Are you one of the employees who has been happy working from home and wants to continue to do so? Or are you simply not ready for the amount of contact that will come from returning to the office post-COVID-19 closures?
In April 2020, a poll published by Gallup revealed that “sixty-two percent of employed Americans currently say they have worked from home during the crisis, a number that has doubled since mid-March.” But the question remains whether employees will want to continue working from home post social-distancing; and so far, what we’re seeing is mixed messages.
As COVID-19 shutdowns begin to lift, employers are considering how they’ll handle the return to the office. A McKinsey study surveyed 100 executives who said they expect “80 percent of their workforce, on average, to be back on-site by September and that 88 percent will be back by December
Depending on the type of organization you work at, flexibility around future work from home policies will likely vary a lot. For those of you whose company WFH policies are less black and white, here are some tips for those who are hoping to have those conversations with their managers and how to get started.
Understand your rights
It’s important to understand that employers do have the right to require you to come to the office. “If you are reluctant to return to work just because you fear contamination by COVID-19, you may be out of luck unless your employment contract allows you to work remotely, you require child care, or you or your family member has a qualifying disability (Legal Zoom).”
If you are able to justify staying home for one of the reasons listed above, you may have an easier time requesting to remain remote. If not, however, we have a few considerations and tips to keep in mind before having that conversation with your employer.
Decide whether or not you’d *really* be happy continuing to work from home.
According to a survey recently put out by the Martec Group, only 14% of employees working remotely said they were “thriving” and “loved it.” The same study found that 59% of these employees feel discouraged and do not like working from home, with 27% feeling as though their employer is doing their best to handle the situation and 32% feel as though their company is not handling the situation well.
Those with teams who will be returning to the office will have to consider if working remotely long-tern is really for them and then also how remote work will look differently being one of the only members to have to call into meetings.
It’s important not to assume that remote work post-COVID will be the same as remote work during COVID. For one, significant social aspects will be missed (ie. team lunches, happy hours, and daily contact with people); but, possibly, more importantly, remote employees may miss out on important impromptu office conversations or decisions. This will make it much more important for those who choose to stay working remotely to be able to advocate for themselves, to make sure they’re included in the meetings, and asked to be a part of decision-making processes.
Have an open conversation, as early as possible
Even before you’ve fully decided that you’re ready to work remotely for the long-term, having a conversation with both your manager and (if applicable) HR director about your apprehension about returning to work is a good way to readdress the issue again later, knowing more, without any surprises. This way, you can not only get a sense of their openness to allowing employees to remain working from home, and they also learn how you feel early on while the company is still considering what the WFH policy will look like moving forward.
One of our own Scouted employees who, before the pandemic, worked full-time in our NYC office, made the decision to move closer to family in Ohio. Nicole says,
“Before I was even totally sure that I was going to move from NY to OH, I thought it would be a good idea to have the conversation with Jax [Scouted Co-founder and CEO] to a) continue the transparency we always had and b) make sure it was something that would work on both ends so that I could plan accordingly if it didn’t. I had first learned that transparency was rewarded with Scouted when in my first in-person interview with the team… I think this gave them the confidence that I would be someone who they could trust to be honest, and also gave them the chance to figure out if that would still work. This building of trust and open communication made it possible for me to feel comfortable enough to have a conversation about working remotely.”.Nicole Sanfilippo, Account Manager @ Scouted
Also, while it might feel much easier to propose working from home in an email or over Slack, this really is a conversation that should be had over video conferencing instead. So, try to set up some time and ask your manager if you can have a conversation about your post COVID work situation.
Prove your effectiveness
While it’s one thing to show your manager the most recent statistics about remote work productivity, what they’ll care about most is how effective you can be while working from home. The good news is, the last several months have been a good opportunity for remote workers to show it.
One idea to show your efficiency to your employer would be to voluntarily track your time. How long does it take you to do certain tasks now from home versus when you worked in the office? List any new projects you’ve been able to start since working from home that you may not have had time for in the office.
Set yourself up for success
While remote work cultures across organizations vary widely, it’s important to show your manager that you will be just as reliable and successful working from home as you would be in the office. This means showing up on time for every meeting or giving advance notice if meetings need to be rescheduled, participating in meetings, getting work done on time or escalating ahead of time if not, and giving updates on the progress of your work even before you’re asked for one. This may even mean doing what you can to set up an in-home office so you can continue to work without distractions. Whatever the case, showing that you are still very much available and communicative throughout the day will only help to give your managers confidence in the decision to allow you to work from home.
Anticipate your manager’s questions and concerns
Of course, if you ask to continue to work from home, your manager may have a few questions about how that will work. Some of those questions might be:
- How will you attend team meetings?
- How can the team reach you if they have questions?
- What will your schedule look like?
- How will I know that you’re working?
- How will you stay connected to the team socially?
And while you might not have a clear answer to each of their questions yet, you can do your best to work through the answer to them together or with your direct supervisor.
Have a plan for if they say no
Now it goes without saying that if you’re considering full-time remote work, it’s important to have that conversation with your boss before making plans that depend on their answer. Of course, if your employer doesn’t think it’s a good idea for you to continue to work remotely for whatever reason, you’re left with a few options: 1). Simply return to the office, 2). Ask to compromise by working remotely part of the time, or 3). Look for remote work elsewhere.