This past year of working from home has been a revelation for Mel Hull. “I’m an introvert and I used to come home from the office feeling like my battery was dead,” explains Hull, a content development specialist at a law firm in Houston, Texas. “Now I am much more productive and I am less stressed.”
During the pandemic, she adopted a kitten, began practicing yoga, and rediscovered her passion for drawing. “I have more time to do things that add value to my life.”
The Hull company has not yet set a date for employees to return to work in the office, but the feeling is that they are not ready to return. “I will do almost anything to avoid it,” he confesses.
As vaccination rates rise, companies are putting their back-to-office plans in motion, but they face stiff resistance. Slightly more than half of American employees currently working from home say they want to continue that way when the pandemic ends, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
Some workers do miss their co-workers, or the structure that the office provides. Others, especially parents of young children, have found that working from home can be incredibly stressful.
However, for many, not going to the office has been liberating. They have invested more time in hobbies; they have seen more of their families; or they have simply realized that their personality is better suited to teleworking.
“As difficult as it was at first, many people preferred this new condition, especially increased flexibility and autonomy“said Allison Forti, associate professor at Wake Forest University.” And now that they know they can do their jobs remotely, it’s hard for them to go back to rigid work hours, commuting, office politics and waste of time”.
If the fact of having to return is something that terrifies you, experts say listen to your inner voice. After this year, “you’ve realized that you want more out of your life,” Forti said. “This is the ideal time to consider how to do it.”
Reflect on what you want in your career
Start by reflecting on your motivations and what you are looking for in your career. What is that career change you need? This should not be confused with your dream job, but rather with what the ideal connection between work and your personal life would be like.
Your goal is to find out what you want, what you need, and how you are willing to commit. “You are part of a generation of people that is redefining the look of work”, Forti said.
Explain why working from home benefits you and your company
You know what you want, now you need to persuade your boss. A compelling case requires good data. Bring them tangible examples, such as the number of customer relationships you had or new deals you struck.
You have to be watch for signs on how your application might be received. “You probably already have an idea if your company is slowing down on this issue, or if there will be room for maneuver,” said Nancy Halpern, a leadership consultant.
Ask yourself: Is management satisfied with employee productivity? Are you conducting surveys to gauge employee sentiment about going back to the office? Reflect on the culture of your company. Is there room for flexibility?
Find a middle ground
You may have to adapt and that you ask can be fulfilled, but only to a certain extent.Working from home every day might not be feasible, But working from home three days a week or working flexible hours could be on the table.
“Find a middle ground,” said Ashley Margeson, who specializes in helping people cope with burnout. “Come up with 2 or 3 options and if your boss can’t fulfill them, ask him what options he would suggest.”
It’s natural to be nervous about broaching this topic, and this anxiety is nothing more than a survival instinct. Are you afraid that your boss will take the request wrong? Are you worried that your peers will label you as lazy or that the application will put your chances of being promoted at risk?
“They are legitimate fears”Forti said. “The question is, is it worth getting through to get the work life you want?”
It is becoming a talent retention problem
In the event that your boss rejects your application, you may want to propose to leave the company or reduce your working hours. It’s understandable: you’ve tried a better work life, and the thought of going back to the old can get you down.
As usual, the most affected will be women. It is possible that they will reduce their hours due to the double work they have been subjected to, taking care of personal care derived from the pandemic, Forti explained. “The problem is that they would accept a pay cut for switching part-time, but they don’t necessarily see an equivalent drop in job responsibilities.”
Do not rush. But don’t be complacent either. The economy is improving, as is the job market. Smart companies know that Employee flexibility is essential to attract workers: some allow employees to work from home permanently; others plan to adopt hybrid work plans. Start looking for options. “This is a talent retention problem,” Halpern said.
Meanwhile, Mel Hull is being patient. Her fiancé is receiving job offers outside the country and they hope to be completely remote if they have to move.
“I never want to go back to the office,” Hull said.
This article was published in Business Insider Spain by Irina Pérez.