Artwork by: Dariya Gonzo
If there’s one thing we can be certain about, it’s that work from home is here to stay. Here’s how you can request your employer to work remotely and enjoy a better work-life balance.
It’s been close to three years since employees all over the world were required not to come to the office and work from home instead. Remote work started as a necessity, and it has now become a prerequisite for most job applications. Being forced to come to work is one of the key reasons why people are switching jobs.
If your company wants you to come back to work and you’re thinking to yourself, “how to ask your employer to work from home,” then you’ve come to the right place. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at
Common reasons why people prefer working from home
How to tell your boss you want to work remotely
Mistakes to avoid when requesting to work from home
Advancements in technology, combined with a greater focus on work-life balance, are driving a shift in the global workplace structures. Organizations have also realized the benefits of working from home, and they are encouraging employees to continue working remotely even after the pandemic. Here are a few reasons you should consider working from home.
According to a 2022 survey by McKinsey, more than 87% of Americans embraced the opportunity to work from home. The study also reported that 21% of job seekers in the country rated remote working opportunities as one of the biggest motivators for finding a new job.
One of the greatest benefits of working from home is that you get to set your own working hours. Even though finding a balance between work and personal commitments can seem a bit difficult, there are more benefits than drawbacks to remote working.
Instead of working a fixed 9-to-5 schedule, you can talk to your employer about working flexible hours. For instance, you can work 10 to 6 or maybe 11 to 7 if you have difficulty waking up in the morning. Similarly, you can utilize your breaks to tend to chores such as grocery shopping, exercise, or even an afternoon nap.
For those who spend countless hours every morning navigating through heavy traffic to reach their office, remote working is definitely a blessing. Working from home eliminates not only the stress of commuting but also the exhaustion that results from all that driving to work or sitting on the train/bus to reach the office. The time you save by not commuting can be spent on work, having a healthy breakfast, or simply enjoying a morning workout before starting your day.
Another perk of working from home is that you won’t necessarily need to live close to your office. You can even work from a different neighborhood, city, or country. Be sure to talk to your employer and determine whether you’re allowed to work from outside the city or country.
Think about all the distractions at work: constant office noise, chatty colleagues, conference room meetings, water cooler conversations, and whatnot. Now, imagine a way to keep all these distractions at bay.
When you’re working from home, you get to sit in a quiet, well-lit area that is free from all types of distractions. This allows you to focus on getting as much work done in as little time as possible. It’s no wonder why remote working pushed employee productivity by 13% in the U.S. in 2022.
There are other distractions worth considering
While you no longer have to contend with office noise, you’ll probably have to deal with other distractions at home, including the urge to check your cell phone every now and then. In such cases, it’s best to stay organized and have a dedicated time during your working hours to tend to personal stuff.
There are several ways you can customize your cubicle or other workspace in the office. Maybe add a plant or put up a picture or inspirational quote. However, working from home allows you to take workspace customization to the next level. A well-designed workspace at home can improve your motivation and productivity at work.
You get to choose your work desk, office chair, decoration pieces, wallpaper, and supplies instead of relying on run-of-the-mill office equipment. Make sure to keep clutter to a minimum so that you can stay focused at work.
With all the benefits offered by remote working, it’s no surprise that those who work from home tend to experience less work-related stress than those who go to the office every day. From commuting to office noise, there are several triggers you can avoid by choosing to work from the comfort of your own home. You can also keep office politics at bay by spending less time chatting and more time working.
Another benefit of working from home is that it allows you to save time and money. In some jurisdictions, you can claim the amount spent on your home office space as a tax deduction. Furthermore, you could save a substantial amount of money on fuel costs and public transportation fares by choosing to work from home.
When you’re working from home, you no longer have to worry about waking up early in the morning. If you’ve had a busy night, you can wake up a bit late without worrying about missing your bus to work or getting stuck in traffic. You won’t have to spend time choosing the right outfit to wear every morning either.
Despite the ongoing pandemic and the countless studies on the benefits of working from home, many organizations are now mandating a return to work. If your organization is not in favor of remote working, but you feel better (and safer) staying at home, here’s what you need to do to prepare a case to work from home.
Think about your request to work from home as a salary negotiation discussion, in the sense that you’ll need to spend a considerable amount of time planning and researching before scheduling a meeting with your supervisor(s).
Do some research to understand the landscape of remote working in your industry and its relation to your job role. Are your competitors currently offering remote working opportunities? Can you easily perform your job duties without commuting to work every morning?
Talk to your colleagues at work and see if there are employees, departments, or supervisors who are allowed to work from home. Your organization may have a work-from-home policy that you’re not aware of.
When preparing a case for remote working, it’s important to think about all the ways your organization will benefit by allowing you to work from home. Your talking points can include reduced costs, increased productivity, and improved morale. Also, you would want to tell your supervisor that this arrangement can prove useful for other team members. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself:
How will your productivity improve?
