Over the last year and a half, many employees began working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now with work-from-home mandates easing in many places, companies are creating environments with people working from both the office and their homes. But this hybrid model will not be without its challenges.
There are always trade-offs. For instance, when working from home, you may risk losing important business connections for your career growth. Or on the other hand, when going back into the company workspace, there can be additional commuting, taking time away from family.
Some companies are requiring their employees to have a set number of days in the office. This setup means that you may not be able to negotiate all that you want.
Here are four ways to navigate this new terrain:
1. Consider what you need and what your boss needs from you.
If your need is to work from home 3 or more days a week, it may allow more time with family and children. But one of the primary reasons people want to get back to the office is to reconnect with colleagues and refresh their relationships with team members.
Another consideration is visibility. While you may like working at home in your slippers, avoiding the commute, staying home may get in the way of your advancement. Working face-to-face is the best way to build relationships, nurture relationship networks, and learn from others. Sure, you can accomplish this virtually, but often the best connections come from running into people at the office or exchanging unexpected ideas while waiting together for the elevator. The benefit of being in sight of colleagues is to put yourself on the radar for the next cool project or exciting promotion.
2. Be strategic in presenting to your boss.
If there is flexibility about how many days of the week you can work off-site, let your boss know your plan and how it is better for everyone in the long run. You can be very persuasive if you use remote work statistics to back up your explanation. Assuming you have been working remotely during most of the pandemic, you have access to data about your productivity and performance benchmarks while working at home.
Schedule a meeting with your boss to discuss this by sending an email asking for a date and time to connect.
3. Practice your pitch in advance.
Ask a trusted colleague or family member to listen to your presentation. Seek honest feedback about your ideas. Are you specific enough? Backing up your request with data? Speaking with confidence?
When you make your pitch, be as specific as possible. For example, say, “I think it best for me to work at home Monday and Wednesdays.”
Then explain why you chose those days and discuss how it will help overall productivity. For example: “Mondays and Wednesdays work best because those are the days, I don’t have any team meetings and when I usually do more in-depth work. I’ll be able to get more done at home since I won’t have a commute or office distractions.”
Be sure to explain how and when you will share your progress.
4. Be aware of potential burnout.
When working remotely, you may find yourself working longer hours and taking shorter breaks than those of your in-office counterparts. Sometimes, when a flexible worker takes time for themselves in the afternoon—say, to exercise or play with their kids—it can trigger feelings of guilt, which leads to more work, more stress, and ultimately, burnout. Stay self-aware for regular breaks and times to stop working for the day.