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How to convince your employer to let you work remotely?

man in wheelchair working on a laptop at home

The recent COVID-19 pandemic altered just about every aspect of daily or professional life. One of the biggest changes was the shift from on-site, central location business models— often with open or shared-space dominating the design concepts — to remote work, where millions of employees and contractors from across the globe found themselves working from any accessible corner or room from their home.

While this forced transition to location-agnostic workspaces was hard for many — not everyone was blessed with an already set-up and fully-functioning home office — over the last half-year many employees have begun to embrace the flexibility and comfort of work-from-home.

If you are faced with the potential, or certainty, of having to return to daily work commute and don’t relish the idea of giving up your remote work conditions, then it’s time to get proactive.

Here are a few tips on how to advocate for work-from-home (WFH) accommodations or flexible work schedules. In general, focus on creating a win-win rationalization for your WFH request, do your research to establish supporting arguments and data and then present a problem with potential solutions. Do this and chances are you can come to some sort of arrangement with your employer that works for everyone.

Focus on how remote work policies will benefit everyone

While your reasons for wanting to work from home may be personal, the reasons your employer will agree to remote working conditions have to revolve around the benefits to the company.

To determine the benefits to your employer, and to get your boss on your board, put yourself in your boss’ shoes. No one wants to be approached with a new idea that will take work and effort to implement and may or may not be advantageous to achieving the company goals.

To overcome this initial knee-jerk reaction, it’s best to approach your boss with a well-thought-out plan that shows how a remote work policy would help benefit all employees, managers and the company’s bottom line.

When talking to your boss, be sure you clearly illustrate the following:

  • This benefits you, Mrs. Manager, because… (provide data regarding the saved commuting hours, statistics on boosted productivity and how remote workers are more likely to tip #1, tip #2, etc.)
  • You can then bring it down to the personal; how working from home helps create more work/life balance, ease the stress of commuting and offers fewer distractions.

Use examples to support your case

woman searches her social media on smartphone

In the last few years, many global and multinational corporations have promoted shorter commutes and flexible work schedules. For example, prior to the pandemic, Facebook would pay up to $15,000 in moving expenses to help employees move within 10 miles of the office. As of 2020, however, Facebook once again announced it would be altering its workplace strategy. Shortly after the pandemic was announced in mid-March, the global brand announced how thousands of jobs were now, suddenly, remote. Twitter was also pretty liberal about the necessity of returning to the office. The social media giant gave employees the option to either return to their office desks or keep working from home — for as long as they wanted. Yet another global firm, Coinbase, announced that it was giving up centralized, location-specific offices and committing to becoming a “remote-first” company.

If large brand entities, like Facebook, Twitter, and Coinbase, can switch their working policy to focus or at least include remote work options, then why can’t your employer do it?

Use data to support your case

Less than half (47%) of North American employees work for a company that offers remote working options, according to a recent survey by Robert Half, a global staffing firm; however, more than three-quarters (76%) would jump at the chance at to telecommute.

Data is particularly powerful if your manager is a numbers person. The good news is that its not hard to find studies and surveys that show the productivity benefits that people experience when they work-from-home.

Be proactive and offer a plan of action

professional woman presenting at a meeting with colleagues

Nobody likes to have a problem dropped in their lap, which is why it’s important to offer at least one working solution to your ‘problem’ with commuting to the company headquarters.

To start, work out all the logistics first.

If your company uses a virtual private network (VPN), a digital method of creating a private network from a public internet connection that keeps your online actions virtually untraceable, then talk to our tech team to find out how to get this secure VPN access from the comfort of your home.

If teamwork and team meetings are integral, then consider what technology and strategies you can use to help facilitate this portion of the job. Online applications such as Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts enable multiple team members to video conference while communication apps, like Slack, help keep impromptu and organic corporate conversations flowing. Other options include project management software, such as Trello or Airtable, will help your entire team keep track of projects and status reports while acting as a storehouse of team to-dos and strategic planning.

Propose to start small to prove your case

Even if you and your colleagues spent the last half-year working remotely, your employer may not be ready to implement a remote-first policy. If that’s the case, you may need to gently nudge your company towards this philosophy.

You can do this by suggesting a small step towards a remote worker policy. For example, propose that employees be allowed to work-from-home one day per week. It should go without saying that your teleworking day needs to be the most productive day of the week.

After a period of time and armed with some concrete evidence, such as a successful project or a more efficient outcome, ask if you can increase your telecommuting days.

Remember, it’s much easier to make the case if you’ve got concrete metrics, so use something like RescueTime or another time-tracking app, to keep track of how you spend your time.

Another good tip to remember is to not ask for WFH days that are conjoined with the weekend. That means no telecommuting days on Monday or Friday. Instead, suggest that all employees opt for a telecommuting day on either Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. This way the optics of you not being in the office doesn’t make it appear like you simply want to extend your weekend.

How to convince a new employer

black man at a job interview

It can be harder asking for a remote work schedule if you are looking to transition to a new employer. Since you have not yet worked with this employer you have not had an opportunity to build trust in your new role. Still, that does not mean it’s not possible to negotiate remote working arrangements if you make it a priority or find an open-minded employer.

Final thoughts

In the end, sometimes the best tactic is upfront honesty. Ask for a meeting, sit down to explain your idea, explain how it will benefit the company, offer a strategy for starting small and then give your boss some time to consider your proposal.

Your manager’s initial reaction may be negative, but giving them time to think, particularly if you’ve provided data to support your assertions, may help them see the benefits.

Image of Romana King

Romana King

Romana King is an award-winning personal finance writer, real estate expert and the current Director of Content at Zolo. Romana has contributed to business and lifestyle publications including CBC.ca, Toronto Sun, Maclean’s, MoneySense, Globe & Mail Custom Content Team, and The Toronto Star. Among her achievements, Romana won silver for her annual Where to Buy Now real estate package in the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. In 2015, she won a SABEW Business Journalism award. When she was editor of CI Top Broker, Romana helped guide her team to obtain its first KRW Business Journalism nomination, and in 2011, she was part of a small team that helped MoneySense win Magazine of the Year at the 34th annual National Magazine Awards.