6

I started a new job as a developer about 8 months ago. I negotiated with my employer to work part-time, having great flexibility on start/end hours, as I have a kid.

At the begining of this year, we had an extra workload and they offered me to start fulltime, but I still want to spend time with my kid, so I finally negotiated a tailored schedule, working full-time for a week and then part time the other week. In compensation, I had very symbolic raise in my salary, but I am confortable with it because I have good balance between life and work.

But the problems come now: lately I ask to my boss to have ocassional remote-working days but he does not like the idea, and does not want to people to work remotely. As he states, this kind of "special" status could be viewed for the rest of my coworkers as an unfair favour tratement to me. From my point of view, working remotely the weeks I am working part time improves my performance and productivity as I skip commute and can start working early in the morning, till I go to the school to pick up my son.

I don't think if this could be viewed as favourable treatment, but I am not sure, and I would like to have a conversation with him to discuss our points of view about the matter. I don't feel comfortable I an place where you could feel guilty for working remotely.

Is there a way to discuss this and/or explain the benefits of working remotely?

Do you think that this could be viewed as a favour treatment to me if I have had previously discussed and negotiated my own conditions?

EDIT — for clarifying some variables:

  • My coworkers who could be feel mistreated if they ask for working remotely are fairly juniors, and I think that is the main reason my boss does not want to allow them to work in that way.
  • I have almost ten years of experience, and I worked remotely a few times in the past, and always from time to time.
  • My goal is to have the freedom to ask for it sometimes, as I know that I need to be in the office most time, to socialize with my coworkers, feel part of a team, attend meetings and have trivial conversations.
  • 2
    Was there any mention of remote work by you or by your employer prior to you asking about it these past weeks/months? – Lilienthal Apr 12 '18 at 19:38
  • @Lilienthal I can't remember and it is not written, so I could not assure by 100% that we dicussed about it in the initial negotiation, but had neither we dicussed what if they had an extra workload and if I'd will be prone to accept it or want to work more hours. So for me, those were "flexible" terms in our contract. – Jimmy Corrigan Apr 12 '18 at 22:32
  • I think you ask too much. Your boss already gave you a special treatment: working full-time for a week and then part time the other week. To be fair, if you want to work remotely, you probably need to give up this kind of special schedule and have a real full time schedule, then ask for working remotely from time to time. – scaaahu Apr 13 '18 at 3:58
11

You are on an uphill swim on this one. For six years, I worked remotely 2 days a week at a company that discouraged working from home except when it was needed. How? I negotiated this up front when I was hired and they were desperate, and later when they tried to take it away, I let them know (nicely) that I'd probably be looking for another job if they pulled back this benefit. They never questioned me again about it.

Perhaps the same hard-nosed attitude will work in your case. I have since switched jobs, and I can say, it's so much nicer to work in a "work-from-home" culture, than going against the flow like the first job I talked about.

4

I'm a huge fan of allowing remote work and it is something that is always on my wish list when job hunting.

Unfortunately many employers have not quite caught up or caught on to the benefits of remote work.

In your particular case however I'm not sure that this is exactly what is going on here.

Possibly your manager is viewing the situation as that they have already bent over backwards to give you flexibility and to give you a good work-life balance and that you still aren't satisfied.

Possibly he is worried about morale in the rest of the team, this statement rings a lot of alarm bells:

this kind of "special" status could be viewed for the rest of my coworkers as an unfair favorable treatment to me

Many people would want working remotely - and while it may be suitable for your job role it isn't suitable for all. Unfortunately attempting to explain that to half a dozen jealous co-workers who just see you as getting "special treatment" isn't exactly amongst most managers' favorite things! And to be honest it never ends with everyone going away happy.

2

For a lot of people, remote working is more productive and gives them a better work/life balance. So in this regard it is favouring one employee over another. The question you then need to ask your boss is why can't everyone do it? (Or at least everyone with the same job role, some jobs don't really work remotely).

Your boss is probably sceptical, asking questions like, if I can't see them how do I know they are working? The answer to this is to measure your output. Communication is key, regularly keep him up to date with what you have got done, both in and out of the office. It should then be clear that it is beneficial to productivity.

You can sell it as a trial and set a time limit to review if it is working. If he can see the increased productivity it can be expanded to other employees. This way there is less preferential treatment.

Finally, remember not to abuse his trust and understand that sometime you will likely need to be in the office. Do not underestimate the importance of communication. If no one can contact you, they will likely assume that you aren't working. It will also take time for everyone to get used to the new way of working and using more electronic communication.

I highly suggest reading some of Stack Overflow's fantastic blogs on how they handle being a 'Remote First' company. Also the book Remote: Office Not Required. If you are going to be allowed to try remote working, you'll want it to go as smoothly as possible, so using resources like these to identify common pitfalls will help.

