For many, working from home has become the new normal as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as states begin the process of opening back up, your employer may soon be calling you back to the office. Although some employees are eager to get back to their old work routines, the research shows that about two-thirds of employees would prefer to work from home.
You may find yourself reluctant to return to the workplace. You may have concerns about contracting the virus and spreading it to your family. You may not have access to the same childcare you had access to prior to the pandemic. You may depend on public transportation to get to work and don’t feel comfortable being in such close quarters with the public. Or you may just really enjoy working from home and find that you can be just as productive at home as you are in the office.
Whatever is behind your reluctance to end telework, it may be time to have a talk with your manager. Let’s walk through some reasons your manager may have for wanting you to return to the office and some suggestions for making a persuasive argument to continue your telework arrangement.
Why Your Manager May Want You Back in the Office
Now that many organizations have successfully adapted to telework, some major companies, including Twitter, are allowing employees to continue those arrangements indefinitely. Other tech companies such as Google and Facebook are allowing employees to telework through the end of 2020. With powerhouse companies such as these blazing the trail for longer-term telework arrangements, what reasons could your manager possibly have for placing the dreaded call for you to return to the office? Here are a few possibilities.
Company Policy. Although in recent years many organizations have gradually made the shift toward allowing at least partial telework, your employer may have a long-standing company policy that does not permit telework. Or they may allow it only under extenuating circumstances. Changing policies to allow for long-term telework requires a cultural shift that your company may not be ready to embrace.
However, the pandemic has forced many organizations that previously resisted telework to reevaluate the way they do business. Managers who once believed their teams could only be successful if all employees were in the office every day may be rethinking their positions. The pandemic has allowed companies to test telework and has given employees the opportunity to prove that they can remain productive in home offices. This has created the opportunity for organizations to begin weaving telework into the fabric of their culture.
It’s Hard to be Fair. A common concern managers have about telework is that if they allow it for one employee, they may have to allow it for all of their staff. Managers may believe that some job functions simply must be performed in the office. They may also believe that some employees require direct supervision that cannot take place in a telework environment. They may find it too difficult to make the determination about who can effectively telework and who must report to the office, so they require all employees to come in to work.
Uncertainty About Productivity. One of the manager’s primary responsibilities is to ensure that his or her employees are productive. They may question whether employees can be productive at home given all of the potential distractions, including kids, pets, spouses, chores, and sunny days where employees may rather be soaking up the rays instead of analyzing spreadsheets. Your manager may believe that employees are most productive when they are being directly supervised in the office. They may be unfamiliar with the wide range of applications and other tools available to assess employee performance and to promote productivity in a telework environment.
Making a Case for Continued Telework
Now that you’ve prepared for your boss’ possible arguments, it’s time to make your case to your manager for why you should be permitted to telework on a longer-term basis. Alert: this is not the time to tell your boss all of the personal reasons you have enjoyed teleworking - shedding the commute, spending more time with your kids, or achieving a better work/life balance. This is also not the time to deliver the research. You’re not likely to persuade your manager by providing statistics on the percentage of companies that allow telework or polls that show a higher level of job satisfaction among telecommuters.
This is the time to hit your manager with the hard facts on why a telework arrangement would be good for the company and to let him or her know that you have developed a plan for how to contribute to the company at a high level while working from home over the longer term.
Prove You’re Productive While Working Remotely
The single most persuasive argument you can make to your manager is that you have been very productive while teleworking. Provide your manager with some metrics that prove your level of productivity. Did you write three more articles in the last quarter than the quarter before? Did you produce an annual report on schedule despite being thrown into a telework environment? Take a look at your work accomplishments since you have been teleworking and - if you can answer yes to these questions and can provide clear examples - touch on these points with your manager:
- Did you meet deadlines?
- Did you maintain the same quality of work as when you worked in the office?
- Were you available for communications during normal business hours?
- Did you stay connected with your team, professional colleagues, and clients?
- Were you able to utilize the necessary applications to perform your job at home?
- Were you able to manage the distractions that come with telecommuting?
- Did you establish effective home/life boundaries?
- Did you take advantage of training opportunities?
The more data you can provide to your manager about your level of productivity while working from home, the more likely you are to prove yourself as a prime candidate for a longer-term telework arrangement.
Plan Your Strategy
It’s important to let your manager know that you have developed a strategy for teleworking on a longer-term basis. Here are a handful of points to make during your discussion:
- You have a dedicated home office with a door that locks to allow for private communications, focused work, and the security of equipment and documents.
- You have the necessary equipment at home to successfully perform your work - a desk, laptop, high-speed Internet connection, and external monitor and keyboard, for example.
- You can gain access to all of the company’s networks/applications necessary to perform your work at home.
- If you have children, you have childcare in place during business hours. (If your childcare is currently disrupted because of the pandemic, let your boss know what your plan is for resuming childcare.)
- There are services available that transition your normal office functions to a teleworking platform. Research these to see if they could help you transition to telework, and discuss this with your boss.
By presenting your strategy for successful telework to your boss, you will give him or her the confidence to allow you to make the transition.
Plan B: Compromise
One possibility you should prepare for is that your boss may allow you to continue your telework arrangement for a period of time, but not for as long as you would like. Instead of trying to change your manager’s mind, work with him to see if you can find a tentative time frame that is mutually agreeable. You may need to discuss your personal circumstances with your boss at this point if you are in a childcare transition or you feel strongly about remaining at home until you see if a second wave of the virus hits. Perhaps you may not want to return to the office until there is a vaccine. Have an honest discussion with your manager about your concerns and comfort level with returning to the office and do your best to arrive at a solution that you both feel good about. Acknowledge that whatever plan you develop together may need to be tentative and flexible since the pandemic is an ever-changing situation.
Assuming your manager permits you to continue teleworking for a period of time, be prepared to continue your track record as a connected, productive, and engaged member of the team. Carefully document your work accomplishments. Be available for communications. Utilize the applications available to you. Seek out training opportunities. Manage the distractions that are inherent in working from home in a way that gives your boss the confidence that you can remain productive at home. Taking these key steps will increase the likelihood of your telework arrangement continuing over the long term.