23 October 2023

What to say and do if the boss wants you back in the office

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Woman working from home.

Some workers have come to enjoy the flexibility of working from home. Photo: File.

Rachel Pelta explores the reasons why some employers want to return to pre-pandemic working – and what you can do to hold on to your remote or hybrid job.

It’s a fact that some jobs will always have to be done in person. However, the past few years have demonstrated that many in-person jobs can actually be remote.

However, some employers continue to resist remote work and, while the reasons are varied, you can try to convince your employer that remote is the way to go.

Here’s why employers resist remote work and how you can overcome the objections:

  1. It didn’t work last time: The organisation may have tried remote or hybrid scheduling, and it didn’t work. While it’s possible that the policy and implementation needed improvements, it’s also possible that the people who were allowed to work flexibly weren’t cut out for it. If previous work-from-home experiments didn’t go well, the leadership may have soured on the whole idea.
  2. Change is hard: When the pandemic forced many organisations to go remote overnight, it was viewed as a temporary solution. As a result, there was no investment in the policies and infrastructure needed to be successful. Change is, of course, hard, and some organisations think it may be too much trouble to make these changes permanent. Becoming a remote or hybrid organisation requires new tools, policies, and approaches. Some leaders are happy with the way things are, so they’ve decided that changing isn’t worth the effort.
  3. Culture shock: Along those same lines, one of the biggest arguments employers make against remote work is that it’s impossible to create a thriving culture virtually. Leaders claim that employees can’t bond in the same way working remotely and that younger or new employees suffer because they don’t get the same level of mentoring or learning as they would working in person.
  4. Hard to manage: Managing people generally requires a specific skill-set that not everyone possesses. The same is true when it comes to managing remotely. Some 67 per cent of supervisors say they spend more time supervising remote workers than in-person ones. Why? Many managers worry that people slack off when they work from home. There’s the thought that if the boss isn’t there to keep an eye on them, they’ll spend time binge-watching TV, doing laundry, and not getting things done.
  5. It’s expensive: As a rule, your employer provides you with the tools and equipment you need to get your job done, like a desk, chair, and computer. While there are expenses associated with that, they can be lessened by providing the same chair and workstation to everyone and paying for the internet in one location — the office. When staff work at home, the rules change, and it may become more expensive for an employer to properly equip staff. Do they provide one type of computer, or do they say “buy what you want” and reimburse you for it? What about a desk? The same desk won’t fit in everyone’s workspace, and then what? Should the employer pay for your internet access? What level? And what if you bundle your internet with something else? Or, should the internet be for you and only you, not your family and their streaming? Not only is equipping remote staff a concern, but many employers are also locked into long-term leases or have purchased property. If they can’t get out of the lease or sell the building, they’re paying to maintain an empty or near-empty office, and that hurts the bottom line.

Just because your employer is resistant to remote or hybrid work doesn’t mean you can’t change their minds.

Here are a few tips to make remote work happen.

Talk about the benefits: Perhaps working from home would allow you to start or end your day outside of regular business hours, thus increasing your availability.

Or, maybe you live in a climate where traveling to the office on certain days challenges workers, and being able to perform from home would allow more tasks to get finished, not to mention remote work stops the spread of germs.

Suggest a trial run: Point to your stellar performance record – particularly if you worked remotely during the pandemic.

Even if you’ve never worked remotely, you likely have the necessary skills to be a successful remote worker, such as exceptional time management and the ability to work independently.

Then, suggest a trial period. This can give your boss an ‘out’ if they aren’t happy with the results.

At the end of the trial, quantify your output and show results, with a particular emphasis on how you positively impacted the organisation’s productivity.

Explain how you’re already kind of remote: Remind your manager of collaborative tools already in use, such as internal chat platforms and shared documents that aid in staying in touch from anywhere.

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Confirm that you would respect agreed-upon hours of availability and respond promptly using your organisation’s preferred method of communication (text, phone, video chat, etc).

Let them know you’re not averse to physically coming into the office for important meetings and training sessions that might need face-to-face interaction.

Snag top talent: Also, discuss that in a competitive landscape, organisations need to do all they can to attract top-tier talent.

Given how desired remote and hybrid work schedules are, being one of the organisations that offer these flexible options can help attract and retain the best of the best.

The new way to work: Remote work has evolved beyond the novelty stage. It’s become a game-changer, and those organisations that embrace remote or hybrid work will remain competitive when it comes to finding and keeping staff.

Rachel Pelta is a Content Coordinator for FlexJobs. She creates content to help people succeed in their job search, and to help managers get the best out of their staff. This article first appeared on the FlexJobs website.

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