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We are a team of seven and, due to the pandemic, have been working from home for over a year. Our boss is not a fan of remote work; however, at least three of us would like to continue working from home once the pandemic is over.

We each came to this conclusion independently, but largely for the same reasons: We can easily do our jobs remotely (speaking for myself, I actually find it more productive) and, because our workplace is relatively remote, we don’t really like wasting 2+ hours every day on the commute.

Our employer has a procedure to apply for flexible working. One of us has already started this process. What would be the best approach for the rest of us? My concern is that if we all apply at once, while it lends weight to each of our arguments, it’s going to look like a “coup” (for want of a better word).

My other concern is that a valid reason for the formal request to be denied is that my boss finds it harder to manage us remotely; given a year’s precedent and that we’re clearly capable of autonomy, I personally find this a bit weak, but it’s not up to me!

As far as I know, we’re all willing to be flexible. While fully remote working would be ideal, we would be happy to come in, say, 50% of the time. However, none of us are expert negotiators and quite introvert, compared to our boss’ extrovert personality.

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  • join a union?...
    – Kilisi
    Apr 17 at 23:56
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    I think your intuition is correct. If you are coordinating your negotiations, don't advertise this fact unless you are prepared for a nasty battle. Knowing the terms received by others is a massive first step. Another under-the-radar tactic that can be potent, is if one of your group gets another job, time the culmination of individual negotiations right after they give notice. Another is to let the strongest/most valuable ones go first.
    – Pete W
    Apr 18 at 1:28
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First make the application. Don't worry what it looks like. If the boss sees you all applying for remote work, it means you all want to work remotely. It that makes him insecure enough to start worrying about a "coup" that's his problem.

Second, you will get better response if you go to your boss together. Don't worry about "bargaining" at this stage. You are just asking for something. Set up a meeting with all of you and your boss, choose a spokesperson, and put to your boss the reasons why you would like to work from home. Explain the benefits to him and the company, not just to yourself. If possible address his likely concerns. Read up a little bit about negotiation - but don't worry too much.

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What you're describing is "collective bargaining". It's something that trades unions do all the time.

But that's only going to work if:

  1. You actually bargain collectively. If everybody puts in an application separately, then the boss can say "no" separately to each one.
  2. You have something to offer, or alternatively something to threaten with. Do you have any idea what you are going to do if the boss says "no"? If not, then you aren't in any position to bargain.
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One of us has already started this process.

Right. So the thing is, if that person is accommodated, and the rest of you aren't, they won't try to do anything about it and they won't care. You're not actually a group and you don't have group power. That would require agreeing to refuse individual accommodations and some ability to stop work together and you don't have anything like that. So you need to apply too.

That being said, there is still a slight difference between a remote team and a collection of remote individuals. If you think a remote team will function well you should share your opinion with your boss. You don't need to be gossipy, adversarial or sound like a ring leader, and you don't need to hide that you have conversations with your coworkers.

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