As the world is adapting to what is now the “new normal,” Fairygodboss wants to be there for you every step of the way. Keep reading for timely advice and join our Navigating the New Normal group for continued support.
With nearly all states partially reopened — and some operating under a more liberal understanding of “partial” than others — as of May 8th, many of us have begun to question when we’ll return to our offices. That is, if we’re considering a return to shared workspaces at all.
According to a new study released by IBM about the ways COVID has already changed American attitudes, a good number of still-employed people aren’t exactly enthralled by the idea of returning to offices. That survey found that as many as 54 percent of Americans want to continue working from home after COVID, and 70 percent want remote work to at least remain a regular option. It’s a view we’ve heard reflected in the FGB Community, too.
“I didn't know I could enjoy working from home until... we were all forced to do so.”
One FGB’er, Sidney, commented that now that she knows what working from home is like, she’d “rather stay put.”
“My home office is much nicer than the company office. In the company office I would struggle with having enough light in order to see properly and avoid headaches,” she wrote. “Then there were the loud conversations as I tried to complete my work. And trying to look busy in front of the boss, when what I really needed to do was to sit quietly and reflect. And don't get me started with being unable to see the outside — there were no windows.”
Like a lot of folks, Sidney believes that a return to the office once it’s been deemed “safe” — the proper timeline for which continues to be contested across the country — will ultimately be a downgrade in her quality of life.
“I’m so grateful to be still working. And working from home is really working out well for me,” she said. “Going back to the company office will feel like a step down, I believe.”
For others, it’s a question both of quality of life and where they’re likelier to be safe.
As the pandemic’s projected timeline stretches on, with many experts saying it could be another two years before the right vaccine is made accessible, concerns for physical safety will continue to be totally valid. A lot of people would rather not be part of experiments to “phase in” workers, believing the risk to be greater than any possible reward — especially when they’ve been doing their jobs just fine from home.
“My company has started to discuss timelines for reopening our offices. But I have no desire to return to the office,” another FGB’er anonymously shared. “It isn't just that I'm nervous about the potential for exposing myself and my family members to COVID (although that's part of it, of course). I've been interested in working 100% remotely for some time now, and the past several weeks have given me the chance to prove to myself and my boss that I can do my job just as well from home.”
This FGB’er, though, says there’s little to no precedent at her company for people working 100% remotely prior to COVID.
“I’m nervous that I’m going to be sent back to the office ‘just because,’” she added. “What should I say to my boss?”
If you're hoping to stay home, regardless of your company's plans to reopen, there are a few steps you should take when approaching this conversation with your boss.
1. Know your legal rights.
While these will largely vary depending on which state you live in, certain protections might add some legal weight to your desire to stay home. The recently passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act, for instance, was designed primarily to buffer the economy — but it also includes some expanded worker protections through Dec. 31st. Time wrote about these protections and others like them; do your research and see which laws apply to you. Although it isn’t necessarily advised to begin things with your boss by stating your legal rights, if the conversation comes to that, it’s better to know what protections you have in advance.
2. Make sure you understand your company’s policy on flexibility and remote work.
It’s possible that even if no one on your team worked 100% remotely prior to COVID, there might be some existing company policies in place that could help your argument. Make sure you understand what your organization’s official stance is on telecommuting. Ask (trusted) colleagues if they know anyone at the company who worked remotely before COVID, and get in touch with those people if you can to learn how they negotiated for their remote benefit.
3. Build your case.
As is true when negotiating for anything at work, you should enter into the conversation with your boss with an airtight argument not about how remote work will benefit you, but about how it’ll benefit them. Maybe you feel that, given the current circumstances, you shouldn’t have to sell this ask so hard. Still, it’s going to go over better with your boss if you’re able to rattle off a list of ways the company and/or your work performance will be improved by staying remote. Now’s a great time to list off any wins or boosts in productivity you’ve shown while working remote since the start of COVID, too — ideally, you can use this evidence as built-in ammo.
4. Get everything in writing.
So, the conversation went over well with your boss? Amazing! Considering we’re still in the middle of a pandemic — and ordering you, the worker, to return to the office could potentially be a liability for the company — they really should be receptive to this idea. Don’t congratulate yourself until you have everything in writing, though. You may need to schedule a meeting with HR to discuss and formally cement the extended change, as well.
5. Keep showcasing your reliability.
There’s a lot going on right now, to put it mildly. But try to think of this in the context of a long-term career move that’ll have consequences (hopefully positive ones!) long after COVID is over. If your request to continue working remotely was approved, know that you’re being measured now less against the idea this is a temporary fix, with hiccups expected, and more against the expectation that this is simply how you work now. Try not to give your boss any reason to doubt your consistency and reliability in the days that follow.