Good Question: How can I negotiate continuing working from home? Fotini Iconomopoulos shares her advice.

woman working from home

By Fotini Iconomopoulos

Q:

“My company announced that we’re going to start going back to the office soon — and I’m not looking forward to it. While some of my colleagues are excited about the prospect, I’ve gotten really used to having zero commute, more flexibility, and fewer distractions. How do I convince my boss to let me continue working from home?”

 

 

OUR EXPERT: 

Fotini Iconomopoulos
Negotiation Coach, Keynote Speaker, and MBA Instructor

Fotini Iconomopoulos is an award-winning negotiation consultant, keynote speaker and MBA instructor based in Toronto. She works with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to small business entrepreneurs to help them achieve their goals. She is regularly featured in the media and Harper Collins will be releasing her book in March 2021. Her father unknowingly influenced her career path at the age of 6 when he nicknamed her “the negotiator.” You can learn more about her work and find more of her tips at www.fotiniicon.com.

 

 

A:

Your situation is very common! Many are excited about getting the heck away from the home office and back into civilization, but others are… not so eager. 

Maybe you’re not ready just yet or maybe you want this arrangement to become permanent. Whatever the situation, there are things that you can do that will help you in your negotiation with your employer. In fact, I’ve been helping folks with employer negotiations like these for years, and COVID-19 just made working from home requests a lot easier — you’ve been trialing this (hopefully successfully) for months!

I always advise to keep track of the successes and wins you’ve had while working from home, and to lay the groundwork by dropping them into your conversations regularly. But even if you haven’t been doing that, you can make up for it with the steps below:

1. Position yourself for success

Before you even propose continuing working from home, make sure you make your employer aware of how well it’s been going. How did you make the transition seamless with your team? Did you increase productivity? Any big wins to bring up (despite the chaos)? Have you been more accessible without fighting traffic? If you have some quantitative results, even better. The more positive things you have to share about this remote work experience, the harder it will be for them to deny your request.

2. Consider it from their perspective

‘They’ are both your peers and your employer. Consider how your remote work will affect others. If you think they might have some objections, consider those now so you can address them and handle them before your employer has a chance to raise them. You’ll be acknowledging their concerns and building trust. Especially if you have solutions or learnings for their concerns.

3. Share testimonials and best practices

You already brought up some benefits earlier and now you can use the social smell of what others are doing and how they’re doing it successfully. Share testimonials from colleagues, clients, and other departments if you’ve got them. Other industry leaders and organizations who have already declared that remote work will be around for a while are a great way to use peer pressure to your advantage. A company with similarities to yours will be most compelling — so don’t pick some culture that seems like apples to oranges to them.

4. Be specific

Proposing a trial is usually an easy way to success (as it usually brings enough momentum to continue down that path) and you just had a lengthy trial run to work to your advantage. If you’ve figured out a formula for success, this is the time to lay out the plan. If it’s x number of days per week/month in the office, a rhythm of regular meetings or communication, specific working hours, or any other process that has made this a successful trial, be sure to spell it out.

5. Ask questions

Questions always come up because carefully crafted ones will get the others to convince themselves and make things less adversarial. Asking questions is something you also need to be prepared with in case you get resistance. Dig deeper than what they’re saying at face value. ‘How’ or ‘what’ questions are always my favorites: “How can we adjust this plan to make you more comfortable? What specifically about this is important to you?” Be ready to get them into problem solving mode before you just give up.

As I’ve said before, negotiations don’t have to be combative. Implementing a few of the tips above will make it a discussion instead of a boxing match.

 

Meet Sydney Piggott, Director of Programs and Projects at YWCA Canada

Sydney Piggott (she/her) is a civil society leader, researcher, and advocate for gender equity and inclusion on a global scale. She is the Director of Programs & Projects at YWCA Canada where she leads impact-driven initiatives with a vision to see women and girls empowered in a safe and equitable society. She’s also a contributor at Btchcoin News, a British Council Future Leaders Connect fellow, and vice-chair at Springtide Resources. She brings an intersectional feminist lens to all of her work informed by her proud Afro-Caribbean heritage.

 

My first job ever was… a summer job as a records management associate at an insurance company. I was only 15 years old when I started and I remember not having any “professional” clothes to wear. I always joke that I looked like I was dressed as a flower girl at a wedding every day!

I work in the women’s sector/non-profit sector because… I care about creating just futures and I genuinely believe that women and gender-diverse people are the ones to make that happen. I also think that the women’s sector, and non-profit sector more broadly, needs to move away from its roots in white feminism and colonialism to adopt a truly intersectional and inclusive approach to this work. The only way to accomplish that is to have disruptors in this space. I see myself as one of many in this sector who is challenging our norms, innovating for change, and pushing for accountability so that we can collectively move the dial on gender equity, not just equality.

 

I personally reject the idea that being a good leader requires decades of formal experience in leadership roles. Leadership is a journey and it can start at any age.

 

We should entrust young women with positions of leadership because… they’re already doing it. My peers and those younger than me continue to demonstrate their ability to lead change across sectors from climate justice to education to entrepreneurship. I personally reject the idea that being a good leader requires decades of formal experience in leadership roles. Leadership is a journey and it can start at any age.

We should invest in the potential of young women, girls, and gender-diverse youth because … we can’t afford not to. On top of a pandemic, we’re also in a global climate crisis, recession, fight for racial justice, and gender-based violence crisis, among so many other inequities that have only been exacerbated by our current circumstances. Historically, young women, girls, and gender-diverse people – especially those from underrepresented groups – have been excluded from decision-making processes and look where we ended up! Investing in the potential of young people who are furthest from opportunity is where we need to look for the solutions that will set us on the right path forward.

I surprise people when I tell them… that I still struggle with imposter syndrome every day. People often admire my confidence or are impressed by my job title, my degree, and my accolades. Despite all of that, I’m constantly doubting myself and it’s something that I’m trying hard to overcome. Luckily, I’ve surrounded myself with a great community of sponsors and mentors who give me more validation than any award ever could.

The one piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… to take time for self care. And I don’t mean bubble baths and ice cream; I mean true, radical self care that is part of a greater process of healing. I often talk about how important it is, especially with other young folks that I work with, but often don’t practice it myself. 

If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed, it would be… fostering relationships with sponsors who have not only opened doors for me, but set me up for success as I walked through them. I’m lucky to have more than one sponsor, people who take a step beyond mentorship and really invest in my success in such a selfless way. I try to pay it forward as much as possible and sponsor younger youth and even my peers. Sometimes that means passing up on a great opportunity in order to give it to someone else who is much more qualified, but doesn’t have the same connections or public profile. 

I stay inspired by… the people who surround me. My friends, family, and community inspire me every day and keep me grounded in what really matters while doing this work. I learn from them, they support me, they help me grow. I’m so grateful to be around people who sustain me in that way. I would not have made it to where I am without them!