Preparation is key to a more flexible job.

By Lauren Phillips
January 14, 2021
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In March 2020, working from home became the new norm for many office employees to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Ten months later, that's still the case for many people as coronavirus infections and deaths continue to rise in the U.S.—but with coronavirus vaccines being distributed now, the time of widespread remote work may be coming to an end in the months ahead.

Some people are more than ready to return to the office and their more regular routine, but many have happily taken to work-from-home life. If you're in the latter group, with an established home workspace and a solid grip on working from home tips, you may be dreading the end of this more flexible work situation (though you're certainly cheering for the end of the pandemic).

But just because your office reopens doesn't mean you have to return to your old routine. First, remember that the return to anything close to normalcy will take months, if not longer, so it will likely still be a while before you're expected to clock in for your 9-to-5 at your office. Second, you can ask for a more permanent work-from-home or remote-work situation, even if you're not lucky enough to be employed by a company that hires work-from-home employees specifically.

If the last 10 months have proven anything in the corporate world, it's that some people are as productive working from home as they are in the office—and they're happier doing it. If this rings true for you, it may be time to start negotiating a continuation of your current work-from-home situation for after the pandemic ends.

In a September survey, remote work site FlexJobs found that 65 percent of people want to become full-time remote employees post-pandemic. Employers may not offer the option to continue remote work without prompting, so it's important to ask—and to treat the ask like a business proposal, says Toni Frana, a career coach at FlexJobs and Remote.co.

"Even though you may have personal reasons for wanting to work from home, what matters most to employers is usually your job performance," Frana says.

With that in mind, take the same approach you would take to any pitch, project proposal, presentation, or other large meeting at your workplace. As with anything else, preparation is key, Frana says.

Start by researching what's possible at your company. You want to develop an understanding of what's already in place so you can ensure your request falls within the scope of possibility—and so you can take advantage of any policies that might already be in place.

"Look to the rest of the company and see if other people working remotely have flexibility in their schedules, or if they pretty consistently work 'regular' working hours," Frana says. "Also, consider what type of schedule has been the norm during the pandemic. If there has been some flexibility there already, it may be that remote and flexible scheduling are an option thus fine to discuss."

In other words, if your company has a history of being staunchly against remote work, consider keeping your initial ask small—possibly a flex schedule that has you in the office a few days a week and at home the other days. If there's no history of remote work outside the pandemic crisis, making a huge ask for a totally remote schedule may be too big and lead to an outright rejection.

Once you've done your research, think about why you want to continue working from home—and how doing so can help the company, too. "Think about why you want to continue working remotely, the benefits to the organization in terms of productivity, efficiency, and time, then formulate how you will present what you envision it will look like with a more permanent remote work situation," Frana says.

Put your findings into notes you can present from, then ask your boss for a meeting to discuss your request. You want to make sure key decision makers—including your manager and high-level team members, if necessary—are present so everyone is on the same page. To set up the meeting, FlexJobs suggests following the below template for your initial email.

Email template for requesting a permanent work-from-home situation:

Subject ideas:

  • Long-term remote work options
  • Plans for continued remote work vs. return to the office

When the meeting is scheduled, polish your research and put it into a proposal outline. (FlexJobs shared one you can use, below.) Send it to everyone in the meeting the day before so they have time to review it.

Proposal outline for meeting about working from home permanently:

Through all of this, stay calm: "Exude confidence that you have the communication skills required to work remotely as well as highlight the efficiencies and time savings that you've achieved by working from home already," Frana says.

If your boss seems hesitant, propose a trial run, where you continue your preferred flexible work schedule for an agreed-upon amount of time. If your performance continues to be excellent—and you should make sure it is, during this trial run—your boss may reconsider your request.

By focusing on communication, productivity, and your value to the team, you can make a valid proposal for a work situation that serves you and the company at the same time—with the right preparation and research, you may even get approval. Let the working from home continue.