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It’s a source of friction at workplaces nationwide now that the pandemic is receding: The boss wants everyone back in the office, but the workers are just fine at home.
Because of work-at-home benefits like more family time, more sleep (on account of no commute) and better work-life balance, many employees are staunchly against reverting to old ways.
If you’re being pressured to return, and don’t want to, there’s hope. You can frame your argument for staying at home — at least a few days a week — as a win-win, according to Shannan Monson, a women’s leadership expert and serial entrepreneur who outlined a four-step approach to that conversation with your boss.
Step #1: Determine what’s best for you
Before you go to your boss, define your goals. What would make you happy? Working two or three days from home or working remotely full-time?
At heart, this is a negotiation, Monson says. “You’ll probably meet somewhere in the middle, but you have to remember you have the power, and you’re in control of what you say yes or no to.”
Monsoon recommends practicing the conversation in advance to ensure you sound level-headed and clear. “The worst thing they can do is say no,” she adds. “You won’t be fired for wanting more.”
Step #2: List all your wins
Before the conversation, compile all your achievements over the past two years of lockdown, and highlight the wins you can take credit for. Bosses tend to have short memories — don’t hesitate to remind them of your successes, she says.
In this way, the work-from-home negotiation resembles the conversation you’d have when asking for a raise.
“You want to be the most prepared person in the room,” she says. Plus, you have leverage. “You’re not asking to work from home so much as asking to continue being your most productive self.”
Step #3: Request the meeting
Once the talking points are in order, it’s time to get the meeting on the books. Monson recommends opening with a line like “Hey, I’m excited to be coming back to work. I’d like to discuss what that looks like.”
Acknowledge, outright, the discomfort your boss may be feeling. “Say, ‘I know there’s been a lot of uncertainty around what returning to work might look like. I want to discuss how I can keep bringing my best work and productivity to the team,’” she recommends. Then launch into your ideas, pitching them as net positives.
Step #4: Pitch the idea
How do you convince your boss that working remotely would be good for your company? By presenting evidence.
Monson recommends a script like: “Based on the work I have been able to do from home in the past two years, and what I’ve accomplished, I’d like to continue doing so. Here’s evidence that that would be good for the company too.”
Most important, Monson adds, is for employees to not be scared, and to recognize how much power they currently hold. “The entire workforce is facing a massive labor shortage, and it’s really hard and expensive to hire and train talent right now,” she says. “Don’t go in with a fear of getting fired. Your boss knows you’re valuable, so don’t you forget it.”
No longer is remote work seen as a perk – it’s now a common offering that’s here to stay. To compete for talent, companies need to focus on being “people-first.” This means providing employees with the flexibility they need, and merely offering remote work will no longer cut it.
5 tips for work flexibility
1.Create a remote work guide
Consider creating a remote work training program for new employees that outlines remote work expectations, including company hours and a flexible schedule policy. By establishing clear parameters, employees have the opportunity to work as they please within those boundaries.
2.Encourage time blocks
As a fully remote manager, I encourage my teams to block time on their calendars throughout the day to ensure they have time to step away, have lunch, or walk the dog. Working from home doesn’t mean employees can’t take breaks.
3.Establish meeting-free times
Meeting-free time is a simple concept, but implementing it takes careful planning. While meeting-free days are most successful when the entire company can adopt them, implementing them on a team-by-team basis can also be impactful.
4.Create opportunities for mobility
The ongoing technology worker shortage presents new opportunities for companies to fill vacant roles internally. Many organizations are now looking to remove the high (and sometimes unrealistic) barriers to entry for certain roles to increase the talent pool. If you take this approach, clearly outline roles and responsibilities for all roles and be transparent with employees about how they can reach the next level. When roles are clearly written out, it’s easier to evaluate how well your existing talent might fit with internal opportunities. It also gives your employees a goal to work toward.
5.Focus on continuous learning
Continuous learning empowers a flexible workplace. Consider providing sessions hosted by outside experts or internal executives on topics such as eliminating bias, improving team communication, and best practices for leading virtual teams. These will help “normalize” flexible work and equip your workforce with new tools for long-term success.
Flexible work helps attract top talent, but it also makes employees more productive. In the Gartner 2021 Digital Worker Experience Survey, 43% of respondents said that flexible working hours helped them achieve more productivity, and 30% of those surveyed said that less or no time commuting allowed them to be more productive. Here are some reasons why flexible work boosts employee productivity.
Flexible work allows employees to work more
Flexible work arrangements allow employees to work more during the hours they are most productive. In a survey conducted by Airtasker, remote employees worked 1.4 more days every month, or 16.8 more days every year, than office workers. And on those days, they were more productive. While office employees reported an average of 37 minutes each workday not getting work done, remote employees only lost 27 minutes of each workday to distractions.
Flexible work reduces turnover
Allowing employees to work flexible schedules can help retain valuable staff. Without a doubt, flexibility is one of the most important perks workers want from their employers. In fact, a Flexjobs survey found that 80% of respondents said they’d be more loyal to their employer if they provided flexible working arrangements, and 52% said they’d already tried to negotiate flexible work with their current employer. When your workforce is engaged, they spend more time on their work and less time looking for new opportunities.
Flexibility increases engagement
According to a Gallup study, flexible work also drives employee engagement. Engaged employees are more enthusiastic, energetic and have better physical health. And, as decades of Gallup research shows, when employees are engaged, their performance soars. In addition, highly engaged workplaces claim numerous benefits like 40% fewer quality defects, 41% lower absenteeism and 21% higher profitability.
Flexible work allows for better work-life balance
Statistics around the effects of work-life balance on productivity show that companies can double employee output by embracing flexibility. Flexible work gives workers the autonomy to create a schedule that benefits their physical and mental health. That could mean going to a yoga class, spending time with family or going to the gym. With more control over their time, they have a greater sense of freedom to complete work tasks and still take care of their own personal responsibilities.
Follow these tips, and you’ll see a big improvement in the quality of work and productivity of your team.
Invest in regular training sessions, whether that means bringing in an outside expert or simply having someone on your team who is responsible for providing training on a regular basis. And don’t forget about ongoing training. As your business changes and grows, so too should your employees’ understanding of how it works.
Regular training will help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and knows what is expected of them. It will also help you to identify any areas where employees are struggling and need additional support.
Give feedback often
Giving feedback is essential if you want to improve employee productivity. But it’s not enough to simply point out when someone has made a mistake. You also need to explain why it was a mistake and how they can avoid making the same error in the future.
Constructive feedback will help your employees understand their errors. It will also give them the opportunity to correct their mistakes. It’s important to be clear, specific, and objective when giving feedback. This will give your employees precisely what they need to work on.
Offering incentives is a great way to motivate your employees to do their best work and avoid making mistakes. If you know that there’s a financial reward for doing a good job, you’re more likely to be careful and double-check your work before handing it in.
Set clear expectations
Be specific about the standards you expect your employees to meet, and make sure they understand what will happen if they don’t meet those standards. This will help to ensure that everyone is working towards the same goal and that mistakes are less likely to be made.
Encourage a culture of learning
Encouraging a culture of learning will help your employees to understand that mistakes are part of the process and that they can learn from them. Encourage your employees to ask questions, share their ideas, and experiment with new things. Encouraging a culture of learning will help your employees to feel more comfortable making mistakes. It will also help you to identify any areas where employees are struggling and need additional support.
In conclusion, following these tips will help you to get your employees to make fewer mistakes. By providing training, giving feedback, and offering incentives, you can motivate your employees to do their best work and avoid making costly mistakes. Invest in your team’s development, and you’ll see a big return on investment for your business.