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There are various questions about how to ask to work from home. I think this is not a duplicate because first, in the other questions, the very idea of working from home is either something novel in the company, or they're about asking for the possibility to work from home already in the interview. The underlying issue here is, I think, somewhat more abstract anyway, as I've also tried to express in the title.

This question seems similar to some existing ones, but as I've outlined below, I see some significant differences.

Brief intro: I'm working as a software developer. I've been with my current employer for about 4 years. As far as I can tell, my superiors and colleagues are rather content with my work, e.g.:

  • I've been granted access to the core packages that only few developers may access.
  • I am trusted to modify basically any part of our products without having a detailed design discussion with the team responsible for the module first.
  • The (three) technical architects regularly ask me to join meetings where fundamental technical decisions about core parts of the products are made that will affect the rest of the (more than 70) developers.
  • I've been given a small team of three people to delegate some tasks to 1.5 years ago.

There's quite some leniency about working times; being absent during the "core presence time" is no issue when announced beforehand, as is occasionally working from home.

Plenty of senior colleagues of mine (those who have been working in that place for 20+ years) have one or even two fixed days for working from home. What I have heard, though, is that our management in general has decided not to guarantee any such arrangement anymore in the contract.

Now, the time for our annual performance reviews is about to start again. My personal situation is that we have two little children and for about a year, my wife has been increasingly adamantly insisting that I negotiate to get allowed to work from home two days a week. Reasons are that I'm often coming home rather late (past 6:30 PM), and that I cannot briefly come home e.g. in order to bring the kids to the doctor for half an hour or so, because it takes roughly one hour from home to work. So, either it's the two days working from home, or I have to switch jobs.

Now, from virtually everything I have learned from reading here and on other sites dealing with similar topics is that I should never "threaten" the employer with quitting.

Thus, my "dilemma" could be summarized as follows:

  • For me, not getting those ~two days of work from home per week is a deal-breaker now, even though it wasn't when I started the job.
  • From the company's point of view, there is no reason to assume I'm unhappy in any way and willing to quit, neither concerning working from home nor about anything else.

I have read various related questions whose answers pointed out that it's important to outline the benefits of my working from home for the company. Now, working somewhat more uninterrupted for a couple of hours (my kids are in child nursery during the day) and not starting my workday after a stressful commute could be presented as benefits for the company. But, truly spoken, at the same time, I see the reduced opportunity to supervise my team members and take part in design discussions with other colleagues as drawbacks that likely will negatively impact the progression of various tasks every now and then (obviously, I'm not going to point that out during the performance review). Thus, I fear my basis for argumentation is a rather weak one.

Is there any way I can "save my job" (which is, I'm pretty sure, the most beneficial outcome for both myself and my employer at this time)? Or have I maneuvered myself into a dead-end already, by not building up a "backstory" in time for my employer to be generally aware I might seriously consider switching jobs if my wishes are not granted?

In fact, I'm also a bit worried related to the last point: If I just casually ask whether working from home more frequently is possible, this is declined, and I quit, will this reflect badly on me due to the apparent unprofessional act of suddenly quitting over what seemed like a non-issue totally out of the blue?


UPDATE: Some aggregated remarks based on the answers and comments so far:

  • As per my contract, I have to work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week (as is pretty much the norm in my place), although this can be shifted around across days and weeks to some extent as flextime. Thus, while I would definitely gain some time by working from home more often, the net time I would be working for my employer would remain the same.
  • As described above, the concept of doing some work from home is somewhat widespread among the company staff already, and thus the tools for it are all in place. That is, a company-internal chat network with voice-chat and screen-sharing capabilities, an issue tracker where all tasks are managed, remote desktop, phones and headsets at each desk, etc. Likewise phone calls with colleagues who are currently at home, working, are commonplace.

Note: I will individually respond to a few comments to more specifically clarify a few points, or ask for clarification. Also, while I already thank everyone the very insightful answers and comments so far, I would like to wait for a few more days before finally deciding on accepting one of the answers, to let things sink in a bit and ponder possible non-obvious caveats.

