a week or once or twice a month. If you live in or want to move to a different city, offer to visit the office periodically.
If your boss is still reluctant, suggest a trial period after which you can return to the conversation. “Be flexible with what you’re asking for,” Grice says.
If it’s a hard no
Some organizational cultures are resistant to change no matter how strong a case you make.
“I’ve had these conversations where they’re not accommodating me,” Harts says. She interprets these conversations as a sign it may be time to move on.
“Maybe we can’t leave just yet, but if we never make what we want clear and set boundaries, then we’ll never know what’s possible for us,” Harts says. “As Black and brown employees especially, we can’t be afraid to center ourselves.”
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