Instead of quitting, try smart negotiating
In her recent Forbes article, writer Caroline Castrillon offers an 11-step process for building a win-win work-from-home arrangement to which you and your boss can agree. Her process is smart, clear, and effective. I’ve paraphrased and consolidated her steps here:
Have your facts in order
You may believe you know what your company’s actual WFH policy is. But over time, policies get tweaked. Do your homework and gather the documentation on the organization’s pre-pandemic remote work policies, their 2020 policies, and most importantly the rules as they are written today. Once you know what’s in writing, gather every shred of information you can realistically find about your employer’s real-life WFH practices. How many of your colleagues have secured ongoing WFH arrangements for themselves? What are the specifics of those arrangements? Are they all the same or do they differ broadly? Do they deviate from your employer's written policy? If so, by how much?
Understand the hard cost savings to your employerAfter years of intensely employee-favorable market conditions, there is a tendency among today’s professionals to simply state their demands and communicate the importance of those demands. The market is shifting. But even if it weren’t, there’s a more fruitful way to negotiate and get what you need. Do you know the math of the overhead costs associated with having employees in the office? Know those numbers. I’m talking about lease expenses, office equipment, utility usage, insurance, and even office supplies. Castrillon cites a recent Global Workplace Analytics study that showed IBM saved $50 million in real estate expenses after allowing employees to work from home.
Be jiujitsu-ready for the “productivity” argument
A resistant employer will understandably talk about how WFH causes productivity and team engagement to suffer. Be prepared to cite your own data, like the Stanford. Then, state exactly why your WFH arrangement will allow you to continue performing at your best. This argument must include what you are willing to offer and deliver, including some level of structure around online availability, agreements on how you will fully participate in team meetings, communication methods and frequency, at the very least. The point here is to make it clear that you know how to make your WFH set-up work best both you and your boss.
Prepare a documented proposal, backed up by facts and commitments
“You want to be taken seriously,” says Castrillon in her article, “and having a document shows you put a lot of thought and effort into it.” In jiujitsu, the key to winning is to go with the flow of your opponent's energy instead of trying to block or resist it. If you're prepared to hear your manager express their concerns about remote work, you'll be prepared to embrace their concerns and demonstrate how your arrangement can alleviate them. Be sure you include the following:
- Your specific ask: are you requesting full-time, remote, or something hybrid?
- Your data that demonstrates work-from-home success metrics,
- Your specific case for how that kind of success will translate to benefits for your employer,
- Your proposal for meeting attendance, written communications, and online on-camera meetings.
Practice, with prepared responses to push back
You’re going to get pushback. Be ready for it by drawing on the facts you’ve gathered while doing your homework.
Ask for an in-person meeting
Sounds counter-intuitive, but I agree with Castrillon. By showing up in person, you’ll demonstrate your willingness to begin this conversation by accommodating your boss’s comfort zone. You’ll also be able to cite real-time examples of what is lost when you commute to the office (unpredictable traffic, parking, weather, etc.)
Keep your energy and tone upbeat, positive, and team-oriented
This may be difficult if you and your manager have already locked horns on the remote question. But fall back on what you know about successful negotiating behaviors: walk in with a smile and a warm greeting, remain calm and unagitated, listen intently to their concerns and acknowledge those concerns, use open body language, and finally: assume this is going to work out for you. The more you believe that, the more optimistic and pleasant your conversation will be.
Tell your story and cite examples
Demonstrate how you have maintained high-quality work. Include as much data that supports this argument as you can. Also, point to how you maintain strong team relationships. If the relationships could be better, describe exactly how you will add certain practices to your routines to build and strengthen those relationships.
Be prepared for a no or a counter-offer
Anything less than a yes will feel disappointing but this isn’t the time to express that. “Be patient and flexible with your manager throughout the negotiation process,” advises Castrillon. Paraphrase your understanding of their response. If it’s a counter-offer, let them know you appreciate it and you’ll take the night to strongly think it through. If it’s a hard no, simply thank them for being so frank – but don’t end the conversation until trying the next step: a trial period.
Ask for a trial period
One of Castrillon’s most powerful suggestions is so simple, yet so under-used. After respectfully acknowledging your manager’s concerns, ask for the opportunity to test your proposal with a three-month trial period. That will give you a quarter of data to review together. It will also give you three months to get your ducks in a row if your manager won’t budge at the end of the trial.
Get it in writing
No matter what is decided by the end of the meeting, get that agreement documented. The easiest, least confrontational way of doing this is, of course, is a follow-up email to your boss. Summarize your understanding of the agreement and asking them to clarify anything you may have missed. End with a thank you and a renewed statement of your enthusiasm for your work.