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How to ask to work from home in a post-COVID environment

Heather Nolan
March 8, 2021
How to ask to work from home in a post-COVID environment

As vaccines become more widely available and people feel more comfortable gathering with others outside their homes, in-office work is going to make a comeback.

And while you might be more than happy to return to the world of in-person meetings, cubicle chats and office parties, some people might have settled into their work from home routine rather nicely. 

If you fall into the latter category, you’re not alone. In Buffer’s 2021 State of Remote Work report, 97.6% of respondents said they’d like to work remotely at least some of the time for the remainder of their careers.

How do you ask to keep that flexibility when your boss wants you back at your desk?

Laurel Farrer, founder of the Remote Work Association, said there are three key points to consider when asking to stay remote.

“Speak the language of business,” said Farrer, who also is CEO and founder of Distribute Consulting, a firm that works with businesses to develop remote work policies. “This is a very common mistake that people make is they say how it’s going to benefit them. I’m going to spend less time in the car, I’m going to get more time with my kids, I'm going to live a healthier lifestyle.

“That is a very nice story and if you get a nice manager they are going to feel empathetic,” she said. “However, that’s not going to change the mind of any manager, especially any business.”

How do you speak the language of business? Talk in terms of numbers, statistics and proof of concept.

Farrer explained how to do that in three steps.

Make a case for change

Present your manager or department head with a one-sheet that lays out how working from home is going to change and influence the impact of your role. 

Be sure to address what's likely their biggest concern: How you are going to be able to do your job better if you can work remotely.

Farrer wrote in a 2019 article for Forbes that for many managers, their biggest fears in letting their staff work remotely stem from myths that have been proven untrue over the years — including not being able to get in touch if something urgent pops up and employees being distracted by daily house chores. 

Propose a pilot or trial period

This can be a few days or a couple of weeks, Farrer said.

“Propose that you conduct a trial to prove that proof of concept, so you can say, ‘I’m going to put my money where my mouth is. I’m going to show you that I can make these results happen through this pilot test,’” she said.

Conduct an analysis

Farrer said your analysis doesn’t have to be formal, but it should include numbers and prove your case.

You want to show you were more efficient, productive, creative, connected, etc. and that your managers' fears didn’t happen, she said.

Farrer said if you can do those three things —  make a case for change, propose a successful pilot and conduct a successful analysis that proves your proof of concept — it should be easier to get your manager on board with allowing you to work remotely.

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Heather Nolan

Heather Nolan is a marketing specialist at Sidecar. A former journalist and social media manager, Heather lives in New Orleans with her husband, son, and grumpy rescue dog.

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