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Business/Economy

You want to work from home, but your boss wants you back in the office. Here’s how to meet in the middle.

  • Author: Lynne Curry
    | Alaska Workplace
  • Updated: June 7
  • Published June 7

Q: My coworkers and I love working from home. None of us can understand why our employer has drawn a line in the sand and sent us all an email stating that we can no longer work remotely after June 15.

Why, when we all like working from home?

I know my manager doesn’t want me to quit. In the past, he’s said he’d do anything to keep me. I otherwise like my job and have argued that what my manager needs to do is to let me continue to work from home, but for some reason he’s balking and saying “no.” I’m wondering if an ultimatum would work.

Answer:

An ultimatum works, once. It gives you an answer — yes, your employer and manager cave in, or no, your employer calls your bluff.

Are you prepared for a “no”? If not, reconsider giving an ultimatum that might end a job you enjoy. Instead, provide your employer and manager the facts that document your own productivity, along with the dozens of research studies that substantiate remote worker productivity.

You also need to prepare yourself for the downsides that come with a reluctant yes. Employers that feel boxed in by employee demands often later cut their ties to those employees after they’ve searched for and found replacement employees.

You ask “why.” Your employer isn’t alone in wanting employees to return to their pre-pandemic worksites. IBM, Yahoo, Aetna, Best Buy and other large and small employers have stated they’ll require employees working from home to return to company offices and worksites.

Given all the research suggesting that employers can retain employees, boost employee morale and attract top candidates by offering employees freedom to work from home, you and other employees understandably wonder why employers are requiring employees to give up remote work.

The answers are many.

Despite the many studies substantiating remote worker productivity, not all employees work well or consistently from home. My own inbox is full of questions from managers frustrated by employees who allege they work hard for eight hours a day when their managers don’t see the results, and worse, hear, “let me turn off the television so I can hear you” when they call. Managers find it easier to manage, engage, and monitor employees when they can walk from workstation to workstation and see employees working.

Although recent studies reveal that many employees state they’d consider resigning for an employer that allows working from home, other studies question whether those working from home feel the same loyalty that office-dwellers develop to their manager and coworkers. According to a Workplace Trends and Virgin Pulse survey published in Harvard Business Review, remote workers are less likely to stay at their company long-term because they don’t regularly interact with their colleagues, resulting in less commitment to their team and employers.

The fairness issue complicates the work-from-home decision for many employers. While you may work productively from home given your job duties and work ethic, what happens when an employee not given the same “perk” alleges favoritism or discrimination?

Long-term remote work may cause other losses. Distance matters. Remote employees may feel disconnected and not form the informal relationships with colleagues that cut through the misunderstandings that flourish when most communication occurs through email and text. Having the full team together at the same worksite or regularly in the same conference room makes collaboration easier.

Here’s a suggestion — ask your manager and employer to consider a hybrid solution, allowing you and others to work from home for part of the week and on-site for the rest of the week. Continue to show how productive you and your coworkers can be when working off site. Show your willingness to be flexible, ask for the same in return, and prove your case.


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