In December 2019, I sat down with my manager to make a request that was very unconventional at my company. I decided that I wanted to transition into a full-time remote role. This decision didn’t derive from some dream of mine of sitting at a cafe with coffee in hand while answering emails for a job that I love. Although that sounded pretty amazing too. And fortunately, it’s something I get to do now as a result of remote work flexibility.
As for someone who had been in the “real world” for about six months, this was never in my career plan. Quite frankly, this idea arose more out of a need than a want. I was in my transitional periods at that time where I was looking to move out — I had the option to stay in the same city, and get a place of my own but continue to live my life the way I had been. Or the second option of moving to a new city with my best friend where endless adventures were awaiting me. Between the choice of comfort or adventure, I preferred a unique experience of adjusting to an unfamiliar place.
Moving away to a different city meant I needed to find a new job. However, due to time constraints, I decided it would be more practical to ask my employer for a remote work allowance. This way I could focus on the moving logistics than going through the emotional rollercoaster of job search.
The idea of asking a remote work contract with my employer was daunting, but I knew that If I don’t ask for it, I wouldn’t be giving myself a fair shot.
So, one day I walked into my manager’s office and requested a remote work arrangement. A long hour discussion, with a bit of nerve-wrecking waiting period, my request was approved.
Now I’ve been working remotely since January of 2020. Here are the things that helped me position myself well to strengthen my case for a remote position –
Knowing what I wanted and going for it
Before I set out to ask for a remote role, it was important that I assessed if working remotely was something I desired and could effectively execute. Often times, we think we like or want something, when in reality, we only like the idea of it. Defining my goal and why I wanted to work remote helped me create a plan towards making it happen. It became much easier to achieve it once I established my reasons to want to work remotely. I realized that although working remote could have its own unique set of challenges, It’s not entirely out of the question. After assessing the possibility of working remotely, I felt much more secure going into the conversation with my boss.
Building good relationships
Building social connections at work matters more than we realize sometimes. Many of my coworkers (even with the big age gap between us) have become some of my biggest cheerleaders, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.
Being a part of a team where I know I’m supported and trusted has allowed me to take a chance for remote work and be successful in achieving it.
When I first started my role, I used to make a conscious effort to schedule a time in my day to get to know my coworkers — whether that meant popping over to their’s desk, offering a coffee, taking short walks around the office building, or grabbing lunch together. It’s very easy to be self-focused and get consumed with everything that we have to get done. But setting aside time to socialize with them, even if it’s just a few minutes hallway conversation goes a long way.
What I’ve learned from my experience is that when your colleagues like you and the work you put in, they’re willing to go above and beyond to support you. As I mentioned previously, working remotely was rather rare for my role within my company. My team members who had more years of built expertise, superior skills, more leverage, and more connections than me didn’t have this same flexibility.
In most corporate settings, when we see someone on our “level” or junior to us receive something that we hold of value, we tend to feel envious. However, to my relief, my teammates were quite supportive of my decision and acted as my referent power in my remote proposal. Thus, I realized the value of building authentic connections at work.
Doing my job and doing it well.
Before I started working remotely permanently, I used to work from home once a week. Even though I had no plans to transition for a full-time remote position at the time, I never took the flexibility to work from home lightly. I would put my best effort into making it visible to my boss and team that I was efficient when working from home. Later, I was able to point back and highlight my productivity to help support my case.
When you’re remote, the separation between work and life is challenging to maintain. It takes good self-discipline and focus on the task at hand to do our job exceptionally well. If you want to demonstrate that you are efficient while working remotely, you have to prove that you can be successful in your role even if you aren’t at your desk. Use the time you’re working from home to set up meetings in people’s calendars. Some people don’t feel comfortable reaching out first. If that’s the case, you might need to be the one to proactively set up “virtual coffees” or some form of periodic meetings to remain connected with your team members. Doing this helps to build your presence without being physically present.
Before you decide to discuss a remote opportunity with your boss, arm yourself with facts and research. Reach out directly to other employees within your company that you know are working remotely. I talked to at least three people about my situation and asked them for tips as well as their own stories of landing remote position. Along with that, I gathered proof that working remotely makes employees more productive, capable, energetic, and happy. I thought of all the possible reasons why my boss would say no and came up with a reasonable counter-argument for each.
The idea of negotiating a remote role or asking for flexibility for that matter can seem paralyzing to many. Our fear of being told “no” holds us back from going after what we want. While working at home has become more common than ever before, it isn’t to say everyone can successfully work remotely. You have to decide for yourself if rewards far outweigh the bad. After seven months of working remotely full time, I can say remote work setup has been life-changing in many ways.