How to Ask About Working From Home

Hi everybody, I’m Mike Staver. This is Mondays with Mike, a weekly video series where I answer questions from people just like you. Here’s this week’s question:

Dear Mike, I’ve been working at home for many weeks. I am more productive, I enjoy it, I am less stressed, and I am more engaged with my work than ever before. My company will soon be asking us to return to work. I don’t want to. How can I approach them without seeming like an entitled brat?

That’s a great question. Actually, I will tell you this. I can’t cite the research, but the fact is there are a lot of people out there who are more productive at home than at work. That is a fact, and more sociologists are going to be studying that in the weeks to come and months to come than ever before. So, I think there’s a lot of movement in that direction.

So here’s how you do it. Sit down with your boss and simply share what you just shared in this question. “I have been more engaged, I’ve been more productive, and less stressed. I would like to talk to you about how I can continue to work from home.” If you boss says no, everybody back to work, then talk about a hybrid. “Could I work from home one day a week to do an experiment?”

I am sensitive to the fact that there are a lot of people with a lot of varying circumstances right now around child care, all those kinds of things that we didn’t have to deal with just four months ago. So, what I want you to do though is understand that you’re having a conversation in an ever evolving situation. Companies are trying to figure this out, they don’t know. Some companies require masks, some don’t. Some families are requiring masks when the companies aren’t, so when they go back to work that could be something they’ll have to consider.

The most important thing to make you not an entitled brat is to understand that everybody’s trying to figure this out at the same time. We’re all trying to evolve and figure out what the new reality looks like. And so I think you just have a meaningful conversation, acknowledge the company’s reasons for having people come back to work, create revenue, and take care of customers. See if you can, together with them, work it out. You want to be on the same side of the table, not on the opposite side, that would be my recommendation.

Here’s the distinction I want you to make. Anyone watching this, whether you’re a boss or a follower, we’re not asking anyone to come back to work, unless they were laid off or furloughed, they’ve been working. We’re asking them to come back to a building, and there is a big difference between asking people to come back to a building and come back to work. It can be offensive to assume that because people have been at home they haven’t been working, unless they’ve been furloughed or laid off or fired, that kind of thing. So let’s be careful about our stories, let’s work together from the same side of the table, and figure out the new reality.

I’m Mike Staver, I hope that was helpful. Take care.

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