With recent surges in COVID infections, many workplaces are as uncertain as ever about reopening. Many workers, however, aren’t so confused about where they stand on the return to in-person work; according to a survey reported by Bloomberg, 40% of employees said they would consider quitting rather than giving up the perks of work-from-home. And the perks are plentiful — personally, I’m in no rush to leave my bed to go watch a coworker down a tuna sandwich.
Despite the constant uncertainty around the state of the pandemic, your boss might be insisting it’s time to return to the office in-person. How do you communicate to your boss that you plan to stay fully remote — especially if you don’t feel like you’re in a position of power to make such a request? If you’ve already read up on how to make your work-from-home status permanent, here are some communication tips to have a direct conversation with your boss.
Make the right plan for yourself
Reach out to your boss to schedule this discussion ahead of time, keeping in mind their preferred mode of communication. Every boss has different preferences, but there’s a good chance you’ll want this chat to happen over video. After all, you’re trying to make a case that you’re just as much (if not more) of an asset while working remotely. If possible, of course, avoid times where your boss might be exceptionally stressed about goals and productivity.
When scheduling this talk, make the topic of discussion clear. For clear-yet-respectful phrasing, you might sat that you “hope to discuss why work-from-home makes sense for productivity.” (More on that soon.)
With your plan in place, make time to privately rehearse your talking points. (It never hurts to have a little chat with the man in the mirror.)
Focus the conversation on productivity
Your employer’s argument for a return to the office likely has to do with company culture, collaboration, and…synergy, maybe? Even if your main reason for work-from-home is personal, try to appeal to all the ways that remote work is in fact beneficial to the company. This comes down to your productivity.
Come prepared with specific instances of your improved productivity since going remote. Think about it: Has a lack of commute given you the energy to tackle more projects (and also saved the company money)? Is it easier to work with people in different time zones? Do you have concrete examples of times you were reliable and responsive? If you have specific numbers or metrics to build your case, have those ready, too.
You want your boss to feel like your remote status makes sense for the good of the company. At the end of the day, your employer probably cares more about productivity than morale. That’s capitalism, kids.
Be assertive, not aggressive
You can state your case clearly while also coming across as a respectful employee. While you bring up all the ways you’re more productive when fully remote, you still want to maintain a tone that makes your boss as responsive and open to your request as possible. Reiterate things your boss says during the conversation to show that you’re listening and understanding them.
You can also balance the assertive-but-respectful tightrope through your body language, such as making eye contact — even in a video call.
Be honest about some of your motives
Chances are your boss knows you aren’t simply seeking work-from-home all for the sake of the company. If you have valid concerns over childcare, commuting, and COVID, be upfront. And if it makes sense in your relationship with your boss, consider asking them how they feel personally. Many — if not all — of our bosses are in fact humans, and they just might respect your willingness to be a real person with them.
Keep an open mind
In any negotiation, you have to be open to the possibility of a compromise. Maybe you can settle on flexible working hours or a hybrid in-office/remote work model.
In the worst-case scenario, be ready for the possibility that you and your boss cannot reach an agreement, and that it might time to start job searching elsewhere (which your boss doesn’t need to know). Luckily, with scores of workers sharing your same mindset, your chances of finding fully remote might be on the rise.