Don’t Want to Return to the Office: Negotiate:

Decide what you want, your fallback positions, and your bottom line

Make your request in terms beneficial to your employer

Has your employer just mandated that all employees return-to-the-office? Do you dread resuming the daily commute? Does returning to the office make it harder on your children and pets?

You have three choices. You can quit and look for an employer offering remote work; grit your teeth and return to your employer’s worksite or negotiate for continued remote work. Last week’s post,, reported how Apple employees currently negotiate with their employer to remain remote. If you’d like to do the same, here’s now.

Understand the landscape.

Although employees have discretionary power—they can choose whether to work hard or simply meet minimum expectations, they generally can’t refuse to comply with a return to the worksite mandate. Additionally, the looming recession has undermined the leverage many employees had over their employers. That said, look around. Have any employees in your company or industry negotiated long-term remote work. If so, how did they do it?

Decide what you want, your fallback position and your bottom line.

Before you negotiate, decide what you want, what you’ll take, and what you will and won’t accept. Multiple research studies show that those who aim high in negotiations end up achieving better results, Because your employer might not give you everything you want, enter negotiations with a fallback position. Will you settle for working three days on-site if you can work remotely the other two days? What’s your next move if your employer insists you return to the office?

Understand your employer.

Before you attempt to change another’s mind, you need to understand their mindset. Employers have many reasons for wanting employees back in the office. Most managers find it easier to supervise employees when they regularly walk by their workstations. Employers that believe in building a strong company culture view bringing everyone under one roof as essential for impromptu discussions between managers and employees and among employees. Most managers believe collaborative problem-solving team sessions work more effectively when they and employees can see everyone around the table. Physical proximity makes new employee training easier. Bringing everyone back on-site creates equity by eliminating the two-caste system where customer-facing employers work on-site yet others remain remote.

Make your request in terms beneficial to your employer.

When thinking through how you’ll present what you want, define it in terms of employer benefit. Instead of saying, “I want remote work,” say, “I want to be as productive as possible.” “Working remotely and eliminating commuting reduces interruptions and gives me more focused work time, enabling me to achieve greater productivity.”           

Develop a specific proposal.

You increase your chances of success by developing a specific, on-paper request. Do you want full remote status or will a hybrid schedule work? How does working remotely benefit your employer? How will you manage regular communications with your manager and coworkers and compensate for the impromptu in-office conversations you’ll miss? Do you have any specific reasons, such as a disability-related issue, for your employer honoring your request?          

Accompany your proposal with examples of the results you’ve created while working remotely, along with successes that show how you’ve kept quality and productivity high.

Anticipate objections       

Prepare to handle your employer’s objections. While multiple studies report working remotely can increase productivity by up to 77%,, employers often doubt these studies, as many are based on self-reporting data from workers with a vested self-interest in remaining remote.

If your employer worries you won’t effectively collaborate while working remotely, propose a pilot test that shows how this can happen. Can you coordinate a remote team meeting on a business-critical topic in which you break the full team into groups of three to four, and have each group record their recommended strategy in a shared document and report back to the manager and full team? If your manager debriefs the team members, what might he learn? Did they participate more while remote than they might have in a larger team meeting? Were their other tasks less disrupted?

Arrange an in-person meeting.

Finally, arrange an in-person meeting with your manager, so you’ll be able to see your manager’s nonverbal signals, and listen to, acknowledge, and address their concerns.

By making your request in terms beneficial to your employer, you have a shot at success. If you don’t succeed, you’ll know what you need to do next.

(c) 2023 Lynne Curry

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3 thoughts on “Don’t Want to Return to the Office: Negotiate:

  1. Nice overview of the issue and approach. I think your last suggestion is a gem and might be first… having that in person meeting tells the manager that you recognize the value in some interactions being in person, and your respect for that position; and your willingness to show up when its appropriate and in the best interest of the company.

    Negotiation is all about an exchange… A good negotiation play would be leading with the offer to meet in person with the expectation to have some time in that discussion to begin by sharing with the manager how you’ve used the option working remotely to improve productivity and value for the company…

    1. Thanks, Ky! I agree with your points, though I’m not sure someone who wants to negotiate for remote work would welcome coming in-person as the first thought, which is why I put it at the end. You may be right, however.

  2. This post has great tips on negotiation: anticipate the objections; meet in person; have a plan that shows how you will benefit the organization and be more productive.
    I am tired of hearing a bout how people want to work remotely. It makes me think of people I know who never answer their phone and sound trapped if they “mistakenly” answer it and are great on online sites but not so good face to face.

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