Whether you’re a parent who needs more time to balance the needs of family and work, or you simply want to achieve better work/life balance, working from home can be a good option.
Due to COVID-19, also known as ‘the world’s greatest work–from–home experiment’, many employees have experienced the benefits of working from home for the first time. While some people struggled with working from home, for many, it allowed them to remain productive at work while finding time for hobbies, family, or just to relax and unwind without the commute. This experience may have created a desire to work from home more permanently, at least a few days per week. However, with emerging pressure to return to the office, how do you convince your employer that working from home is a sustainable and viable option for your role over the long term?
The IT industry has been leading the work from home revolution for decades, achieving cost savings, and talent and productivity gains, through the flexibility that remote work provides. From lessons learned through the IT industry, we share four ways to persuade your employer that working from home is viable over the long term:
1. Address your employer’s fears
There are generally three key concerns for employers when it comes to allowing employees to work from home. They believe:
1. Productivity will suffer.
2. Workers won’t be visible to work colleagues and clients.
3. There is a workplace liability risk.
If you currently work from home due to social isolation measures, now is the time to prove how working from home can sustain, or even improve, your productivity. If you aren’t currently working from home, ask if your employer can give you a time specific trial. This will give you a chance to prove that your productivity will remain high and you’ll be available to colleagues and clients by email, instant message and phone. It’s a good idea to receive emails through your mobile phone so that you don’t miss a client’s or colleague’s message when away from your desk.
With regard to liability risk, demonstrate to your employer that you have an ergonomically appropriate workspace, and be prepared to sign a legal agreement whereby you accept responsibility for personal accidents that happen at your home office during work time.
2. Highlight the productivity gains and cost savings
There are many productivity gains and cost savings that employers achieve when they allow team members to work from home. For example, employees who work from home generally increase their productivity due to the lack of commute time and significantly reduced non-work office conversations. Employees can still maintain their connection with colleagues through instant messaging and video calls, so the traditional ‘office water cooler chat’ is not lost when teams go virtual.
Employees who work from home also tend to take fewer sick days and have less downtime because they can more easily juggle work and family commitments, leading to reduced costs for employers. They can continue working when they have a slight cold, for example, without worrying about infecting colleagues in the office. Employers also achieve greater staff retention because employees often feel as though working from home is a privilege, and they don’t want to sacrifice their freedom for a role in another organisation that may not offer the same flexibility.
Employers can also achieve cost savings through a reduced need for office space. All a work–from–home employee needs is a good laptop, monitor and mobile phone. Most employees will already have their own desk and office chair, or would be willing to provide it in exchange for the privilege of working from home.
Your employer may not be aware of these benefits, so make sure you point them out, as well as additional benefits that may be specific to your organisation.
3. Provide a sweetener for your employer
Some employers can be really tough to convince when it comes to working from home, and may need an incentive from the employee to get them over the line. This may include forgoing a current benefit such as a car space at the office that costs your employer money. Or, it could be indicating your willingness to attend the office for important meetings, or work from the office one or two days a week to balance out the days when you’re working from home.
It’s important to communicate openly with your employer to understand what’s holding them back from approving your work-from-home request. Their concerns may not be what you think they are, and could be relatively easy to address. Don’t assume you know why your employer is being tough to convince; ask them what it will take to convince them, and then demonstrate how you can allay their fears.
4. Demonstrate accountability
Trust is the key factor when it comes to an employer letting an employee work from home for the longer term. It takes a high degree of trust for an employer to relinquish the control of being able to manage and monitor their employee in the office, and to trust they will do business with integrity. If your employer is considering allowing you to work from home, it means you have already demonstrated accountability and integrity in the office. When you get the chance to work from home, continue this focus on accountability by remaining completely visible online to your manager and colleagues, and maintaining proactive communications with your clients and work teams. Also, be sure to keep your employer updated about your activities with either regular catch-up calls, or email updates.
When you address your employer’s fears, demonstrate potential productivity gains and show accountability, your organisation will be more likely to allow you and your colleagues to work from home for the longer term.
There are still some employers who will be unable to let go of the perceived control they have over employees in the office, and will say no to your requests no matter how logical and persuasive your arguments are, mainly because of organisational culture. This may be the opportunity you’ve been looking for to reassess how you prefer to work and what you really want from a role, and employer. With so many organisations embracing flexibility in the wake of COVID-19, finding a new and more flexible role may be easier than you think.