To those who’ve experienced soul-numbing professional office environments, the ability to work remotely is a gift. Ridding oneself of monotonous daily commutes, shallow workplace interactions, and “open” office layouts is an opportunity worth protecting and fighting for.
The tendency for corporate management to force their employees back into the office is mysterious in its origin and motivation. Whether this desire stems from the need to fill leased office space, the need for increased control, or alleged dips in employee productivity, the fact remains that the luxuries of remote work are in the fickle hands of management.
This article is for those who are experiencing workplace management forcing remote employees to come back into the office. It is specifically a tool for remote workers for whom remote working arrangements make sense, and who are not willing to part with this professional arrangement.
File and Cite Performance Reviews, History, Praise
A principal task in getting ready for pushing back against a call back into the office is to organize evidence of your good performance whilst working remotely. Direct and documented praise from the very superiors which are pushing a move back into the office is material of the highest quality in this context.
Objective and measurable evidence for your good work whilst working remotely is also necessary to organize and ready for presentation and citation. This focus on historic validation of your performance as a remote worker will serve as insurance against arguments that your remote work arrangement is detrimental to your performance.
Prepare a clear and compelling case for why your remote work arrangement is beneficial not only for you, but also for your employer and your team. You should highlight the advantages of remote work, such as increased flexibility, productivity, creativity, and well-being. You should also address the potential challenges or concerns that your employer may have, such as communication, collaboration, accountability, and security. You should provide concrete examples and solutions for how you have overcome or mitigated these challenges in your remote work experience. You should emphasize the value that you bring to your organization and how your remote work arrangement supports and enhances that value.
Open Channels of Communication With Others in the Same Position
Creating a sense of comfort and understanding among colleagues who feel the same way as you do about returning to the office is important in not only gauging your response, but also encouraging similar responses from others.
In discussing your feelings about returning to the office with your colleagues, you’ll better understand just how many of them feel the same way as you do. Among those who feel the same as you, you should seek to make them comfortable enough to push back against the proposal to move back into the office. Increasing the numbers of those who push back against your management’s decision to end or adjust remote working arrangements for the worst is beneficial in stifling the movement.
One way to open channels of communication with your colleagues is to create a group chat or a forum where you can share your thoughts and opinions about returning to the office. This can help you to find out who is on your side, who is undecided, and who is in favor of going back to the office. You can also use this platform to share relevant articles, research, or data that support your position and show the benefits of remote work.
Another way to communicate with your colleagues is to schedule regular meetings or calls where you can discuss your concerns and challenges about returning to the office. This can help you to build rapport and trust with your colleagues, as well as to identify common issues and solutions. You can also use these meetings or calls to brainstorm ideas on how to negotiate with your management and present a unified front.
By opening channels of communication with your colleagues, you can create a sense of solidarity and empowerment among remote workers. You can also increase the chances of convincing your management to reconsider their decision or at least offer some flexibility and compromise.
Don’t Get Sucked Into a Series of Yesses
The end of a remote working arrangement begins as a proposal to implement a hybrid working arrangement. Even one day a week in the office is a big win for corporate management whose long term vision is to end remote work arrangements as a whole. A smart tactic on their part would be to get employees to commit to a series of smaller agreements which pull them away from remote working arrangements.
What starts as a one-day-a-week in office hybrid arrangement will inevitably grow in scope. Notwithstanding the fact that your physical location would now be controlled due to the fact that you need to be in office one day a week (thereby not being able to live far from work, or go on trips when needed), you’ll also be much easier to approach when it comes time to ask for more days in the office.
If possible, avoid saying yes to the first and smallest proposal to return back to the office.
One way to avoid getting sucked into a series of yesses is to establish clear boundaries and expectations with your manager. If you have a written agreement or contract that specifies your remote working arrangement, refer to it and remind your manager of the benefits and outcomes that you have delivered while working remotely. If you don’t have a written agreement, try to document your achievements and contributions as a remote worker, and use them as evidence to support your case. You can also point out the costs and risks of changing your working arrangement, such as reduced flexibility, increased stress, lower morale, and potential loss of talent. Be firm and assertive in communicating your preference and rationale for staying remote, and don’t let your manager pressure you into compromising your work-life balance.
Create a Sense of Impossibility Without Compromise
Establishing the impossibility of returning back to the office is essential to do at the very onset of any conversations on this front. Establishing impossibility essentially means giving reasons as to why you can’t make it back into the office after growing accustomed to a lifestyle around remote work.
Coupled with the presentation of past performance reviews and history, displaying that a return back to the office is not possible from your perspective due to various constraints will leave the ball in management’s court. Whether you’ve settled into living too far from work, are tasked with babysitting your newborns while working from home, or taking care of your elderly folks with the help of remote work, framing a return back to the office as not possible from the get-go will make further negotiations difficult for senior leadership to resume.
Some examples of constraints that can make returning to the office impossible are:
– Relocation to a different city or country that is far away from the office location
– Family or personal obligations that require flexible hours and location
– Health or safety concerns that make commuting or working in a shared space risky or uncomfortable
– Financial or logistical challenges that make traveling or renting a place near the office unfeasible
– Professional or personal preferences that make working remotely more productive, satisfying, or enjoyable
These constraints should be presented as facts, not as excuses, and should be backed up by evidence or documentation if possible. For instance, if you have relocated to a different country, you can show your visa or rental agreement as proof. If you have family obligations, you can explain how they affect your availability and schedule. If you have health or safety concerns, you can cite medical or official sources that support your case.
The goal of establishing impossibility is to make it clear that returning to the office is not a viable option for you, and that you are not willing to compromise on this matter. This will force management to either accept your remote work arrangement, offer you an alternative solution, or terminate your employment. Depending on your situation and goals, any of these outcomes may be preferable to giving up your remote work benefits.