For more than a year now, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a destructive and disruptive influence on the world. One effect has been businesses being forced to shut down or minimize in-person operations. To mitigate the negative consequences of this, some companies opted to allow employees to work from home. This shift gave workers in particular some insights into how this approach to business can serve to improve their work-life balance.
Yet, as the world tentatively seeks to return to some semblance of normal, there are business leaders keen to bring employees back into the physical office environment. This means if you want to permanently retain your remote schedule, you may have to begin negotiations with your company. This isn’t easy, particularly if your company doesn’t have protocols to make remote working successful. But that’s not to say you’ll be unsuccessful in making the case.
So, let’s review ways you can best approach your negotiations for permanent remote working.
Communicate the Benefits
Leading with the positives is always best in negotiations. After all, the aim shouldn’t necessarily be entirely focused on making sure you get what you want. Rather, a successful negotiation is one in which everybody involved gets to walk away confident they’ve gained benefits.
You could consider discussing:
There’s still some contention as to how remote working directly impacts productivity, so it’s important to tread carefully here. Studies from various sources are frequently being undertaken in this area, and the results tend to fall in favor of remote working being beneficial. However, rather than rely on statistics, it can be more effective to talk about the ways remote working improves productivity. Discuss how less commuting minimizes lateness and makes workers more ready to jump straight into their work. Present how being away from a bustling office reduces exposure to other viruses, cutting down on absenteeism. Consider issues specific to your industry, too — what activities are more efficient because you can do them from home?
Turnover is expensive. Each time a business has to recruit, interview, hire, and train new workers it costs them money. Not to mention losing talented employees makes a company less likely to innovate and grow. Therefore, it’s worth discussing how remote working can impact employee retention. This is particularly evident with working parents, for whom support from employers has been proven to improve satisfaction and decrease sickness. Providing those with families the opportunity to work from home can be an effective part of ongoing retention strategies. Alongside benefits like flexible scheduling and access to childcare resources, this can make companies better able to retain these valuable contributors. Indeed, making it clear remote operations are open to all employees can be instrumental in attracting diverse talent to the business.
Predict the Arguments
Even with a solid set of benefits to present, you probably won’t have an easy negotiation. There are going to be areas of pushback — especially if your company is being proactive about getting workers back in the office. You’ll be in a stronger position if you’re not just reacting to their arguments. Take time to try and predict their pain points, and prepare accordingly.
Some of the common areas for dispute are:
One of the more common concerns of business leaders surrounds a matter of trust. There is the belief that workers who are not directly supervised will be more likely to spend their remote working hours doing anything but working. While this is a cynical perspective, and in all likelihood incorrect, you should take the initiative to talk about it.
Discuss how supervision isn’t the driving factor in productivity. People don’t work because they’re being watched. Workers will be distracted on Twitter and chatting to one another whether or not they’re in the physical office. Make the conversation about the elements of remote working which can be used as incentives to perform, rather than leaning into micromanagement.
Perhaps the biggest argument at the moment is business leaders believe their teams are stronger when they are in the same physical space. Don’t simply argue against this. Acknowledge the fact that teams tend to be more effective when they feel connected. But also point out workers don’t need to feel disconnected when working remotely.
Talk about how communications tools and protocols can be used to make certain remote teams can always be in contact with each other when needed. Highlight how casual water-cooler moments can take place on dedicated social channels. Suggest the potential for access to co-working spaces a couple of times a week to bring the team together to interact while also maintaining a flexible environment.
You’ll generally find you can gain the most ground by being solutions-oriented. In demonstrating you’ve considered the issue from all perspectives, and can provide practical guidance. This is also a sign you’re taking responsibility for the situation rather than just making demands.
Some areas to address can include:
Your company likely relies upon in-person interviews and other traditional methods to handle recruitment. Talk about how video interviewing software, effective remote onboarding platforms, and e-learning training modules can be utilized to make the process more efficient. The business is also likely to be aware of the current skilled labor shortage in the country. Despite many open positions, it is becoming more difficult to attract qualified candidates, which is harming businesses. As such, you can address how remote operations can be a practical solution to this issue. Candidates are increasingly prioritizing more flexible working practices and want to work for companies that embrace technology. Creating a permanent remote arrangement in place can make the company more attractive. It also avoids the outdated hiring process that much of the competition will still rely on.
One of the prevalent issues is how a geographically disparate team will still be able to function together as a single unit. Provide examples of the technology that is both being used successfully and currently in development. There’s no shortage of it out there. Your employers will already be familiar with Zoom and Skype for communication. But show more comprehensive platforms like Google Workspace and Microsoft Teams.
These incorporate communications, document creation, and project management software in the cloud that can be shared and edited among multiple team members. It’s also worth demonstrating collaborative tools like virtual whiteboards which can involve everyone in making contributions to strategy meetings. These are effective even when some members are at home and others are together in a co-working space.
Remote working can be beneficial for you and the company you work for. So it’s worth pushing to negotiate for it permanently. You should certainly promote the positives, but also be informed about the negatives so you can respond accordingly. This, alongside a focus on some practical solutions, can help you present the best case for the shift.