How to Negotiate Working From Home, Remotely (Full Guide)

Although millions of people are working from home nowadays, it’s still not uncommon for companies to continue forcing employees to work at the office. But don’t worry– we’ve outlined a strategy to help you negotiate with your boss to allow you to work from home.

When the pandemic threw America into a tumultuous lockdown, strict stay-at-home orders saw millions of employees start working remotely overnight. 

And despite a few teething problems, the work-from-home model has proven a runaway success. Enhanced productivity, lower overheads, and improved job satisfaction brought tangible benefits to both employers and employees. Companies like Facebook and Twitter have already declared they’ll let staff work remotely indefinitely, and many more are tipped to follow suit.

But not all companies have jumped on the work-from-home bandwagon. As vaccines proliferate and stay-at-home orders lift, vast swathes of the American workforce are being nudged back into the office once again. 

If you’ve tasted the freedom that remote work affords and strive to sidestep the 9-5 grind full time, all is not lost. With proper planning and preparation, you could swindle a deal to make remote work a permanent fixture of your career.

In this article, we present a step-by-step guide for negotiating a long-term work-from-home arrangement with your existing employer. 

1. Consider Your Objectives

Ask yourself why you’re so determined to work remotely. If you fully understand your motivations, it’s easier to construct a compelling case. 

Do you need to look after an elderly family member? Or perhaps you’re just more productive when working from home?

Whatever your reasons, frame them in a positive light and focus on how remote work benefits the company, not yourself. For example, a flexible work arrangement can reduce stress by giving you free time to fulfill family commitments, thus enhancing your productivity and company loyalty. 

2. Choose Your Approach

There’s a common misconception you can only negotiate a work-from-home arrangement if your company already has existing policies in place. That’s not the case. 

Scores of American workers have negotiated their way into an ongoing remote arrangement since the pandemic, and many more will do so during the “new normal.”

Researchers at Harvard Business Review concluded there are three approaches you can take to wiggle your way into a remote position: asking, bending, and shaping

  • Asking: If your company permits remote work, then all you have to do is ask. It may not even be necessary to prepare a proposal.  
  • Bending: If your company doesn’t permit remote work, you might still be able to sway them. You need to draft a compelling proposal that highlights how it will benefit their bottom line.  
  • Shaping: If your company doesn’t permit remote work, but you feel the model benefits your team as a whole, you can negotiate a policy change that affects multiple (if not all) employees. This is easier in smaller enterprises, especially if you’re near the top of the hierarchy. 
  • Review Your Company’s Policies

Your company’s current and previous remote work policies will influence your proposal. Study them thoroughly and make a note of any positive precedents, such as a work-from-home colleague whose performance increased upon departing the office. 

Investigate what remote work policies your company held before the pandemic. If some employees were previously permitted to work from home, reach out to ask how they negotiated permission.  If management used to give the okay for remote work one or two days per week, seek a part-time arrangement to begin with rather than diving into a full-time request. 

In the current post-pandemic phase, many companies are gradually returning staff to the office. If you can arrange to be among the last to return, you’ll gain valuable time to prove your case and negotiate. 

3. Review Your Responsibilities

Before you begin preparing your proposal, it’s worth examining your workplace responsibilities and evaluating what can and can’t be done remotely. On a spreadsheet, divide your critical tasks into remote and face-to-face columns. Add detailed notes on potential obstacles and solutions. 

For tasks you can perform online, compile a list of relevant strategies that’ll help you get the job done from home. Your colleagues may be able to suggest innovative ideas and tools, especially those who worked from home during the pandemic. 

Unfortunately, many jobs have some components that can’t be done remotely—think Friday afternoon filing or face-to-face client meetings. It’s a common roadblock for every wannabe remote employee, but there are ways to circumnavigate the conundrum. 

A part-time work-from-home agreement could see you come into the office one day a week, performing all your in-person tasks in one fell swoop. You could also propose moving stakeholder meetings over to Zoom—both parties will appreciate skipping the commute. 

Another possible option is to delegate in-person duties to other employees. You need to tread carefully here, though. Even the most dedicated worker won’t appreciate being lumped with extra chores; offer to cover some of their more tedious tasks to sweeten the deal. 

4. Prepare Your Proposal

Whether you’re asking, bending, or shaping, a well-prepared proposal will optimize the odds of achieving that coveted green light. 

First off, think about the delivery: would you do better with a written or verbal proposal?

If you’re a confident public speaker and have a strong rapport with your boss, you may prefer to argue your case face to face. Be assertive but respectful, and highlight the benefits to the company rather than yourself: increased productivity, lower overheads, job satisfaction, etc.

A written proposal lets you list all your main points in plain English, thus ensuring you won’t forget any crucial details. For the best of both approaches, suggest a follow-up meeting at the end of your written proposal to discuss the nitty-gritty details in person. 

Evidence is crucial to either approach. Gather performance statistics from the remote companies and explain how the remote model enabled these achievements. Quantify as often as you possibly can—provide percentages, financial data, project completion rates, and any other relevant statistics.  

Even if an ongoing arrangement is the ultimate aim, try to see the situation from your boss’s perspective. If management seems skeptical, suggest a trial period rather than a permanent deal. Your boss will be more inclined to tick off a 3-month trial than an ongoing arrangement. 

If you’ve got lots of leverage at the company—for example, you’re a highly specialized employee who’s difficult to replace—you’ll find yourself in a better position to bend or shape existing policies. Use your leverage, but don’t abuse it. After all, you’re still an employee. 

As a last and somewhat drastic resort, consider an ultimatum to jump ship to a more remote-friendly company should your boss knock back your proposal. But proceed with caution: you might have to follow through. 

5. Prove Your Remote-Work Prowess

If you do get the tick of approval, you’ll need to prove your work-from-home worth from the get-go—and this holds especially true if you negotiated a trial period. 

During those crucial initial months, do everything you can to produce the best possible results for your company. Put in extra unpaid overtime if need be, and document every single achievement. 

Ensure you’re always available during core office hours (this isn’t the time to test drive the jet-setting digital nomad lifestyle). Attend every meeting you’re invited to, no matter how frivolous it may seem. 

Your boss wants to see you’re still a team player despite the empty desk in the office. 

6. Consider Your Options if the Negotiation Fails

Should management decline your proposal, you’ve got two options on the table: find alternative employment or bide your time.

When searching for an entirely new work-from-home job, you need to set realistic expectations. A remote position won’t always pay as well as its in-person equivalent because the employer can hire applicants from anywhere in the world. And there are numerous reasons why getting a remote job is harder.

What’s more, junior employees may find they don’t have enough experience to score a fully remote job right off the bat. In that situation, they’ll have to skill up by working an in-person position before branching off to become remote. 

On your job hunt, browse remote-only job boards and use the ‘anywhere’ filter on the big employment websites: Indeed, Monster, etc. 

Or you can simply wait it out. By the end of 2021, 30% of the entire American workforce is tipped to work remotely at least a few days per week. Just because your boss doesn’t want you working from home now doesn’t mean that’ll be the case in the future. 

With a well-prepared proposal full of relevant facts and figures, you could potentially negotiate a long-term remote work arrangement, regardless of your employer’s existing policies. Keep our handy hints in mind and start your journey today.   

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