As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt economies around the world, it’s worth considering its upsides. Reviewing its silver linings could help everyone embrace any changes necessary to move forward for an eventual return to normality.
One of the most obvious benefits the worldwide outbreak has delivered is making work at home mainstream, on a large scale. A lot of workers appreciate eliminating the daily commute and having more time for family and personal priorities, so much so they might prefer to do so permanently.
So what’s the best way to broach the subject with your employer? These insights might help you get the go-ahead you’re looking for.
The appeal of remote work
Remote-based roles come with a lot of benefits for employees. You might have had to transition quickly to working from home when the pandemic hit and lockdowns were imposed. Once you adapted to the arrangement, you might have realized its advantages over office-based workdays.
No daily commute leads to many hours saved each month for family and personal activities, which might include balancing employment with part-time study. Staff schedules become more flexible and they can enjoy lower stress and better work-life balance. Hence as lockdowns wind back, a lot of people might be apprehensive about the idea of going back to the office.
Some surveys have suggested as many as two out of three employees would like to keep doing so on a semi-permanent or permanent basis. As co-founder of FlexCareers Marko Njavro suggests, a lot of people are asking themselves how they might broach the subject with their employer post-COVID-19, and that’s even if their bosses have previously discouraged them or turned down their requests.
What’s interesting and potentially a point of persuasion is the period of mandated home-based employment has shown organizations can have their staff do a lot more remotely than what was assumed possible. When it’s managed well, a good set-up can also be highly advantageous for employers. For businesses, outcomes could include a higher output.
How to ask your boss?
What approach should employees take when bringing up the subject with their supervisors? As Njavro suggests, people should prepare by clarifying the type of flexibility sought. Consider whether it’s remote working a few days, most days, or every day of the week. It’s important to be clear as any flexible arrangement should be specific rather than ad hoc and ever-changing.
Another thing is to emphasize the team member’s contribution rather than the demand or request. Examples of successful leadership, productivity metrics, and measurable gains can be highlighted. Dr. Melissa Giles, consulting director at management consultancy Interchange, advises a similar approach.
She notes it should be a two-way street and you should always concentrate on how the business will benefit from the arrangement while outlining positive benefits for your personal and professional life. Use specific examples from your at-home experience to showcase advantages for productivity and engagement.
Njavro, also recommends entering the discussion by viewing it as a negotiation rather than a demand. Be constructive and open to considering how to make your request beneficial for the business as well as your own priorities.
Before the meeting, list potential disadvantages like lack of in-person contact with team members, barriers to team bonding, social isolation, and distractions. Write down a list of possible solutions for overcoming these issues. These solutions could include technology tools, virtual social hangouts for getting to know colleagues, and other ideas. Finally, be ready to give and take and compromise to find a mutually agreeable outcome for everyone.
As the coronavirus has forced businesses to adopt remote practices, numerous organizations and their teams have demonstrated it’s not only possible but productive to do so. COVID-19 could be around for some time to come.
In the interests of business continuity, organizations need to be agile and ready to revert back and embrace home-based set-ups in the event of outbreaks. Adopting a receptive policy to workers’ requests for remote work and providing the right access to technology could support desired productivity gains.
As such, companies should be willing to invest in this area, possibly by redirecting their savings from lower overhead costs. Ensuring staff have dedicated workspaces at home and setting up formal opportunities to interact online with colleagues could also address potential hurdles like distractions and social isolation.