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97% of workers want the flexibility to work remotely at least sometimes: Here's how to ask your boss for it

"I think it's always best to put forward the objective reasons why it works."

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As the pandemic forced millions to work from home, many people realized it's an arrangement that works for them. An overwhelming majority of people, 97%, now desire some sort of remote work, whether full time or as part of a hybrid situation, according to a recent FlexJobs survey of 4,612 adults.

"I think a lot of it comes down to the control that people feel throughout their day when they're working remotely," says Brie Reynolds, career development manager at FlexJobs. "By not having a commute, you have more control over your time. You have control over your work environments."

Companies continue to gauge the safest and most effective ways to keep their teams on task, and companies including Ford, Google, and Lyft have postponed their returns to office. Others, including American Express, Apple, and Hugo Boss, have already brought back people on a hybrid schedule or expect to in January 2022.

If the arrangement your employer proposes disappoints you, experts say there are ways to ask for more flexibility. Here's how.

Research your company's policies around at-home work

Before you reach out to your boss, get a sense of what your company's policies are at large about flexibility. "I think there's a big difference between a company that has a really firm overall policy that is consistent everywhere, and a company that has some built-in flexibility," says Georgene Huang, co-founder and CEO of Fairygodboss.

The best way to approach your ask will depend on what you find. If your company has "hard-core policies, like, 'Everyone's back, no exceptions,'" she says, your boss may not be able to give you the flexibility you desire "even if they wanted to." In that case, roping someone in from HR as well could be more effective as that team may have more leverage or control over the decision.

"In the cases where there's more flexibility either by department" or team, she says, talking to your boss alone could suffice.

When you've figured out who you need to talk to, "you don't want to just bring it up on the fly," says Reynolds. "It's good to have a meeting to sit down and really talk about it," so make sure to set one up.

'Highlight the benefits to your company'

When you make your ask, start with the big picture. "Reminding the person you're talking to about the macro situation before you get to the micro" could help give context, says Huang. "Omicron caused people to push back" return-to-office dates in many cases, she notes. "That's great leverage for any employee that's looking to advocate for more flexibility ― that other people are doing it."

Then "make sure you highlight the benefits to your company" of you working from home, such as heightened productivity levels, says Sara Skirboll, vice president of communications at CareerBuilder. If you've found that the quality of your work has improved, or that tasks take you half the time because you're better able to focus at home, bring that up. If you've been able to onboard 30% more clients in the last year because you're better able to manage your working hours at home, mention that. This is a good moment to include specific numbers when highlighting your accomplishments.

"I think it's always best to put forward the objective reasons why it works" and makes sense for you to work remotely, says Huang. That way your argument is tougher to counter.

'Have a specific request in mind'

Finally, when you come into the meeting, you "want to have a specific request in mind," says Reynolds, outlining what kind of schedule flexibility you're looking for. That way your boss or HR department knows exactly what you're proposing and can get a sense of whether or not it could work.

Come in with an open mind. Ask yourself, "What is your best option? What's the thing you'd ideally like to have?" says Reynolds. "And then what is an alternative that you would be happy with or satisfied with?"

"If your boss isn't open to a full-time remote work situation, try negotiating," says Skirboll. "Ask for one day a week or two days a month, something that will allow you both to get what you want from the working relationship."

If even after your talk, your boss and company really aren't budging on the kind of flexibility you're interested in, consider how important this particular component of the job is. If you've found working from home is critical to your focus and mental health, it might be time to start looking for something new. "I think January is such a great time for job seeking," says Huang, "and for taking stock of all of this."

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