As an office worker, the past 18 months have likely left you sitting in one of two camps. Chomping at the bit to get back into the office. Or keen to keep working from home forever. If you’re the latter, what should you do?
Now that Australia has reached a vaccination rate we can be proud of, many employers are opening their doors—calling all pyjama-wearing employees to break out the business wear and come back to the office.
If you feel a rising anxiety as return-to-work announcements loom, it’s time to explore your options.
Do you really want to continue working from home?
Working from home temporarily is very different from working from home long-term. While you may feel that the past 18 months has given you a good indication of your suitability to remote work, there are extra factors to consider before going “all in”.
When your entire organisation is working from home, you’re connected by your shared experience of being outside the office. All members of your continuous Zoom calls are equal, their clothes horses and dirty dishes in the background a binding force.
However, if the majority of employees in your workplace decide to go back into the office, this equilibrium will be disrupted. You may become the only team member dialling in, while your colleagues re-establish IRL relationships—going for spontaneous lunches, developing in-jokes and feeling more connected to the organisation than you do at home.
If these factors don’t bother you, all power to you. For many, the benefits of working from home far outweigh the negatives, particularly if you live a great distance from the office or need to be close to home for day-care and school pick-ups. But the negatives are worth considering too.
The key is deciding what is right for you, first and foremost.
Can you work from home half the time?
Working from home half the time, and returning to the office for the other, could provide both yourself and your employer with the ideal mix.
On the days you’re at home, you can enjoy the work-life balance that the COVID-19 pandemic taught you—enjoying the hours between work to sleep in, exercise, spend time with the kids, study, or get ahead.
On the days you’re in the office, you can plug back into a more social energy—nourishing your face-to-face relationships with colleagues and re-establishing your connection with the work you do by physically entering a bricks and mortar space.
For employers, having teams in the office on set days can ensure they feel connected to you, too.
Once you have decided on the amount of time you’d like to continue working from home in an ideal world, it’s worth having a conversation. Writing a proposal is a great way to start.
Writing a work-from-home proposal
A written outline of where you would like to work and which days you’d like to do it can help you communicate your desires and needs to your manager. Your manager can then take your thoughts away, consider them and open a discussion with both yourself and your HR department if needed.
Before writing your proposal, it’s important to remember that it is not a list of requirements. You are bound by your current employment contract, and all workplaces are different.
While it may sound scary, a proposal doesn’t have to be. It can be as simple as a friendly email, or a more structured Word document if that’s more your style. Begin with the benefits you have seen in working from home. This may include increased productivity, a greater feeling of work-life balance and better mental health. Ensure that you list both benefits for you personally, and the organisation. Your workplace needs to see that there are positives for both parties.
Then, move onto what you feel would be an ideal arrangement. This may be working part time from home, spending a couple of days a week in the office, or working entirely from home except for special case meetings.
Prepare for your employer to ask questions about your proposal and be open to a discussion.
A new world of work
Where productivity and industry permits, most workplaces are now open to ongoing working from home arrangements—given that the pandemic has proven that remote work doesn’t (in most cases) impact productivity.
As we re-emerge from our various home offices, take this time to consider what an ideal working future looks like for you. Now is the time to establish your new normal.