During the last nine months, workers have grown comfortable in the new age of remote work, trading car commutes for couches and rigid work hours for more flexibility. But as pharmaceutical companies inch closer to a COVID-19 vaccine, some businesses are now strategizing a return to the office. If you find the thought of resuming your old in-office routine anything but appealing, you’re not alone.
Prior to the pandemic, just 8 percent of people worked from home at least one day a week while 2 percent worked from home full-time, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor data. That number swelled to 62 percent in the midst of the pandemic, Gallup research reports. When Covid-19 is no longer a concern, 72 percent say they would like to work remotely at least two days a week, while one-third would prefer never to return to the office, a PwC survey found.
“Working remotely has really worked well for a lot of people,” says Melanie Gass, author of Transforming the Remote Work Experience. “They’re finding they’ve been more productive, more focused, and overall just happier.”
[ Want to find a new job? Read also: How to get a job during COVID-19: 9 smart tips. ]
Work from home after COVID-19: Tips to make the case
What if your company wants you back in the office soon – but you want to make a case to stay at home? Experts weigh in with these six tips to build your case.
1. Understand the reasons behind your manager's request
When workplaces suddenly went remote, many managers were challenged – not only with navigating new technologies and learning to perform their own responsibilities remotely, but also learning a new skill set to manage their teams virtually, Gass says.
“There’s still a level of covert insecurity in not seeing people face to face,” she says. “Some managers think employees are more accountable and productive in the office. Some have struggled with the new technology or have concerns about maintaining the company culture. For others, it might just be a personal preference.”
In order to build your case to continue working remotely, it’s important to understand why the organization wants to bring you back.
2. Gather evidence of work successes
The past nine months have proven that you’re capable of performing your duties remotely. To make your case, you need to compile the evidence that you’ve done so in a way that has met or exceeded expectations, says Diane Mulcahy, author of The Gig Economy.
“Your work is getting done and delivered, and you’ve maintained the performance standards under extraordinary conditions,” she says. Document examples of these achievements and results – perhaps you and your team delivered a project earlier than expected, or with results that beat goals, for example.
3. Hone in on productivity gains
Three-quarters of employees report that they’ve been able to maintain or improve productivity while working remotely. It’s easy to understand why, says Charley Betzig, managing director at recruiting search firm Heller Search Associates.
“When you cut commute time out of your day, you have more time to spend working,” Betzig says. “There are no true ‘off’ hours at home – you can roll out of bed at 6 a.m., clean out your inbox, and organize for the day ahead. You can do the same at night after the kids go to bed.”
Proving increased productivity is a convincing argument, Gass adds. Detail how you’ve been able to work on additional analysis, took on an extra project, or focused in a way that you couldn’t when in the office.
“Communicate how you’ve spent the time you otherwise would have spent commuting to the office or moving from meeting room to meeting room. Maybe it’s allowed you to focus on a project or data analysis that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do,” she says. “It’s important to mention not only the additional work you’ve been able to complete, but the work you’ve been able to accelerate, too.”
4. Highlight cost savings
Working remotely not only saves you money on expenses like transportation, but it also stands to save the company money – upwards of $11,000 per year for every employee who works remotely just half of the time, according to Global Workplace Analytics.
Gass recommends researching the potential cost-savings of working remotely. “A lot of companies find that they’re saving money with remote work. They’re saving on things like data costs, switching from on-premises to cloud environments, and even in downsizing workspaces,” she says.
5. Refine a communication plan
The transition from collaborating, managing, and maintaining relationships in a physical office to replicating those interactions in a virtual environment wasn’t easy for everyone, Gass says. It’s one common reason why companies want to bring back employees. “It’s really important that everyone feels comfortable with how they are accounting for that physical presence that they don’t have virtually,” she says.
Examine how you, your manager, and your team are communicating and identify areas for improvement. This might include suggesting additional formal weekly status meetings with your manager to discuss projects, daily check-ins through a messaging tool, or virtual coffee breaks to reconnect on a personal level.
“Communicating effectively is so important, especially when you don’t have a physical presence. Creating a plan to refine how you’ll do this can give your manager an extra level of comfort,” Gass says.
6. If it's a "no," you can negotiate
If your company is adamant that you return to the office, try negotiating the terms. This might mean asking for an extension or trial period to address any concerns, or compromising on a hybrid of in-person and remote work, with plans to revisit your arrangement later.
“Formulate your plan, address their insecurities, and make the case for why remote work has worked,” Gass says. “It’s hard to argue with the data.”
[ Can you ask for a raise during a pandemic? Yes. Read: How to ask for a raise during COVID-19. ]