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    Just a comment to address your worries about the "reduced opportunities to suppervise [your] team" : you'll have to make sure there are adequate tools to allow you to carry your role remotely. This can be made with solutions like voice calls for daily standups, accurate activity tracking tools, and making sure people know how to reach you the days you work from home. If those tools / processes are not implemented yet in your company, listing to your boss what you need to be effective remotely should reassure them. – Aserre Jan 22 at 9:17
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    You don't have threaten your employer. Just say that your wife is doing the threatening. – Stephan Branczyk Jan 22 at 11:20
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    Having been in the situation: Make it crystal clear to your wife that if you happen to get granted "Home-Office" or "Mobile Workplace", you will be "at work" during office hours. Not "at home". I ended up working till 10pm because every 30 minutes, I got interrupted for 5 minutes ... so I gave up on "Home Office" and actually gained free time. – Fildor Jan 22 at 12:27
  • I follow Aserre's comment. The state of tools/processes is an important factor here. I've been to places where remote work was not an issue as teams were already distributed anyway so calling other members was anyway needed and all tools were in place to do so; I've been to places where homeworking was allowed but not promoted and therefore sometimes very painful. In any case I try to adapt to these conditions AND my current work: if I have a big meeting planned with a lot of people, I avoid homeworking, if it's only 1 on 1 skype is almost as good as face to face... – Laurent S. Jan 22 at 12:53
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    @Fildor People who actually worked from home only will understand the situation! Unfortunately, many are willing to avail WFH, while the folks who are entitled, are trying to avoid WFH at all costs. – Sourav Ghosh Jan 22 at 16:13
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We work to live, not the other way around. People have priorities, and they change (over time).

If your changed life priorities warrants that you need to have the work arrangement changed, so be it. You are very right, never go into the mode where you want to "threaten" the employer, as I read so far your work experience has been good. You get into a discussion.

"Is there any way I can "save my job" (which is, I'm pretty sure, the most beneficial outcome for both myself and my employer at this time)? Or have I maneuvered myself into a dead-end already, by not building up a "backstory" in time for my employer to be generally aware I might seriously consider switching jobs if my wishes are not granted?"

Explain the situation and request them to consider the possibility of having you work remotely (from home) for 2 days a week. Without asking, you'll never know what could be the outcome. There's no harm in asking nicely.

  • At best, your request will be approved (maybe with some adjustment).
  • At worst, your request will be rejected and based on your priorities, you may need to find a new job.

There's nothing other than these two can happen. Try to negotiate as best as you can, by putting your case in front of your manager and hope that they understand and have the capacity to allow the request WFH for you. Don't threaten, don't feel guilty for asking, don't compare with others in the organization - it's a requirement you have, and it's a solution you need, focus on that.

Best of luck.

To address some other concerns which you stated:

In fact, I'm also a bit worried related to the last point: If I just casually ask whether working from home more frequently is possible, this is declined, and I quit, will this reflect badly on me due to the apparent unprofessionality of suddenly quitting over what seemed like a non-issue totally out of the blue?

Every single thing cannot be pre-planned, and as I mentioned, priorities change. If you have a requirement (albeit not monetary) that cannot be met in this position with this organization, you need to find one where it can be met. There is nothing so "bad" about that.

But, truly spoken, at the same time, I see the reduced opportunity to supervise my team members and take part in design discussions with other colleagues as drawbacks that likely will negatively impact the progression of various tasks every now and then

If you feel that your physical presence is needed to have meetings and discussion, you need to re-think you approach - there seems to be something missing / going wrong. You absolutely does not need to be present always to have the discussions done and plans conveyed. Use chat tools, online meetings, audio-video conferencing, collaboration platforms (MS teams, Slack etc) to have the discussions / review / meeting.

If you're not comfortable with remote interactions till time, assuming that you get the WFH permission, in the beginning, try to schedule most of the meetings during the days when you'll be in office. Schedule minor meetings / discussion with the team on the WFH days to start with, and with time when you get the grip on the remote interactions, you can plan the usual meeting during WFH days. This is also a very needed soft skill (communication) that will help you in future - as not all the teams are co-located and yo may need to work with completely remote teams in future. Consider this as an opportunity and start the practice.

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  • All of the above, plus start also using Skype (Slack etc) for the the really brief chats, or standups if you're doing Agile. Ideally arrange the formal meetings on specific days (when you're in the office). Make sure you include a video conf invite for these and get used to having at least one person in the meeting doing this, even if they're joining from their desk. Doing this means that everything is operational when you really need it. You don't want to have cancelled meetings or non attendance on your remote days; that looks really bad. – Justin Jan 22 at 10:19
  • @Justin I missed to address that part, let me add that. – Sourav Ghosh Jan 22 at 10:30
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The best way to tackle this is to ask directly. That should be done after some preparation: make sure you have a good plan and answers for all reasonable counter arguments.

Something like this:

Hey boss, due to my family situation with two small kids at home, it would help us enormously if I could work from home two days a week. I don't think this would interfere with my work : I still have three days in the office to do all my one-on-ones and face to face meetings, etc. It probably will even help my productivity since it saves me four hours of commuting that I can partially use to work and the time structure allows for uninterrupted stretches of deep technical work. What do you think ?

If you get a "yes", everything is well. If they are dragging their feet you can increase the urgency. For example

"I understand your concerns but the current situation is really not long term sustainable for me and my family".

This sentence just states a fact. There is no point in tip-toeing around it and it conveys that eventually you will have to leave. The rest is up to them.

