How to Negotiate for Remote Work
When the pandemic forced millions of Americans to halt their commutes to offices and begin working remotely from home, Katie Johnson, the vice president of operations for WIN (Women In Negotiation), was more prepared than most.
After all, this Girl Scout alum had been working remotely for two years before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and had already successfully navigated the pitfalls of remote work and taken advantage of the benefits.
“For me, it was about flexibility,” she says. “I’ve gone and stayed a month in Texas—where I am originally from—just to connect with friends and family. I have friends who have kids, and I could finally go and connect with them without having to relocate. My sister is in Los Angeles, and I can stay with her for a couple of weeks . . . and it doesn’t impact my work or force me to use up my vacation time.”
For others, the reasons for pursuing remote work may be to take care of family members, whether children or older adults, or simply to eliminate wasted commute time.
Katie walks us through how to decide if this choice is right for you and your employer.
1. Identify if remote work makes sense for you in the long term.
Although in many offices people have been remote workers for over a year now, you may find that working remotely feels different once the overall workforce begins returning to the office, at least part-time, she explains.
“When everything ‘goes back to normal,’ being a remote worker is going to feel different than it does now,” she says, “even if just 50 percent of your team is in the office on a given day.”
Decide if you want to work from home in the same city as your company or if part of your remote work choice is about being able to relocate permanently (or to move around as you see fit, as Katie does).
2. Determine whether you can do all your job responsibilities remotely.
“Think about the scope of your role—if your job is to shake hands and meet clients, maybe remote work isn’t the best ft for you,” says Katie.
3. Assess whether you have the necessary communication skills.
“It’s important to be able to show the progress you’re making on different projects,” Katie says, “when you’re not able to stop by [someone’s] desk and communicate how much you’ve accomplished.”
“I find that a lot of people still have trouble with the fact that you have to over-communicate the things that you’re working on,” she explains.
4. Think through the downsides of remote work.
These vary from person to person but could include missed social opportunities.
“If you find that you socialize and get a lot out of being in an office space with your coworkers, then maybe remote work isn’t the best fit for you,” she explains. “You may find you miss those connections.”
Other potential downsides include technology challenges, such as those that might prevent you from hearing meetings as clearly when video conferencing.
5. Evaluate how remote work benefits your employer.
If your company doesn’t already have a remote work policy in place, you’ll need to advocate for yourself. For Katie, working from home minimizes her distractions and allows her to stay focused.
“I do a lot of operational work, so it’s very detail-oriented, and I am also the type of person who can get distracted easily. When you’re having to do tasks like that, it’s nice to have your own space. I am able to get work done in a more timely fashion,” she explains.
“Gather stats on how effective your team has been working remotely, focusing on metrics from the last year,” Katie suggests. “Has productivity increased?
6. Understand how the work force has changed in the last year.
You may find that, depending on your timing, you don’t have to build a case for remote work in the way you might have in the past.
“Some companies are letting go of commercial leases,” Katie explains. “And they won’t be pushing to let go of remote work, because they don’t have a place for employees to come back to.”
And remember that, because of the pandemic, the general perception of remote work has also changed.
“If it comes down to it that remote work is what you want to do, and your company doesn’t see the value in it, remember that there are so many companies that are comfortable with remote workers—and many of [those companies] are hiring.”