As more people started working remotely due to the pandemic, it awakened many as to how beneficial working from home has been to their lives and overall happiness.
But as time has passed, more organizations are starting to implement “back to the office” policies. Yet many employees are also pushing back at these policies to stay remote full-time.
Most people have proven their work can be done remotely. And beyond that, having the flexibility and improved quality of work/life balance is something most are willing to fight for today.
So what can you do if you want to stay remote? Below I’ll share some insights and tips to try to avoid returning to the office.
Do Workers Want to Go Back to the Office?
There have been numerous surveys conducted with executives and employees, which found a disconnect between who actually wants to go back to the office. A study of 10,000 people, found that 44% of executives want to return to the office, but only 17% of employees agreed.
There are probably a few reasons for the differences here.
For executives and managers, they experience remote work differently. From their perspective, most are looking to do what’s best for the organization, potentially overlooking what’s also best for the individuals.
Also, I’m sure the socializing and energy from being in person together is a bonus. But, that also wanes over time. Personally, because a vast majority of people have been remotely so long, the idea of seeing people is exciting.
But just like a new purchase you might make, that “excitement” eventually wears off. Not a perfect comparison by any means, but I think you get where I’m going (hopefully!).
Lastly, some executives and managers just hate remote work. Mostly due to their own insecurities or old school work mentalities.
Anyone else find it puzzling that big companies had record profits in 2021 while working from home and are now forcing employees back to the office “to be more productive?”— Dan Price (@DanPriceSeattle) March 1, 2022
Maybe it’s about control and not productivity.
Back to the Office Policies
While not everyone loves working from home, most can agree that having flexibility in where they can work is a gamechanger. Some of the more aggressive back-to-office policies and stances company leaders are implementing are frustrating to employees.
Which companies are going back to the office?
There are a few companies pushing back against remote work and wanting employees to come back to the office. A have included:
- Goldman Sachs
“I do think for a business like ours, which is an innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture, this is not ideal for us and it’s not a new normal,” said Goldman CEO David Solomon, on remote work.
Forcing most remote employees to return to the office could really backfire. These policies may cause companies to lose talent, increase their retention and hiring costs, create an atmosphere of distrust, and show a lack of innovation.
Certainly, because those companies have brand appeal, leaders might be betting that they still will have consistent top talent, even if there are no remote work options.
And they might be right, only time will tell.
The good news for workers, is most companies are adopting a more hybrid model to work. Meaning a mix of being back to the office and working from home. This is a step in the right direction and great that this gives more flexibility to employees.
A survey of human resources leaders from the Conference Board, found that just 4% said they are requiring all employees to return to the workplace full-time. Really cool to see as it seems the pandemic caused a cultural shift in how we approach work today.
But what if you want to be remote full-time like you’ve been? Or what if your company is in that 4% and is not even offering hybrid work options at all?
What to Do If You Want to Stay Remote
Understandably, you may love working from home and have grown accustomed to your new remote situation. So when your company is now pushing for a return to the office it might be frustrating. Even if it is a hybrid version, it might not still be appealing to you.
Maybe your first thought is to hit up the remote job boards and start looking for your new opportunity. While that may be an option, you don’t have to give up on your current company quite yet!
If you are extremely passionate about remote work and you really do like your employer, you may have options yet to convince management and HR to stay remote.
1. Understand the policies and current stance on remote work
Before you talk to managers or HR, you should have a complete understanding of their return to office policy. By being educated and prepared, you won’t be caught off guard if questions come at you. And it shows that you genuinely have a plan when it comes to wanting to work from home.
If you work for a large organization, you may see executives’ views on remote work out in public. Read those articles and quotes to understand how leadership views work today.
2. Write down your accomplishments while being remote
During the time you worked remotely, what accomplishments did you achieve? You want to show you can do great work without being in the office.
Beyond the wins you had, how do you plan to continue being productive going forward? A concern from the company might be that long-term remote work will not be sustainable. However, show what steps, technologies, and processes you use to ensure there are no gaps in your work or among the team you work with.
3. The benefits to you, the team, and the company
Although your managers or HR leader may understand these points, it’s good to have these ready to share.
How does working remotely benefit you professionally and personally? You want to show how it makes you better in multiple ways and how that will impact your work, the team, and the company overall.
4. Keep “remote work” out of your meeting request
When you reach out to your manager and/or HR about wanting to work from home, I’d recommend not including that in the note.
Instead, position it as a conversation about your job role and how the job is done. And naturally, during your discussion, you can bring up working remotely with your overall prepared plan and thoughts.
When a back-to-office policy is recently in place, naturally other employees might be complaining and something about remote work in the meeting request might be ignored.
Certainly, this is not meant to be a “bait and switch” nor do you want to dupe anyone. But you want to have a valid and open discussion, not make it appear like it’s just a complaint with no substance.
5. Connect face-to-face
With a request about your work situation, it should be In-person or over video. Do not do this through an email or text. It’s definitely okay to send an email recap after on what was discussed.
A more face-to-face approach shows respect and confidence, plus it ensures you are being heard and can have a good discussion about remote work. Hopefully, you work with people who will listen and respect your thoughts. If not, there is your sign to be looking for a new remote job.
6. Be open to some work flexibility
If you are flexible and feel there is pushback to working full-time from home, then provide some additional options. Here are two things you can suggest to get in the right direction:
- Ask for an extended remote work trial. This can prove how you will still contribute in a meaningful way to the company and team remotely. You might only get a few weeks out of this, but you can come back with even more positive results.
- No hybrid schedule? Ask to be remote a few days a week first to show that it will work and to ease into your desire to be remotely every day of the week. You can aim for three days a week being remote, but also be agreeable to two days if there is pushback.
Now if the above does not work and you really want to work remotely, then it is probably time to start applying elsewhere. Fortunately, there are plenty of remote-first and remote-friendly companies that offer remote work.
It is also possible that your manager or HR leaders need to get back to you. But don’t let it linger too long. That might be a way to see how serious you are or to completely ignore the request and hope you give in.
Again, you should have managers and HR who respect your opinions and time, even if they deny or disagree. If that’s not the case, that’s a big red flag and it’s time to move on.
Switching employers, especially if you really enjoy your current work, is not always an easy choice. But you need to look out for your best interests and work how you want.
Can I Refuse to Return to the Office?
As a worker, you pretty much have no legal grounds to refuse to return to the office. Companies have the right to create and set policies on when and where employees can work. Naturally, organizations are still bound by law to provide safe work environments, which if violated then employees have some legal recourse.
But if you refuse to return to the office, which is required now by your employer, they have the right to suspend or flat out terminate your employment.
So your best option is to connect with management and HR from the tips above first. And if that doesn’t work, then your next option is to apply to companies that match your sentiment about working remotely.