If you’re skipping the commute, can you start earlier?
Can you work odd hours, if needed?
Do you have a well-designed office space at home?
Are there any barriers that might affect your ability to work from home?
After you’ve done your research and you’re ready to talk to your supervisor, prepare a detailed plan of action. This could include a summary of the reasons why you want to work from home, what your schedule will look like, and how you will manage your tasks and time at home.
Sample action plan for remote working
Summary statement: I would like to work from home on [days] so that I can have some interruption-free time to focus on my day-to-day tasks and maintain a balance between my professional and personal commitments. Here are the details of my proposed schedule, which ensures that I will meet and exceed all of my job-related expectations.
Proposed work schedule: During the above-mentioned days, I will be working from [starting time] to [ending time]. In the event of an emergency, I can dedicate up to [number] hours every day to complete ad-hoc tasks. If I need to step away from my desk, I can work a few hours more than my regular working hours to make up for the time lost.
Communication with the team: While working from home, I will be available on Microsoft Teams/Skype/Zoom to communicate with my team members, supervisor(s), and all other internal and external stakeholders. I will also be available on [cell phone number] in the event someone cannot reach out to me using the regular communication channels at work.
Reporting to the supervisor: I will maintain constant communication with my supervisor and keep them updated with my daily workload and tasks completed. I will also maintain a work log, which I will share with my supervisor to let them know about my progress during the day. I am also open to the idea of daily/weekly touchpoint meetings with my supervisor if needed.
Equipment needed: At home, I have high-speed internet that allows me to work without any interruptions. However, I would like to request [equipment] that would help me perform my daily tasks efficiently. For this, I can talk to our Human Resources/Procurement Department.
In most cases, a work-from-home request is approved when the supervisor trusts their employees’ dedication, quality of work, and overall work ethic. To further improve your chances of getting your request approved, consider making the request after completing a major project at work or successfully achieving a milestone.
Establish a system of measuring and monitoring your performance at work and regularly communicating the results to your supervisor. This way, when the time comes to request working from home, your supervisor will be well aware of your progress and you’ll have a proven system in place to allow them to evaluate your performance.
Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of working from home, let’s try to answer the question, ‘How do you politely ask to work from home?’
The first rule to requesting a work-from-home arrangement is to talk to your supervisor, instead of simply sending an email. If you have a weekly check-in meeting with your supervisor, consider bringing up this topic during those meetings. Otherwise, you can schedule an in-person or online meeting with them.
The tone of the meeting should depend on the type of relationship you have with your supervisor. If the two of you are close, your conversation can be a bit casual. Similarly, if your organization has a culture that fosters communication, your conversation does not necessarily need to be too formal.
After scheduling a meeting with your supervisor, look at your action plan for remote working and try to create a script. This script should include a detailed value proposition for an arrangement to work from home.
Briefly describe some of the key projects you’ve completed and/or job-related accomplishments. The objective is to build your supervisor’s faith in your ability to manage your day-to-day job duties remotely and with minimal supervision. You should also think about some of the questions your supervisor might ask about remote working, and any objections they might have, and prepare some responses.
Sample questions/objections and their responses
Question: How can I be sure you’ll be working from home?
Response: That is an excellent question. I’m glad you’ve brought up the specifics. I’ve done a lot of research on how organizations have successfully implemented a 100% remote working environment, and here are my findings [insert snippets from your initial research]. I have also prepared a draft plan on how to ensure productivity at work, which includes daily/weekly touchpoint meetings with you, a detailed document with my daily work plan and specific tasks that need to be accomplished, and regular communication with you.
Objection: That seems fair, but I don’t think I can implement a work-from-home policy yet.
Response: It’s fine if you don’t want to implement an organization-wide policy, but we can have a trial period. During this time, I will work from home and report on my daily tasks and accomplishments. Based on the results, we can think about having a policy in place for everyone else.
Objection: I don’t see how you can perform your job duties remotely.
Response: Many jobs that were previously performed in person can now be done remotely. For instance, teaching and tutoring have now become online. Similarly, many healthcare providers are offering phone consultations and telemedicine services instead of in-person visits. As you can see in my work-from-home plan, I have listed each and every job duty and how I can manage them remotely. We can start with an initial trial period so that you have a fair chance to assess my performance. I’m also open to any other ideas you might have.
Question: What if I need you and you’re not available?
Response: As you can see in the plan, I’ve outlined my working hours for the days I’ll be working from home. Apart from our office’s regular communication channels, I will also be available at [number] in case you cannot reach out to me in the event of an emergency. If there is a particular communication platform you prefer and you would like me to be there during working hours, please let me know.
Objection: If I make an exception for you, I’ll have to make it for everyone else.
Response: If my trial period is successful, I don’t see the harm in offering this type of working arrangement to other employees at the organization. In fact, this would be a good way to attract new talent and retain existing employees for the long haul. Working from home is likely to increase productivity across the board, and it will go a long way in boosting employees’ morale. Finally, you can work with the senior management to establish certain rules and guidelines to assess each work-from-home request on an individual basis and approve or reject each request depending on the circumstances.
