When the COVID-19 pandemic first caused widespread lockdowns and many employees found themselves suddenly working from home, they didn’t expect they’d be remote for more than a year. For many companies, the reopening so many months later in the wake of the pandemic might mean having you come back to the office either full-time or as part of a hybrid work model. But what if that’s not what you want? What if after all this time working remotely, you’ve realized that you prefer it and you want to keep doing it indefinitely?
The good news is that this moment of transition could be a prime opportunity to request that you be allowed to continue working from home.
Before 2020, companies with few or no remote workers didn’t know how remote work would affect their business. “The biggest difference is that most companies have been forced to to live through having a remote workforce and now actually have data on what it’s like,” says Karl Rinderknecht, cofounder and COO of WhoCo, who has managed in-person, remote, and hybrid teams across industries. “Are people as productive? Are people as happy? Do we need so much office space? Pre-COVID, these were questions where maybe you could get data about other companies, but not data about your own workforce.” After this broad work-from-home experiment, you might be able to leverage your company’s data as evidence to support a more permanent remote work situation.
We previously wrote about eight steps to take if you want to keep working remotely after the pandemic, including tracking your productivity and wins and being responsive and present during remote time. But whether you’ve prepared for indefinite remote work throughout the pandemic or are just starting to consider how to make your work-from-home setup permanent, you might be struggling to approach your manager and make the actual request.
So we’ve put together all the materials you might need as you prepare and make your ask—along with a few tips for how to use them.
A Worksheet That Will Help You Outline Your Work-From-Home Proposal
For any permanent remote work request, you’ll want to show your manager that you’ve taken the time to consider what working from home for the long run entails. You want your plan to basically tell your manager: Here’s what I’m asking and why, here’s what you’re going to see from me, and here’s what I’m going to be focusing on to make sure this works for everyone, says Muse career coach Eloise Eonnet. Filling out this free downloadable worksheet and using it to create a plan will help you frame your request in a way that’s likely to resonate.
Here are a few tips for using this worksheet and turning it into a written or oral proposal:
- Tailor your answers to your manager’s professional needs and desires. Before filling out the worksheet, get clear on how you working remotely will affect your manager. Ask yourself, “What are their priorities and what are they trying to accomplish?” Eonnet says. What goals does your manager talk about most? How many deals you’ve closed? Sticking to the product roadmap? As often as possible, your answers on the worksheet should be tied to these goals
- Use specific examples from the pandemic era to support your case whenever possible. What were your big wins while working from home? Make sure you have one or more stories that really focus on how you helped your manager, team, or company during this time, Eonnet says. These examples will show your managers that you were able to successfully navigate remote work during an extremely stressful period and make them more confident you can continue to do so.
- Be outcome driven. The benefits you list should primarily be the benefits to your manager, team, or company, not to yourself. Connect any personal reasons to results. For example, if working from home would allow you to have a better work-life balance, that means you’ll be less stressed and more productive. Or part of your plan might say, “Without my morning commute, I would be able to get traffic numbers from the day before to everyone’s inbox by 9 AM, so no one will need to wait for them before getting started.”
- Acknowledge the differences between remote and in-office work. Don’t pretend there won’t be obstacles. Instead, show that you’ve thought them through and know how to deal with them. “It’s essential for employees to understand the potential challenges associated with full-time remote work,” says Jess Munday, cofounder of Custom Neon, which has in-person and remote employees in different countries, some of whom have already requested permanent remote status post-pandemic. Even if you’ve been working remotely throughout the pandemic, you should acknowledge the challenges that came with that and think about any new challenges that might come up once the rest of your team is in the office.
- Show that you’ll be just as productive remotely as in the office. Maintaining productivity levels will likely be one of your employer’s biggest concerns with permanent remote work. Use examples from the time you’ve spent working from home during COVID-19 to demonstrate how you’ve been able to minimize distractions and be as or more productive as you were in the office. And if you weren’t able to perform as well as you wanted to during the pandemic (don’t worry, no one was at 100%), talk about how you’ll have fewer distractions going forward. Will your kids be going back to school? Are you moving to an apartment without roommates? This step is crucial, Munday says, since “the ability of an employee to mitigate the distractions of home can make or break their suitability for full-time remote work.”
- Frame your answers from the worksheet as a plan that you can present to your manager. Depending on your job, your company’s approach to remote work, and your relationship with your manager, you’ll have to decide whether to introduce your work-from-home plan with a written proposal or in a meeting with your manager. Either way, you should group the information you’ve written down into what you’ve already accomplished while remote, what the benefits are, what you’d like for your work-from-home life to look like, and how you’ll mitigate any concerns. Identify the most important bullet (or bullets) in each section. If you’re writing a proposal, lead with these points in each section. If you’re saying it out loud, stick to these points (up to three for each section) in your initial ask and have the others ready to go if your manager wants more details.