  • Unfortunately, for some people working remotely makes them less productive, this may have been the boss's experience with remote workers in the past. – HLGEM Apr 13 '18 at 18:49
  • It all comes down to trust though. If you don't trust your employees to work the way that is best then why do you hire them. Some people I work with find working at home very productive and make good use of it. Other who have young children and not much room don't find it productive, so they mostly just work from the office. – Mike159 Apr 14 '18 at 9:11
1

One issue of consideration that I always get thrown to me is team interaction.

Your team members will have an easier time communicating with you when you are onsite than when you are remotely working. Although mobile phone calls, texting, instant messaging and email may be available, there is nothing like walking over to your office and having a direct conversation with you.

Also, scheduling conferences or meetings when you are remote is difficult. At my present work, we can go into a conference room with people, draw on the white board and show files on the Big Screen. This is difficult with remote connections, as sharing of the Big Screen data is difficult with the company's I.T. security concerns (we can remotely log into PCs, but can't remotely log on to conference room PCs).

In most of my career, I needed to be onsite to use the equipment. Developing software on an embedded system, may need the system reset, which is difficult to do remotely (also, pressing any buttons on the device is difficult also).

In summary, look at the situation from the team's perspective. Although the company may have the setup for remote conferences, communication is not as efficient between remote people and the team (including team members at satellite offices). Usage of company equipment may not be available at your home site (we don't have enough equipment for people to bring it home to use). Also, the company may have to purchase additional copies of software or give you a laptop to use. Be considerate of this view. I have worked on both sites (working from home when family members are sick) and having to communicate with team members who are offsite.

1

So here's the thing: this is something you should have brought up at the beginning of the year when you increased the number of hours in your schedule. That's a point where you have bargaining power and where you can reasonably make these kinds of requests. That's not to say you can't still bring it up now, but you have much less leverage and the fact that you are still very new to the company and have just been through a partial re-negotiation is a complicating factor. In most situations like these as a manager I'd be worried that I'd have to do this negotiating dance every five months, though I assume you didn't initiate the discussion early in the year.

So with that out of the way, how do you go about this? You have to point out the value this arrangement will bring to your employer (more and more efficient work out of you) and manage his concerns around perception and "playing favourites". I'll provide a sample script below but it's very condensed and something you should adapt to fit your situation. Ideally you open with something like this and then have a conversation on the pros and cons and try to convince your manager to approve a trial period. Those are a great way to introduce remote work in a team or organisation.

We discussed remote work before but I wanted to share my perspective. From my point of view working remotely would allow me to be a lot more productive and further improve an already good work-life balance. Things like [insert work you do here] lend themselves well to remote work and I find that I can really focus better on [X, Y and Z] when I'm in my home office. If I work remotely [X%] of the time, I will still be visible enough in the office but I'm convinced I would be more productive overall.

I got the sense that you're reluctant to approve remote work, mainly because of concerns over favourable treatment. I get that my part-time status might play into that as well and I do realise that if I work remotely, others might want that option as well. Frankly I think that makes sense for our more senior people provided their activities are suited to remote work like mine. I suspect you're worried that the more junior people might be annoyed that they're too early in their careers to work remotely and we should manage their expectations on that. But for the senior staff I think this would be a valuable perk and help us to retain and attract great employees.

The reason I focus on getting this model adopted for all senior people is that you legitimately can't ask for special treatment for just yourself. It would come across as tone-deaf after the previous conversations where your manager specifically pointed that out as an issue. That's not to say that individual work arrangements should be verboten by default, but your manager has signalled that he considers it a problem. To be very clear, your manager has an outdated stance on remote work and is giving of signals of incompetence to me by hiding behind "perception" problems that he as a manager should be, you know, managing.

If you get the sense that your manager is worried over being unable to track your work without seeing you in your seat, that's also a legitimate problem that you should address, but it's beyond the scope of this question.

-2

If he allows you to work remotely he would have to offer this to the rest of the employees. It could cost the company money for the extra infrastructure.

I guess he does not want this cost and perhaps he does not like this model of employment

  • Please explain the downvote – Ed Heal Apr 12 '18 at 19:37
  • Upvote from me - while this might have been better as a comment, it explains viewpoints important to understand and consider when arguing. – rackandboneman Apr 12 '18 at 21:35
  • 1
    What costs of infrastructure for remote work are you considering? A VPN is all we need and that cost is offset by the (employer-provided) coffee we don't drink when at the office. – Glen Pierce Apr 13 '18 at 1:40
  • Also, if someone isn't feeling well enough to go into the office, but is good to work at home, or while away on a trip, it's worth it to our employer. They'd much rather pay us for the work we can get done remotely than pay for sick days, vacation days, or even not paying us since our productivity is more valuable than our wages. – Glen Pierce Apr 13 '18 at 1:43
  • Remote work is especially invaluable for software development when you need to concentrate on a complex task in a tight schedule. You would not have that kind of silence at most open plan offices. – Juha Untinen Apr 13 '18 at 4:24

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