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How to Negotiate a Work-From-Home Arrangement

How to negotiate a work-from-home arrangement

Artwork by: Antonina Kasyanikova

  • Make sure you want this long-term.
  • Prepare to address your employers’ concerns
  • Present WFH as a solution to a problem
  • Be ready to build trust

Many workers have not only adjusted to the WFH lifestyle - they’ve grown to love it. A recent Prudential survey of 2,050 U.S. workers found that 68% of current home-based employees would like to continue doing so in the future - at least part-time.

If you’re considering a new position, you might be considering a work-from-home arrangement as part of your negotiations. Here’s how you can make the request:

Make sure you want this long-term.

First, you need to understand what a full-time remote commitment would look like on a permanent basis, and decide if it’s really right for you. 

There’s a large difference between working remotely when everyone is doing it, and being one of only a few people doing it when everyone else is in the office (like other freelancers). Without virtual socialization measures in place, you might be missing out on those “water cooler” moments that can lead to productivity and inspiration. Even if you’re not concerned about that, your employers might be.

Do a self-assessment to understand if this is sustainable for you in the long run. Are you actually okay with having only virtual interactions with coworkers? Are you more productive in an isolated space? How do you use the time that you save from not commuting?

You need to ask yourself these questions before entering negotiations, because your employer will almost certainly ask them for you.

Prepare to address your employers’ concerns

Some of the concerns employers have may be predictable - many employers still have concerns over the productivity of their employees while working at home (despite studies frequently showing that the arrangement actually increases productivity.)

This is actually the best time to address these concerns, as many employers now have plenty of evidence for what works and what doesn’t. 

But other issues might not be as obvious, and some may be specific to the company, industry, or boss’ work style. Come prepared to listen to all of your potential employers’ concerns and counteract them by pointing out how the arrangement actually works for both of you.

You have to make the case that your work-from-home arrangement is something beneficial for them, not just convenient for you.

Present WFH as a solution to a problem

Like most negotiations, you should have the mindset that you and your employer are not on opposing sides. You are actually on the same side and want the same end goal (which is for you to come work for them). You’re working together to find a solution for potential barriers to that goal.

Therefore, you need to define the problem you’re trying to solve and identify what you need from the company to address it. 

Maybe the problem is that your workday is constantly broken up when you need to pick your kids up from school, and that hurts your ability to work efficiently. By providing you the ability to work outside the office, your employer is giving you the ability to better control how your time and energy are spread out - which in turn leads to you being better engaged with your work.

Whatever your personal reasons or preferences are, come prepared with a business case to support it. 

Sure, you personally enjoy not having to commute. But on its own, that’s not likely to be a compelling enough reason for your employer. Point out how the lack of commute gives you more time to focus on your work productivity and you might have a better case.

Be ready to build trust

Your biggest disadvantage as a new employee (as opposed to an existing staff member asking to switch to a remote model) is that you and your employer haven’t had time to establish the trusting relationship required to make remote arrangements flourish. Your manager is taking a bigger risk with you than they would be with an established employee.

Flexibility is the key to making this work for you. You might have to develop an action plan to help your manager assess your ability over a trial period. For example, you may get two WFH days per week for the first two months, or maybe a 90-day full-time trial period. 

Talk with your manager about milestones they would like to see you reach in that period - and be agreeable to regular check-ins or some other form of communication plan. Remember, your manager is just looking for data that points to your ability to be successful outside of the office.

The bottom line is that your desire to work from home has to demonstrate value for the employer above anything else. You need to be prepared to show the benefits for them, not just the positive impact for yourself.

Fortunately, many employers have spent the recent years building out the necessary infrastructure and processes to make this more feasible. There’s more evidence than ever that your work-from-home request is not just doable, but effective. You just need to present that evidence in the best way possible to get what you’re looking for.

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