Email Templates for Reaching Out to Your Manager
During the process of requesting a permanent remote work setup, you’ll likely need to send your boss an email or other written message, either to set up a meeting where you can make your request or to send your written proposal. Here are templates to help you along:
Email Template to Request a Meeting
Here’s a message you can send if you want to lay out your work-from-home request in a meeting. “I suggest broaching the topic initially in a conversation with your manager, especially if you have an established weekly one-on-one or if it’s easy to have a quick ad-hoc conversation,” Rinderknecht says. “For an initial email or message, I recommend keeping it really simple.” Just request a meeting and/or introduce the topic you’d like to discuss ahead of time so your manager isn’t taken by surprise.
Hi [Manager’s Name],
As [“we plan to return to the office”/“I’m beginning to hear chatter around returning to the office”/”company leadership begins to plan for after the pandemic”], I was hoping we could set aside time to have a chat about this topic. I’d like to keep working from home indefinitely after the pandemic ends, and I wanted to get your initial thoughts about how we can make this work. I was hoping to talk about this [window of time/“during our next one-on-one”].
[“When would be best for you?”/”Can we add this to our agenda?”]
Email Template to Send Over Your Written Proposal
If you want your manager to see your plan before you discuss it, “An email outlining [your] situation and the reasons for [your] request is a great way to start,” Munday says. This email template will help introduce your proposal:
Hi [Manager’s Name],
As [“we plan to return to the office”/“I’m beginning to hear chatter around returning to the office”/“company leadership begins to plan for after the pandemic”], I’ve realized that I’d like to keep working from home indefinitely after the pandemic ends. I’ve put together an initial proposal outlining my reasons and how this would work below. I’d love to [“set up a meeting to discuss this further”/“hear your initial thoughts”/“answer any questions or address any of your concerns”]. Please let me know what you think!
A Script for Requesting Permanent Remote Work in a Meeting
Once it’s time to speak with your manager face-to-face—whether in-person or over Zoom—what do you say? Here’s a script to follow (with input from Eonnet). Plug in the answers you already came up with on your worksheet and adjust as necessary. At all times, keep in mind that your ask should be tailored to your manager’s and/or the company’s goals.
First, start by mentioning your accomplishments:
Over the past year, I’ve grown a lot as [“a”/“an”] [position you’re in or a skill you’ve improved]. Despite the pandemic I have [concrete, specific accomplishment that affects your manager]. And I’ve [how you’ve communicated, built relationships with teammates virtually, or taken part in the company’s culture even online].
Once you’ve reminded your manager of your success, introduce your request, but, if at all possible, avoid framing it as a question. Instead, state your intention or preference to continue working from home. How strongly you state your intention depends on your personal situation.
Now that I’ve [how you’ve gotten comfortable with remote work or how remote work has improved your life in a way that helps the company], [“I’d like to continue to work from home for the foreseeable future”/“I would strongly prefer to continue working remotely full time.”]
Then, Eonnet recommends launching into your proposal immediately, focusing on how working from home will help drive stronger results and achieve the goals your manager, team, and company are working toward. Keep it concise in this initial conversation but be prepared with additional examples to support your claims if needed.
Lastly, you’ll need to stop talking, Eonnet says. If you go on past your planned material or start babbling or apologizing, you might sound less confident in your request—and, in turn, in your ability to work remotely. Instead, Eonnet recommends ending with something like:
Given what I’ve just shared, I’d love to hear your thoughts about how we could make this work.
A Few More Tips for Having the Permanent Remote Work Conversation With Your Manager
In addition to what you say, “The way you have this conversation is so important,” Eonnet says. Your “manager needs to believe that ‘you got this,’” and that you’ve really given this a lot of thought. Be confident, not bossy (which might make you sound entitled) or insecure (which might make your manager subconsciously believe you’re not sure of your plan). To accomplish this:
- Keep your plan professional. Even if you’re friendly or friends with your boss, you need to speak to their professional side, Eonnet says. While good managers will care that working remotely will allow you to spend more time with your loved ones, you also want to make sure you connect that back to team and company priorities. Your manager may also need to get permission from their managers so you want them to “have the language they need to make the ask” on your behalf, Eonnet says.
- Practice your request. Say what you plan to say out loud before your meeting. If possible, get someone to listen and make suggestions or point out problems. Get comfortable with your request and tweak the language until you can say it confidently, Eonnet says.
- Be ready to negotiate. The conversation is about “how we can make this work not the yes or the no,” Eonnet says. You might need to compromise, so go into the meeting really clear on what you’re willing to do or give up. “Can you go in once a week or are you hoping to move farther away? Be really firm on where you’re drawing a line,” Eonnet says.
- Consider offering a trial period if you’re a newer employee or if you struggled during the pandemic. “I don’t think that a work-from-home trial period is necessary for employees that demonstrated autonomy and produced results throughout the pandemic,” Munday says. But if you haven’t excelled while working from home quite yet, a trial period might help set your manager’s mind at ease.
- Don’t expect an immediate, definite answer. “In fact, you probably don’t want that,” Rinderknecht says. “You want your manager or employer to consider and understand your point of view and be thoughtful about their decision”—just like you were thoughtful about your request.