You want to work remotely. Your boss wants you back in-person. Here’s how to negotiate
It’s a source of friction at workplaces nationwide now that the pandemic is receding: The boss wants everyone back in the office, but the workers are just fine at home.
Because of work-at-home benefits like more family time, more sleep (on account of no commute) and better work-life balance, many employees are staunchly against reverting to old ways.
For some workplaces, this is a non-issue. Many bosses are embracing the new world of hybrid work, and some are taking it a step further by introducing year-round summer Fridays—the practice of ending work a few hours early before the weekend—or even four-day workweeks.
But other employees may not be so lucky, with bosses who are intent on bringing everyone back in-person, despite the mountain of evidence that it doesn’t increase productivity or foster collaboration in any meaningful way.
If you’re being pressured to return, and don’t want to, there’s hope. You can frame your argument for staying at home — at least a few days a week — as a win-win, according to Shannan Monson, a women’s leadership expert and serial entrepreneur who outlined a four-step approach to that conversation with your boss.
“Hybrid is the future of work, and anybody who says otherwise isn’t paying attention,” Monson tells Fortune.
Step #1: Determine what’s best for you
Before you go to your boss, define your goals. What would make you happy? Working two or three days from home or working remotely full-time?
At heart, this is a negotiation, Monson says. “You’ll probably meet somewhere in the middle, but you have to remember you have the power, and you’re in control of what you say yes or no to.”
Monsoon recommends practicing the conversation in advance to ensure you sound level-headed and clear. “The worst thing they can do is say no,” she adds. “You won’t be fired for wanting more.”
The attitude should be: this is two people trying to work towards the best possible outcome for the team—not the worker wanting to take something from the boss. “You’re on the same side, trying to achieve new goals and work together for the best results,” she says.
Step #2: List all your wins
Before the conversation, compile all your achievements over the past two years of lockdown, and highlight the wins you can take credit for. Bosses tend to have short memories — don’t hesitate to remind them of your successes, she says.
In this way, the work-from-home negotiation resembles the conversation you’d have when asking for a raise.
“You want to be the most prepared person in the room,” she says. Plus, you have leverage. “You’re not asking to work from home so much as asking to continue being your most productive self.”
In-person work mandates can be rooted, in great part, in an effort to control employees and distrust that they are less productive at home and fail to manage their time properly. This is the wrong approach, Monson says, and any concerns should be based on the work and performance, not the minutes spent moving your mouse.
To counteract those assumptions, she suggested saying: “I know it’s not how we’re used to doing things. Are you willing to track my KPIs and results for the next six months, and then we can revisit it?”
Setting those parameters means coming to the conversation from a place of collaboration rather than “how dare you make me go back,” which is much less conducive to success, Monson says.
Step #3: Request the meeting
Once the talking points are in order, it’s time to get the meeting on the books. Monson recommends opening with a line like “Hey, I’m excited to be coming back to work. I’d like to discuss what that looks like.”
Acknowledge, outright, the discomfort your boss may be feeling. “Say, ‘I know there’s been a lot of uncertainty around what returning to work might look like. I want to discuss how I can keep bringing my best work and productivity to the team,’” she recommends. Then launch into your ideas, pitching them as net positives.
“Often when we go to ask for a raise, it feels like a big ask, but it’s not,” Monson says. “It’s ultimately a way to keep delivering top-tier work.”
Step #4: Pitch the idea
How do you convince your boss that working remotely would be good for your company? By presenting evidence.
Monson recommends a script like: “Based on the work I have been able to do from home in the past two years, and what I’ve accomplished, I’d like to continue doing so. Here’s evidence that that would be good for the company too.”
Most important, Monson adds, is for employees to not be scared, and to recognize how much power they currently hold. “The entire workforce is facing a massive labor shortage, and it’s really hard and expensive to hire and train talent right now,” she says. “Don’t go in with a fear of getting fired. Your boss knows you’re valuable, so don’t you forget it.”
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