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    Be careful with mentioning "kids at home" as your reason, without qualifying it. Some bosses will hear "kids at home" and assume that you'll be trying to raise the kids and program at the same time, which is clearly not a good outcome from the employer's perspective. – dwizum Jan 22 at 15:58
  • "it saves me four hours of commuting that I can partially use to work" - as my total working time is determined by my contract (8 hours/day), the sum of hours worked will not change. But, of course, I am likely to find longer stretches of time that I can focus on something if it's not interrupted or aborted by a commute. – MNF3000 Jan 22 at 21:46
  • @MNF3000: In many countries, fixed work times don't apply to salaried/exempt employees. – Hilmar Jan 24 at 12:24
  • @Hilmar: Thanks for pointing that out; I have added a note about this to the question in the meantime. – MNF3000 Jan 30 at 20:40
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You don't have to "threaten" to leave to imply strongly that this is a deal-breaker for you in continuing to stay at the company. You can state your case and explain it nicely.

I have 2 children at home who I need to take care of, and so I need some allowance to work from home. Previously me and my wife have been doing our best to take care of the kids while working 2 jobs, but we've come to the realization that this isn't sustainable for either of us. In order to spend more time with my kids, I really need some work from home allowance, a couple days per week.

See how that goes. If they say ok, then great! If they say no, then the conversation might go something like this:

Them: Sorry, but we really need you here all the time, because [reasons].
You: Unfortunately, my family and kids are my priority and I really need to spend more time with them. Can we work out another way to resolve [reasons]? Perhaps [solutions]?

Maybe you can suggest solutions that will solve their problems, e.g. scheduling meetings on certain days, having remote meetings (via Skype or some other platform), using Slack or some other messenger more, etc. Or not:

Them: Unfortunately those solutions won't work for the company because of [excuses]. We really need you to be here 5 days per week.
You: That's fair enough. Let me discuss this with my family and get back to you tomorrow.

At this point you have done everything you could: you explained the problem, you offered solutions to their counter-problems, and you have not been approved for remote work. At this point, you have been given an ultimatum by the company: If you want work from home, find it elsewhere. So at this point, it is time to find it elsewhere.

(the next day)
You: After having a discussion with my wife about the situation, we've decided that the opportunity of remote work is too important for me and our family. Unfortunately, this means that I will have to tender my resignation at this company. I really enjoyed my time here and I wish I could have continued, but in my current life stage it's simply not practical due to other responsibilities in my life.

And that's it, then you go and find another job. Normally I would advise not leaving your current job until you've found another, but in the meantime while you're job searching you can use that time to also spend time with your kids. The time without a job is valuable to you, so you should use it for all it's worth (providing your household finances can remain intact).

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    my family and kids are my priority and I really need to spend more time with them. that's a dangerous thing to say. Think about it from the company's perspective: You're basically implying that you'll be working less. It might be safer to not mention kids or family and instead focus on other obvious mutual benefits - no wasted time from commuting, better ability to focus, or whatever. If you do mention kids, it's better to qualify that they're in child care during working hours and won't be a distraction. – dwizum Jan 22 at 16:02
  • @dwizum At the experience and seniority level of OP within his company, I think it's safe. Does the company really expect that none of their employees do currently or ever will have young children at home? To be honest if my company took issue with my having a family at home, I'd probably just look for a new company on that basis alone. I do agree with emphasizing that they will be in child care most of the time though, that makes sense. – Ertai87 Jan 22 at 16:04
  • I think you've missed the point I was trying to make. The employer's issue is certainly not with you having kids at home. The employer's issue is that they are paying you to work, and if you're trying to work and raise your kids at the same time they're getting less than they paid for. If you say "I want to work from home so I can spend more time on X" then they might conclude that that extra time spent on X has to come from somewhere (less time spent working). Of course, it could come from not commuting - in which case, just call that out, instead of mentioning a potential distraction. – dwizum Jan 22 at 16:08
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    @dwizum That is a fair way to frame it and probably a good thing to mention. That said, I would hope that a tech company in 2020 is less focused on "time spent working" and more focused on "work getting done", and thus the assurance that you will be spending "time" working should not matter, so long as the work gets done; based on the OP's situation I would expect the company to have that level of trust in him that the work will get done even if the time spent working is less. But it depends on OP's situation and I can't say that for sure. – Ertai87 Jan 22 at 16:24
  • I agree with that, in terms of what the company should be focusing on. That said, even now in 2020, it's pretty shocking how easily some employees abuse work from home, and how quickly they will (sometimes unconsciously) fall into a habit of being so distracted by their home environment (pets, kids, hobbies, mowing the lawn, TV, etc) that they become less valuable employees. If you are diligent enough to not fall into that trap, and taking steps to prevent it (kids at daycare), you might as well be explicit in telling your employer that. – dwizum Jan 22 at 16:34

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