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My employer is ready for us to return to work in the office, even though my state doesn’t have COVID under control. I love my job, and in an ideal world, I would just like to be able to work from home for my current employer. We’ve been doing it for the past few months so it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. How can I convince them to let me stay at home?
Pre-COVID, flexible work schedules or “flex-time” wasn’t really common in the workplace, but COVID has taught us that it is possible to work from home in many industries. Before you approach your employer about a modified work arrangement, it’s best you draft your plan of action by considering the following:
Do your research. Look to your employee handbook or your HR department for guidance on any regulations that cover flex-time at work. Although things may have changed since COVID, it’s good to see what was in play historically at your company. You’ll want to be prepared if you lose any benefits (IE: health insurance), or if there are specific policies already implemented. Speak with other employees who had flex-time prior to COVID, and see how they approached their supervisors, and what kind of response you might be able expect. But, don’t use the other employees as bargaining chips. No supervisor wants to hear you whine: “But Barbara gets Fridays off…why can’t I?”
Determine your needs. Once you have an idea of company policy, you may get an idea of how your needs can fit into their existing structure. If you find that there is no pre-determined guidelines, you may need to forge your own path.
Figure out what your needs actually are. Is it that you need to come in earlier so you can leave earlier to pick up the kids from school? Would you prefer to work Fridays from home so you can catch up on paperwork and not get distracted by office chatter? Would you prefer to work four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days? Or would you prefer a split day so you can attend to appointments, home-school your kids, or attend to other needs during the work-week?
Even though my experience with jobs has not been in the corporate world, I make it abundantly clear of my needs with every employer and client from the start. I’ve negotiated time off, split shifts, four-day weeks, and crazy early shifts (starting at 5am!) because I could get more work done in a quiet office before the staff arrived for the day. Anything is possible if you exude confidence in your ability to do the job with a non-traditional schedule.
How will it benefit your employer? While some employers understand how a flexible work environment benefits employee morale and productivity, others may need more concrete proof that your flexible arrangement will help the bottom line. Only you know what specific needs your employer has and how a flexible arrangement can help you meet those needs, but keep in mind these examples:
- If you have specific programs on your personal computer that can get work done more efficiently.
- Working one day less per week would save the company 20% in salary.
- You can reach overseas clients at odd-hours without needing access to office resources.
- You can meet with clients in person instead of over the phone if you have a few days a week to schedule appointments.
Really consider the arrangement from the employer’s perspective. If you can help get them what they need, you will ultimately get what you want.
How you will be successful. At this point, you should already have some data about how successful you have been working from home during COVID. Still, be prepared to answer questions about your work environment and how it will help you work from home as well, if not better, than in the office. Your employer is going to want to know what tools you have at home, how you will accomplish your tasks, and what kind of support you will need from them. Many companies use project management software like Basecamp and Podio to manage tasks. And by now, you’re probably used to using Zoom or Microsoft Teams to connect with others. If you don’t have such a system yet, encourage your employer to give one a trial run so you can maintain communication and they can check in to see your progress on your projects.
Overcome objections. There are many reasons why employers would prefer to have all of their employees on-site. Maybe they tried it before but it didn’t work out. Maybe they just miss having the camaraderie of the office. Your job is to ask what concerns and obstacles your employer has. Just remember that “No” actually means “Know”. If your employer says “no” to you working from home, it probably means they don’t know enough about the logistics, or how it would benefit them and the company.
Do a trial run. If your employer is apprehensive, give them a one to three-month trial run with your suggested schedule. Determine what success would look like at the end of the trial run, and set a date to thoroughly evaluate the trial period.
Throughout the trial period, it is your job to be a super-employee! Get everything done that you set out to do…and then some. Be proactive in communication and an ideal employee. Hopefully you have shown them how productive you can be working from home during COVID! Now it’s just a matter of sustaining and building on that success.
Be prepared to compromise. After the trial run, your employer may decide that part of the arrangement may not work for them. Adjust accordingly, and consider giving up a salary raise or other benefits to meet your needs.
Make it official. Once you have an arrangement that works for you, get it in writing. That way if your supervisor leaves, or another pandemic hits, you’ll have written proof that flex-time is an aspect of your work.
Armed with this information, you should be able to make a compelling argument to your employer and create the best working situation for you!
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