How to Talk to Your Boss About Creating Your Ideal Work Life – Business Insider

How to Talk to Your Boss About Creating Your Ideal Work Life – Business Insider

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This past year of working from home has been nothing short of a revelation for Mel Hull. 
“I’m an introvert and I used to come home from the office feeling like my battery had been drained,” said Hull, a content development specialist at a law firm in Houston, Texas. “Now I’m much more productive and less stressed.”
During the pandemic, Hull adopted a kitten, took up yoga, and rediscovered a passion for drawing. “I have more time to do things that add value to my life,” Hull added. 
Hull’s firm hasn’t set a date for employees to report to work in person, but they aren’t ready to go back.
“I will do pretty much anything to avoid it,” they said. 
As vaccination rates rise, companies are putting return-to-office plans in motion, but they face a hefty resistance. A little over half of US employees currently working from home say they want to continue with the arrangement after the health crisis ends, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center.
To be sure, not everyone feels this way. Some miss their work friends; some long for the structure the office provides. Others — especially parents of young children — have found working from home this year incredibly stressful. And, of course, many work in jobs that cannot be performed remotely.
For a certain swath of the workforce, though, the collapse of office life has been liberating. They explored hobbies; saw more of their partners; or maybe just realized their personality is a better fit for remote work. “As hard as it was initially, many people found silver linings — especially the 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 a hard sell for them to return to rigid work hours, a commute, office politics, and wasted time.”
If the prospect of reuniting with your cubicle fills you with gnawing dread, experts say to listen to your inner voice. After a year of reminders of life’s fleeting fragility, “you’ve realized you want more out of your life,” Forti said. This is the ideal time to consider how to achieve that.
Start by reflecting on your motivations and what you’re looking for out of your career. What is your dream professional arrangement? This is not to be confused with your dream job, but rather your ideal work-life situation.
Consider all facets — from the pedestrian (Does conforming to a train schedule make you sweat?) to the profound (What gives your life meaning?). Think about the immediate future (How will remote work affect your social life?) and also long-term (Are you willing to scale back your ambitions in order to work remotely?).
Your goal is to figure out what you want, what you need, and where you’re willing to compromise. “You’re part of a generation of people redefining what work looks like,” said Forti.
You know what you want, now you need to persuade your boss. A compelling case requires good data. Look at the evidence and cite examples, such as the number of client relationships you maintained or new business you brought in.
Watch for signals about how your request might be received. “You probably have a sense of whether your company will be more procedural on this issue, or whether there will be leeway,” said Nancy Halpern, a leadership consultant. 
Ask yourself: Is management pleased with employee productivity? Is it conducting surveys to gauge sentiment on returning? Reflect on your organization’s culture. Is there room for flexibility?
This is not to discourage you — it’s to make sure you’re realistic. “This is not a conversation to be entered into lightly,” said Tara Ceranic Salinas, a professor at the University of San Diego School of Business. “Take time, make a list, and use facts to explain why working from home benefits you and the organization.”
Making the request is not a zero-sum game. Be prepared to make tradeoffs. Working from home every day might not be feasible, but working from home three days per week or working flexible hours might be on the table. 
“Look for middle ground,” said Ashley Margeson, who specializes in helping people cope with burnout. “Arrive with two or three options and if your boss is unable to meet those, then ask what options they would suggest.”
Pitch it as an experiment if your boss is reluctant. Get clear on the metrics by which you will be judged before you start the trial run. Your boss will be watching you.
It’s natural to be nervous about broaching the topic. Your anxiety is a survival instinct — and you’re smart to pay attention to it. Pinpoint the source of your fear. Are you afraid your boss will think less of you for even asking? Are you worried your colleagues will write you off as lazy or that the request risks your chances of getting promoted? 
“These are legitimate fears,” said Forti. “The question is, are they worth overcoming to get the work life you want?”
You may be tempted to quit or reduce your work hours in lieu of returning if your boss turns down your request. It’s understandable: you’ve tasted a better work-life and the idea of returning to the world of sad desk lunches may be too depressing.
In particular, women may be apt to reduce their hours due to burnout from pandemic-related personal demands, Forti said. The trouble is that women would take a salary reduction for switching to part-time, but they do not necessarily see an equivalent drop in work responsibilities.
Don’t be rash. But don’t be complacent either. The economy is improving, as is the job market. Smart companies know that employee flexibility is critical in attracting workers: some are allowing employees to work from home permanently; others plan to adopt hybrid work plans. Start looking at your options. “This is a talent retention issue,” said Halpern. 
Mel Hull, meanwhile, is being patient. Their fiancé is receiving out-of-state job offers, and they’re hoping they can be fully remote if they have to move. 
“I never want to return to the office,” Hull said. 
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