Given the global pandemic, you might be thinking differently about remote work—and wondering how you can retain some of the work-life flexibility that remote work offers even after your employer asks you to return to the office. If you do want to ask your manager for a more permanent remote-work arrangement, here are five strategies to take.
1. Be clear about what you’re asking
When considering your request for more permanent remote work, your manager needs to consider several factors, including budget and team needs. This means your manager needs to know exactly what you’re asking for before your request can even be considered. So, by presenting a clear request, you’ll increase your chance of getting a positive response. This means knowing the answers to all the following questions:
- Which days of the week do you want to work remotely?
- Will you work the same hours or are you requesting new hours?
- When do you want your new remote-work schedule to begin?
- Do you have everything you need to implement permanent remote work (good internet connection, working computer, quiet work space, etc.)?
- Do you plan to be available outside of regular work hours?
- Are you willing to go into the office for team-building or special meetings?
2. Be prepared to address potential challenges
Before you ask for a more remote schedule, you need to consider the challenges that come with permanent remote work and have a plan for how to overcome them. Potential challenges you should prepare to address include insufficient team coverage, budget constraints, distractions at home, and technical issues. Your response to these challenges should be clear, specific, and action-based. For example:
While I understand that technical issues can make remote work challenging, I’m prepared to overcome those challenges long term. My home office is outfitted with all of the required hardware and software outlined in our Return to Work plan. In addition, I’ve identified two additional work spaces I can access in the event of technical failures.
3. Maintain your (high level of) performance
If you want to request permanent remote work, now (while you’re likely working remotely due to the pandemic) is not the time to slack off. One of the best bargaining tools you have is your track record. Be sure to answer work emails and calls in a timely manner and stay on top of important deadlines. If you consistently demonstrate that you’re an engaged and productive team member, you’ll increase your chance of getting your remote-work request approved.
4. Request a meeting with your manager
Requesting remote work is not something you want to pitch in between meetings. Identify the most appropriate person to speak with—that may be your direct supervisor or team lead. Set up a dedicated time to share your request and the plan you’ve developed to make it work. Come to your meeting prepared to discuss ways that permanent remote work will benefit you as well as the team and organization.
5. Anticipate your manager’s response
Although you can’t predict your manager’s response, you can prepare for multiple scenarios. Think through possible responses from your manager and how you might reply. Consider these examples:
Scenario #1: Congratulations, your manager has approved your request for a permanent remote work arrangement! While great news, this doesn’t mean you can relax. Instead, it means you need to start focusing on delivering everything you promised. Be responsive during work hours and make yourself available to help with additional assignments. Make every effort to show that you’re an asset to the team and that the arrangement you proposed will work out fine.
Scenario 2: Your manager says “maybe”—remote work might be an option but she has reservations. If those reservations aren’t communicated to you, then ask what they are. If the concerns are performance-related, you can refer to key accomplishments or contributions you’ve made. Or, you can discuss the high points of your most recent performance review. If your manager is concerned that everyone else will want remote work, refer to your job duties. Remind your manager that, unlike other employees, your role doesn’t require much (or any) face-to-face interaction, and all your duties can be performed remotely. Finally, you can share personal circumstances that make permanent remote work ideal for you, explaining to your manager that, due to your own unique situation, you’d be more successful working remotely than in the office
Scenario 3: Your manager denies your request. If you find yourself in this situation, ask your manager whether it’s open for negotiation. If it is, counter by asking to work from home for part of the time—for example, two to three days per week instead of five. Or, ask whether you can try permanent remote work for a trial period of time—say, two or three months. Let your manager know that you’re happy to meet once the trial is over to reassess the situation and revisit team needs. Or consider setting up a follow-up meeting with your manager halfway through the trial period to gauge progress. Either way, make sure your manager knows that your goal after the trial period is a permanent remote-work arrangement.
Kaila Kea-Lewis is a career coach and freelance writer, mainly covering career changes, job searching, and improving the workplace. Her bylines include InHerSight, Glassdoor, and ZipRecruiter.