By Angela Copeland
The letters WFH used to be mainly used by the tech industry but as work from home is becoming more common, so is the use of this important acronym. In the last six months, working from home has gone from an exception to a norm. But if you’re like many employees, your company may be asking you to come back to work in person.
For many of the folks I have spoken to, returning to an in-person work environment just doesn’t work right now. So, what can you do when your boss asks you to come back?
It’s tricky. Start by being honest. If you have a preexisting condition that makes you high risk for COVID complications, you may want to consider sharing it. Normally, I would never advise sharing private health details with your boss, but it may help them to understand why you need to continue to work from home.
The same applies for family situations. If you have aging parents who you help to care for, share your concerns. If you are being forced to homeschool your children, be up front about it. And, if your spouse has a high-risk job where they work with the public, share your concerns about possibly infecting your office if you were to become infected.
These are all good reasons to keep working from home — especially if you’ve been doing it since March. Your boss’ biggest concern should be whether or not you’re getting your job done. When you approach them with this request, focus on your ability to do your work.
Outline the hours you plan to keep each day. Since your boss cannot see you, it may help to know you’re keeping regular office hours from home. Set expectations around how you will communicate. If you plan to check email during certain hours, let them know. If you’re available to video chat during meetings, share that. And, if you are available by text, say that too. The more your boss feels they can count on you, the more likely they will be to allow you to continue to work from home.
If you’re interviewing for a new job, this is something you’ll likely want to discuss at some point during the interview process. Given that this could be a point of negotiation for you, you may want to save it until you reach the offer stage of the job interview. You may be surprised though at just how many companies are willing to be flexible with work from home now and some companies that require you to move to their city are allowing you to delay the move until after COVID is finished.
If you believe you need to work from home for any reason, it’s your responsibility to advocate for yourself. It doesn’t mean your boss will agree but if you don’t ask, then you definitely won’t get it.
Angela Copeland, a career expert and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at copelandcoaching.com.