Maybe you worked remotely during the peak pandemic months. Maybe you’ve worked from home in a previous role. Maybe you’ve never worked outside of the office ever before. No matter your position, you’ve decided that the commute to work just isn’t worth it anymore.
You want the freedom to work from home, the coffee shop down the road, from Spain, Thailand, and Japan. But how do you convince your employer to let you roam freely and hold down your responsibilities outside of the office?
The world of work was seismically altered by the global pandemic. Now there are more full-time remote workers than ever and even more hopeful to earn a work-from-home opportunity. A 2021 survey from Harvard Business School Online found that 27% of professionals hope to work remotely full-time in the future. The times are changing and remote work, location independence, and a life without commutes are a real possibility.
Whether you’re hoping to secure a fully remote agreement, a hybrid work-from-home deal, or anything in between—here are some tips for negotiating a remote work position.
READ MORE: 8 Skills You Need to Become a Digital Nomad
Give Working Remotely a Test Drive
Before negotiating a remote work position, think about where you plan to work and what that full-time remote work schedule looks like—assuming this will be your first time. Remote work is a true luxury and offers a wealth of freedom that many of us strive for, but it can be more challenging than you think. Some may find it best to set up a quiet home office or workspace, others may perform best elsewhere. A coworking space, coffee shop, or public library may boost productivity and offer a much-needed change of scenery.
Take a laptop to that space on a Saturday or Sunday, spend the day there, and see whether it lives up to your expectations. Leaping to a fully remote position is a big deal. It’s a good idea to try remote environments and get a feel for the lifestyle before diving headfirst into location independence.
Outline Your Ideal Arrangement
Once you’ve managed to get a feel for what remote working looks like for you, outline your ideal arrangement. Not only will this offer absolute clarity on what you’re looking to achieve, but it also creates a goal to strive for during your negotiation. Remote working looks a little different for everyone, both in terms of preference and in terms of professional position. Some may hope to work from home two or three days per week whereas others may wish to transition to a full-time remote position.
Do Your Research
Before requesting a meeting with your manager, get an understanding of the current work-from-home policies at your company. These may have changed after the pandemic, so your goal should be to find out whether any of your colleagues have managed to secure a remote arrangement. Collecting all of the available data can give you additional leverage if it’s needed to get an agreement over the line.
Don’t be afraid to ask how they managed to negotiate their current position and whether they have any pointers to create a similar situation for yourself. Learn about the specifics of the arrangements made in the past—maybe a two-day-per-week remote agreement could be achieved or maybe there’s scope for more.
Outline the Benefits For Your Employer
Reducing operating costs is one of the most popularly cited benefits of remote work for employers, as it typically comes with the elimination of large overhead costs such as office leases, utilities, furnishings, supplies, and insurance. IBM, for example, reportedly saved more than $50 million in cost from real estate by permitting their workforce to work remotely.
Other benefits you can cite include increased performance, employee retention rates, and productivity. A study of more than 16,000 employees over nine months conducted by Stanford University found a 13% increase in productivity in remote workers. A similar study, conducted by ConnectSolutions, found that 77% of those that work remotely at least a couple of times per month showed increased productivity.
Negotiation Strategies to Secure a Remote Work Deal
As with any negotiation, it pays to be well-prepared and to enter the room with a goal in mind. Rehearse your proposal, get feedback from friends or family, and revise your pitch to build confidence in your words. Here are our top seven negotiation tips that you can use to make the best case for a remote work position with your employer.
Request an In-Person Meeting
An in-person meeting can make it much easier to build a rapport with your manager because both verbal and non-verbal cues (changes in body language, eye contact, voice tone, etc.) will be easier to read and respond to. If an in-person meeting is not possible, it’s still important to work on that rapport and build a personal connection in the first and final minutes of small talk. It can be much easier to become distracted in a virtual meeting, so be sure to be fully prepared and remove anything from the room likely to take you off-task (such as your phone, cat, or roommate).
Exude Positive Energy
Positivity is contagious. Entering the meeting with overwhelming positivity will get things off to the best possible start—even if you and your manager have a frosty relationship. There are several ways to maintain positive, relaxed energy throughout the meeting. Greeting your manager in a warm and friendly manner, remaining calm, smiling where appropriate, using open body language, and addressing any concerns will keep things moving in the right direction.
Offer Various Arrangements
Lead your proposal with your ideal arrangement that you’ve decided on earlier in the process, but be prepared with back-ups if it doesn’t seem like your employer is biting. Lay out your options, cite your research, and prepare to acknowledge any concerns or issues with your manager's response.
Focus on the Benefits to the Employer
The key is to elaborate on why a remote arrangement would be great for them and why you, and even the rest of the team, will perform better remotely. If your workplace is accommodating, you can also highlight the personal benefits remote work would have for you. A positive company culture should cater to personal requests and, if there’s a good fit between you and the company, there really shouldn’t be any issues with the request.
Prepare for Pushback
Pushbacks are inevitable, especially if remote working is out of the norm of how the company operates. Your employer may have some concerns with offering a remote agreement and this is something that you will have to address. Before the meeting, note down all of the potential issues or concerns that your manager may have about remote work. Practice clear, concise, valuable solutions for each of these points to strengthen your argument.
Depending on how things are going, it may start to look like a compromise is the only way to move forward—but you should only compromise if you feel comfortable with the deal. Before your meeting, think about how much you’re willing to give up with your remote work schedule and stick to your guns if the compromise being offered is not what you expected. There will always be future opportunities to approach the subject again—there’s no need to burn bridges on the first run.
Offer a Trial Period
If your manager is still on the fence about offering a full-time remote working position, offer a trial period to see how things would work in reality. An initial two-week remote period may be all that it takes to convert the unconvinced. This allows you to showcase how the agreement would operate without any real risk to the employer, while you give the arrangement a test drive yourself. If at the end of the trial period, your manager is happy with the way things are working out, you can circle back and negotiate terms for a more permanent remote work arrangement.
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There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to negotiating a work-from-home agreement. Different company cultures, policies, permissions, management styles, and security levels will all contribute to varying outcomes of your negotiation.
The key is that you prepare for and make the first move to have these all-important discussions in the workplace. When possible, request a face-to-face appointment and deliver a well-practiced, well-researched proposal that offers the best of both worlds for your employer. Take into account research into the company, use examples of benefits of remote work, and go into things with a bright, resourceful attitude.