Newsletter: Want to work remotely forever? Here’s how to negotiate for it
Good morning. I’m Rachel Schnalzer, the L.A. Times Business section’s audience engagement editor, back with our weekly newsletter. Last week, my colleague Roger Vincent reported that workers are slowly but surely returning to Los Angeles offices despite the continued risks of the COVID-19 pandemic. One expert told him the number of people working in Southern California office buildings had more than doubled in recent weeks.
Are you worried about returning to the office? Do you have family commitments that require you to be home during the day? Do you simply prefer working from home? If so, you’re not alone.
Fortunately, some companies have become more accepting of permanent remote work and flexible work schedules — but it’s often on employees and prospective employees to negotiate for these options. I spoke with three experts to gather tips for negotiating work-from-home agreements and flexible hours with employers. Here’s what they advise:
Do your research
Before asking your manager if you can work from home permanently, it’s helpful to know whether any other employees have been granted this benefit. “You probably need to do a little bit of research, do your homework, see if these kinds of options have been offered to others,” executive coach Bonnie Marcus says. You should also read any company policies relating to remote work, especially any communication issued after the pandemic began affecting your workplace.
Ask for what you want
Whether you’re interviewing for a new job or trying to negotiate remote work with your current employer, being direct and honest about what you’re looking for is key. “Ask for what you want, even if you have butterflies in your stomach,” says human resources consultant Denise Pinkett.
Pinkett urges applicants to bring up their work-from-home needs early on when applying for a job: “I wouldn’t advise waiting until you get an offer because [if you’re required to work from the office,] you wasted all this time. You get to the finish line, and there’s no meeting of the minds.”
If you’re negotiating with your current employer, it’s helpful to explain why working from home is best for you and your family, career coach Angela Copeland says. “Outlining your reasoning is important,” she advises. “If you have, for example, a high risk for complications from COVID, if you have preexisting conditions, be honest with your current employer about your concern.”
Demonstrate your value
You should approach negotiation for remote work as a win-win situation for you and your employer, Marcus says. It’s important to consider “How will it benefit your team? Will you be able to be more efficient, to be more productive?” she suggests. “Those are the kinds of things that would be important to build a case for.”
If you’re applying for a new job, it’s crucial to show the employer that you’re capable of working remotely. In addition to communicating about programs you’ve used before, such as Asana and Zoom, Pinkett suggests providing samples of your work. She also recommends offering a list of references who can speak to your professionalism.
Copeland suggests that applicants go above and beyond to show off their abilities. She says that once, when applying for a marketing role, she wrote up a sample marketing plan to send to the hiring manager in advance of her interview. “It was not something they asked for. It was something that gave them an example of my work. And it really made me stand out,” she says.
Offer a trial period
One way to demonstrate how well you’d do as a remote worker at your current job: Ask for a trial period, during which you can showcase your ability to get your work done while at home. Show your boss that your productivity and performance will not suffer. Marcus also suggests working on a collaborative project with your manager during this time, which could further indicate your reliability as a work-from-home employee.
As you negotiate for remote work or flexible hours, it’s important to understand the expectations your manager has for your level of communication. How quickly do they expect you to respond to email? Are you comfortable with your boss texting you? Setting up expectations and boundaries is key to success, especially if your boss is used to keeping a close eye on employees, Copeland says. “You may even need to agree to go out of your way to over-communicate.... You’re finding new and different ways to show your boss that you’re working.”
Get things in writing
If you’ve been offered a job and successfully negotiate for an option to work remotely, be sure to get this agreement in writing. “Within the offer letter, that language should be reflected,” Pinkett says. “And if it is not, the employee should ask the person who is formalizing the offer in writing to add that.”
If you’ve been at your company for a few years and negotiate to work from home permanently, you should at least have the agreement in writing via email. “Always follow up with an email and say, you know, ‘We had this meeting on Oct. 1, and I just want to confirm that this is what we agreed to,‘” Marcus says.
Look for remote jobs
If you’re looking for remote work, use keywords like “work from home” or “flexible schedule” when searching on sites like LinkedIn and Monster, Pinkett suggests. Employers that offer it “are going to advertise that level of flexibility,” she says.
There’s also something to be said for disregarding the location of online job postings, even if you have no intention of relocating, Copeland says. On a recent episode of her podcast, she interviewed a Memphis professional who decided to apply to jobs in cities around the country. “She led with her strengths and the skill that she could bring to the table” while being honest about her desire to remain living in Memphis, and she found a new employer who was open to her working remotely, Copeland says. “They don’t care that she’s remote.”
Copeland urges anyone thinking of looking for a new job now to act fast. “Don’t wait for the pandemic to be over. Interviewing, it’s happening virtually.”
Wondering how to network during the pandemic? I covered this question back in August. Here’s what I learned from Marcia Ballinger, a networking and executive search expert.
Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times
Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber.
Other stories you may find helpful
◆ To work remotely, you’ll need high-speed internet and a quiet space. And your kids need a schedule, says Kathy Kristof. She offers tips to help you thrive while working remotely.
◆ Quick coronavirus tests are coming to airports. Hugo Martín explains how it works and what the test results can’t tell you.
◆ Think California’s economy is bouncing back? Not so fast — recovery will take more than two years, UCLA economists say. Margot Roosevelt outlines the projections for California’s job growth, unemployment rate and more.
◆ President Trump claims the economy will do better if he’s reelected. History says he’s wrong, columnist Michael Hiltzik writes. He explains how economic growth and stock market gains have been stronger under Democrats than Republicans.
◆ During last week’s debate, Trump said insulin is now so cheap, it’s “like water.” Columnist David Lazarus breaks down why this is untrue for millions of Americans.
◆ Four L.A.-area Ralphs stores and one Food 4 Less have been fined for coronavirus safety violations. Suhauna Hussain explains how they failed to protect workers from exposure.
◆ Do you or a loved one have a home in a qualified personal residence trust? You may want to rethink that: Changes in tax law turned these trusts “into a losing bet for many,” certified financial planner Liz Weston writes.
One more thing
The fire retardant dropped out of planes is sticky, gooey and made in Southern California. Samantha Masunaga took a deep look at this local product, which is crucial in fighting wildfires nationwide. Among the things she learned: It’s bright red for a reason, and although it’s not especially toxic, you really don’t want a plane to dump hundreds of gallons of it directly on you.
Have a question about work, business or finances during the COVID-19 pandemic, or tips for coping that you’d like to share? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we may include it in a future newsletter.
The view from Sacramento
Sign up for the California Politics newsletter to get exclusive analysis from our reporters.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.