I was recently fascinated to peruse a study conducted by OWL Labs called, “State of Remote Work, COVID Edition.” The study was intended to analyze “how employees across the U.S. feel about working remotely in a post-COVID-19 world, their new workplace expectations, and what employers need to know to recruit and retain top talent.”
As you can imagine, this document is loaded with deeply interesting statistics, including several that stood out to me:
- 70% of full-time workers in the U.S. are working from home during COVID-19
- 1 in 2 people won’t return to jobs that don’t offer remote work after COVID-19
- 77% of respondents agree that after COVID-19, being able to work from home would make them happier
- 75% of people are the same or more productive during COVID-19 while working from home
Putting these numbers in perspective, it would seem that the majority of people who are working from home prefer it, despite another statistic I read that people are working about 26 hours more per month on average.
I must be clear in saying that working from home is not viable for everybody. Some professions (caretakers, food service, transportation, etc.) simply cannot operate remotely. And some families, particularly working mothers with small and/or special needs children who are schooling remotely will be the first to tell you that work from home is not sustainable. I acknowledge these situations (and will save that topic for a different blog). Today’s blog post will focus on “knowledge workers”, that is, people in professions for which work from home is possible, and how well it is working for many.
We Have Mastered Remote Work
I will never forget Thursday, March 12, 2020. At 7:45 pm my phone rang, and I knew it would be my son’s school. Sure enough, they were calling to deliver the message that in-person school would not be happening for some time. Little did any of us know that our world was about to be changed forever.
Funny enough, before the pandemic I had set a goal for myself of figuring out how my business could be 100% remote within five years. In 2020, remote work was thrust on many of us and we were forced to adapt quickly, and for the most part, successfully. Working remotely is no longer a distant dream — it is here, we have the technology to make it work very well, and now all of us are poised to ask ourselves, “What do I really want out of my work situation?”
Ask for What You Want
As vaccine distribution picks up and more and more of us feel confident about spending time outside the house, offices will begin to ask workers to come back. It’s at this point that we need to ask ourselves how we’d like to move forward.
Allow me to present several examples of what it can look like to ask for what you want in the workplace and be met with “the green light,” so to speak. No matter what your company is saying will happen, there is usually room for negotiation. Let these stories get you thinking about what your ideal scenario might look like, and how you can achieve it.
Example: Not-So-Bon Voyage
When I was offered a job with a new company in 2000, I was told that the position required travel 25% of the time. This worried me: in a previous role, I was told the same thing… but 25% ended up being 80%.
I expressed my hesitation to the hiring manager, and before I knew it, my boss-to-be announced that one of my performance metrics was to travel no more than 25% of the time. If I traveled more than that, he said, I would lose points on the goal. In doing that, he created a scenario where I had control and the opportunity to be creative about how I got my work done.
In the end, I accepted the job and loved it. And I never traveled more than 25% of the time.
Example: Work from Home Fridays
In 2002, I was promoted into a role where I requested to work from home every Friday. This was certainly not typical at the time, and though the company agreed, the president of my division called me at 5 pm every single Friday for six weeks to make sure I was still working. I answered. He left me alone after that.
Example: Super Productive Working Mother
When I returned from maternity leave in 2007, I had arranged to work an 80% schedule, taking Mondays off. The head of my division was not pleased about this (he believed that everyone who had an alternative work arrangement was taking advantage of the company). He gave me a six-month trial period.
At the end of six months, he told me I was more effective working fewer hours, and offered to pay me 100% of my salary while continuing my 80% work schedule! Once again proving that working mothers are laser-focused and highly productive.
You Are Not Stuck
My clients often express an expectation that they’re stuck in a work situation. I tell them that they always have a choice — it just hasn’t occurred to them yet because no one else is asking for a different arrangement either.
Here are your steps:
- As companies consider how, when and if employees will return to an in-person work setting, remember that we have unlimited possibilities now.
- Get clear about what is working for you and what isn’t working for you.
- Be prepared to ask for what you want and need in order to be most effective at work and at home.
- Get your “case” together, which is easier to do now than ever.
Be prepared to help lead the way in creating a “new normal” for your company once it is safe for employees to be together. Offer solutions. Take ownership. Feel empowered, regardless of your situation.
There has never been a better time to ask for what you want at work. In many cases, you may have more power than you think — so get started creating the work scenario you’ve been longing for!