Renegotiating Remote Work for a Post Pandemic World
When remote work is working for you but everyone else seems to want to head back to the office, how do you convince your boss to let you just stay at home (at least some of the time)?
Get clear about what’s working and what you want
The first step is to objectively assess your remote work experience and think about adjustments that will improve your productivity and communication with your colleagues and clients. Before the pandemic threw us all spontaneously into remote work, these types of arrangements were proactive and well-planned affairs. And that was a good thing because that meant productivity could be optimized, teams could better coordinate their efforts, and managers expectations could be better managed. As example of just how organized these arrangements can be, the federal government program for telework arrangements is well documented at telework.gov. In their 40-page Guide to Telework in the Federal Government, the feds spell out exactly the conversations that would need to be had between employees and their managers when a telework arrangement is requested. This conversation includes exactly what the arrangements will be, what resources, technology, and equipment are required, how to be an effective teleworker, how to be an effective telework manager, how performance will be assessed and managed, and much, much more. While you may be well beyond this conversation now, this survey tool, developed by my friends at the ThirdPath Institute, can help you (re)assess and recalibrate your remote work plans. This will help you think through how your continued remote work arrangements can benefit you, your work, and your team, as well as how to improve the arrangement (now that we’re not in crisis mode).
Photo Credit: DG EMPL
Frame your request from the managing up perspective
Now that you know what works best for you, you need to honestly reflect on what works best for your boss and your organization. Taking this bigger picture view will help you figure out how to frame your request for continued remote work in a way that will make it harder to say no to. BTW, this ‘managing up’ approach can also help you at work generally. When it comes to your manager, think about their goals and perspective. What are their plans and pressures? Also, what is your boss’s communication style and decision-making style? Does your boss prefer written or face-to-face communication? Do they want to know all the details and all the options, or do they just want your recommendation for moving projects forward? A boss who values face-to-face communication might be more open to an arrangement that is part-time remote work versus one that is full-time. Check out some of the great resources at Harvard Business Review on Managing Up such as What Everyone Should Know About Managing Up by Dana Rousmaniere. You will also want to frame your request with an understanding of your workplace’s culture. For example, a split schedule - where you’re working some hours during the day and some in the evening - might work well in a 24/7 work environment because it can allow you to be responsive to those evening requests. But a work arrangement that is more 9 to 5-ish might work better in a work culture set by more traditional business hours. Try to meet your own needs while also staying within the framework of the organizational culture and your boss’s work style.
"Now is the time to start making work more fun and less stressful by building on what we have learned about the possibilities that seemed so untenable until now."
--Heather Cluley, PhD
Making the request using the triple win
“Hey boss, I want to continue to work remotely after the pandemic (sometimes, all the time, on Wednesdays…). I have thought about how to make this work for me and my work, for you and the team, and how it can be really great for serving our clients. Let me tell you about this triple-win proposal…” Honestly, if I am your boss, I’m all ears in this conversation. If you can truly lay out a plan that is a win for all stakeholders, you’ll be well on the road to a yes. A few other tips to seal the deal: consider pitching this proposal as a trial or pilot test. Suggest it as a time-limited experiment. Then build in advance a timeframe for review – when you will discuss what’s going well and what adjustments are needed. Then spend the trial phase doing an awesome job, so there is no question when that review time comes around, that things are going well. Competent work (being predictably good) and great communication are two key ingredients to building trust.
I’m going to use this post-pandemic opportunity to rebuild my life into a life I want, not one that is shaped by outdated ideas and needless inefficiencies. (Ok, I’m probably also going to end up back where I started when it comes to running a child around to way too many activities.) For me, I’ve been in a pretty good situation for a while. Nearly ideal. The remote work arrangements and flexible schedule I’ve enjoyed used to be unheard of in many organizations. But now is the time to start making work more fun and less stressful by building on what we have learned about the possibilities that seemed so untenable until now.
Heather Cluley, Ph.D. is the Associate Director in the Graduate HRD program at Villanova University. Learn more about her here!