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Newsletter: Hoping to keep working remotely? Here’s how to convince your boss

Man sitting at table with laptop computer
Ben Jarso, an avid skier, recently bought a home in Truckee, Calif., after moving from the San Francisco area. Facebook, his employer, commonly allows remote working.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning. I’m Rachel Schnalzer, the L.A. Times Business section’s audience engagement editor, back with our weekly newsletter.

Last fall, I spoke with experts to learn how workers could negotiate for permanent remote work arrangements. They recommended workers research company policies, offer to do a trial period and get their arrangements approved in writing, among other useful tips.

Seven months later, as more businesses reopen in the wake of COVID-19, the push for remote work has intensified. I circled back with the same experts — plus several more — to get the latest insight into remote work and how employees and bosses can agree on arrangements that work for everyone involved.

Here are some of their recommendations:

Speak up — because policies are being crafted right now

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If you’re hoping to continue working remotely indefinitely, it’s important to express your wishes transparently, experts say. “If an employee wants to continue to work from home, they should share their perspective with their manager,” career coach Angela Copeland said. “Not all companies are willing or able to accommodate such requests long term, but if you don’t speak up, your manager won’t know.”

In many workplaces, remote work arrangements are generally decided categorically, rather than on a case-by-case basis, employment advisor and litigator Michelle Strowhiro said. “[Employers] don’t want to give an exception to one person that [they’re] not giving to someone who’s almost exactly the same role.”

That’s why it’s important to speak up about your wishes to work remotely now, before official policies are crafted. “Where appropriate, it could be helpful for employees to provide feedback,” Strowhiro said. “Now is the time to help shape those policies.”

Have a plan in place

Approach your management with a plan for what you want and how you can continue to get your work done effectively. This includes information such as proposed work hours and how you’ll handle meetings with colleagues working in person. “It goes back to building that trust. So they know that there’s a plan in place,” said industrial and organizational psychologist Sertrice Grice.

Understanding your employers’ potential concerns about a permanent remote work arrangement is helpful when crafting a plan. “Addressing those areas of concern before they have a chance would be really helpful,” Grice advised. For example, if your manager wants every worker to attend big meetings in person, you could agree to travel to the office once every few weeks for larger gatherings.

Make a business case — as well as an emotional case

Be sure to emphasize how an arrangement that lets you work remotely would make sense for your team and the business as a whole while speaking with management. “A business case will always help push you further along,” human resources consultant Denise Pinkett said.

For example, if you’re part of a global team based in Southern California but want to work remotely from New York, you could be better equipped to interact with European clients by working East Coast hours. “Those kinds of things are really compelling,” organizational psychologist Lauren Catenacci said.

Appealing to your employer’s mission may also make sense. For example, if you work for a company that caters to parents and children, Catenacci said you could have success pitching a switch to permanent remote work if you frame it as the best option for your family, as well as the business.

Highlight your success over the last year — and continue doing a great job

If you’ve been working remotely throughout the pandemic, you may have an easier time advocating to make it permanent. “It could be easier to negotiate remote work, because we’ve been doing it and we have a track record,” said executive coach Bonnie Marcus. “You can build a case from not what you think you can do ... but actually from what you have accomplished and how productive you were” over the last year.

To identify your successes, Pinkett recommended looking back at feedback from your reviews and check-ins with your manager. “Celebrate your achievements and bring those forward,” she said. “And just say, ‘I can keep doing this remotely.’”

It can be especially helpful to showcase your successes in an organized document or slideshow, said Teresa Lee, founder of career coaching service PathUp. “Provide proof of the productivity that you have had at home.”

Approach management with a counteroffer

Getting another job offer to use as leverage could be a good strategy for obtaining a permanent remote work arrangement with your current employer. “You have the most leverage when you have something else to go to,” Lee said.

However, it’s important to be cautious when attempting to leverage a counteroffer. “It can backfire on an employee,” if they don’t actually want the new job, Pinkett explained. “Don’t leverage an offer that you would not be happy with long term.”

Consider a compromise

Even if you’re hoping to work from home 100% of the time, it’s worth thinking about whether you would be willing to come into the office a few days a week — or a few days per quarter — for some in-person face time.

You don’t need to disclose this willingness right away in the negotiation process, but it could be helpful in the long run. “If you really want to work from home 100% [of the time], I wouldn’t lead with that,” Marcus said. “But that could be your fallback.”

Try again later

If your boss seems resistant to granting employees a permanent work-from-home arrangement coming out of the pandemic, it could be worth revisiting the issue a few months down the line. “It’s really hard for a boss to say everyone can be remote at this point,” Lee said. “If they say yes to one person, everyone’s going to want the same thing.” She advised that employees “wait it out a little bit ... give it six months or so, to have conversations with the boss.”

This is especially helpful if you keep doing a great job at work. “The best thing you can do to advocate for your remote work case is to do excellent work,” Lee said. “Once you’re invaluable, they will want to keep you.”

Be prepared to hear no

It’s important to remember that, despite your best efforts, your employer may still require a physical return to your workplace. “Some organizations just won’t budge,” Catenacci said.

“If your boss says this isn’t possible, at least you’ll know,” Copeland said. “Many companies are offering remote work as a permanent option. If you are committed to working from home, now is the time to start looking for a company that aligns to this goal.”

◆ A Southern California woman with Alzheimer’s disease was convinced by a telemarketer to switch health insurers. Columnist David Lazarus explains how untangling this mess became a huge challenge for her family.

◆ An Amazon warehouse in Rialto has been fined $41,000 for coronavirus safety violations, Suhauna Hussain reports.

◆ “If California is such an ‘anti-business’ state, why is its economy booming?” asks columnist Michael Hiltzik.

◆ What happens when airline passengers refuse to wear masks? Hugo Martín breaks down the Federal Aviation Administration’s recent zero-tolerance order.

◆ Could sending checks through the mail mess up your credit score? Certified financial planner Liz Weston explains how electronic payments are more secure and efficient.

◆ Still need to file your taxes? Jessica Roy explains how to do it for free online.

One more thing

“I don’t know how I can survive.” ... “I’m afraid of bringing the virus home.” ... “I have two months before I financially crumble.”

My colleague Margot Roosevelt recently spoke with women whose lives were changed by the pandemic — as well as economists who point to a COVID-driven “shecession” that could have disturbing consequences for the American workforce. Read the full story here.

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 californiainc@latimes.com, and we may include it in a future newsletter.


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