To answer this question in one word, yes. Employers reserve the right to refuse an employee’s request to work from home. However, the refusal must be based on valid grounds. Here are a few situations where an employer might refuse a request to work from home.
Talk to an expert
The rules for working from home vary from one organization to another and from one region to another. If you need information on whether your employer has a remote working policy in place, you should consider talking to an HR representative. For state-level legislation on working from home, mandating employees to return to work, and/or refusing a request to work from home, it’s best to talk to a legal expert.
There are several job roles out there where working from home is just not possible. For example, if you’re working as a repair technician, you would probably need to visit the site of the damage to carry out the repairs. Similarly, pharmacists, grocery store employees, nurses, paramedics, and law enforcement personnel cannot work from home because of the very nature of their jobs.
Apart from these obvious jobs, some companies are switching to a hybrid model and request their employees be present at work on particular days of the week. If you’re applying for a job role that expressly states that it is a hybrid or on-site location, it is unlikely that the organization will consider a remote candidate for the job. Furthermore, the company will have a right to refuse any future requests to work from home for that job role.
If an employer does not have an explicit work-from-home policy, it reserves the right to approve or reject any request submitted by an employee to work from home. For example, if an employee wants to work from home, but they have demonstrated that they need close supervision to achieve their targets, the employer can refuse the employee’s request to work from home.
A lot of companies have designed large and swanky offices that they cannot just sell to another organization. Such companies will have to bear maintenance, repair, and other charges irrespective of whether their employees come to work. Hence, these companies are likely to either mandate everyone to come back to work or get rid of all remote workers as a cost-cutting measure.
When people work from home, it becomes difficult to review, monitor, and assess their performance. This poses a challenge for mid-level and senior managers whose job duties involve assessing the performance of their team members.
To make things worse, this lack of supervision could create a feeling among employees that they’re not being monitored, which is why they won’t be held accountable if they fail to meet their targets. For these reasons, your organization can refuse your request to work from home.
One of the biggest drawbacks of working from home is that it creates a feeling of isolation. By working from home, you’re likely to miss out on several office lunches, water cooler conversations, and other meetings that are essential for building camaraderie with your colleagues. To keep isolation at bay and maintain a team spirit, an organization without a clear work-from-home policy can refuse a request to work remotely.
Asking your supervisor to let you work from home sounds like a scary concept, but it doesn’t have to be this way. With some careful planning and preparation, you should be in a position to convince your employer to let you work remotely. However, in any case, be careful of the following mistakes people make when submitting a work-from-home request.
A conversation involving remote working should not be taken lightly, especially if you’re working at an organization that measures productivity in terms of in-person headcount. If you have completely disregarded your organization’s culture and you didn’t spend enough time building a rapport with your supervisor, your work-from-home request has little chance of getting approved.
Make sure to spend a considerable amount of time building a strong case to work from home. This includes a compelling reason, a commitment to meet your goals, an assurance that you will be available to take calls and respond to messages and emails during working hours, and a clear plan of action on how you will measure and report on your performance.
It’s true that working from home offers several benefits, including reduced stress and improved work-life balance. However, at the end of the day, your supervisor is probably more concerned about how you’ll fulfill your professional obligations at home and improve the organization’s bottom line.
If you’ve prepared a case for remote working that focuses exclusively on how it will benefit you personally, your supervisor might not be convinced. They’re likely to ask you how this arrangement will improve your ability to focus on your work and deliver exceptional results. For these reasons, it’s important to talk about how your department/organization will benefit if you work remotely.
Perhaps the biggest mistake you can make is failing to self-reflect. Do you have the necessary resources at home to work efficiently and meet your targets? Do you enjoy working better when collaborating with teams in-person or do you prefer flying solo? Does the very nature of your job make it difficult for you to work from home?
If you have any doubts about your ability to work efficiently at home, you need to be honest with yourself. After all, remote working isn’t the perfect working arrangement for all employees. If you feel like you’re better off coming to work every morning, there’s no need to give in to any pressure to work from home.
Working from home is a good way to cut down on your commuting costs, improve your overall productivity, and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, many companies are now requesting their employees to return to work. However, you can request your employer to allow you to continue working from home.
Just like a salary negotiation discussion, a request for remote working requires a lot of thought and planning.
With a proper plan of action and a compelling reason to work from home, you can significantly increase your likelihood of getting your request approved.
It’s important to pay attention to your home environment and assess whether you have the resources, motivation, and peace of mind to work remotely.
Asad's writing expertise lies in the fields of HR and marketing—putting him in the unique position of understanding the job-search process: both from the side of the applicant, and the side of the hiring managers. With this valuable blend of perspectives, he’s able to help his clients position themselves as top candidates for their desired roles.