Suppose remote work stayed? Not so fast.
Three years ago, lockdowns forced everyone to their homes, zealous bosses instituted policies to support the well-being of WFH staff, and the office was gleefully denounced as a relic of the past. WFH was the “new normal”.
Two years ago, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon famously questioned this: “It’s not a new normal. It is a mistake that we will correct as soon as possible.”
Fast forward to 2023 and the reckoning takes place.
Leading the charge to correct this “discrepancy” is Disney CEO Bob Iger, who told employees in February they are expected to show up in person four days a week, saying it would “help creativity, culture and benefit the careers of our employees”. ”
Companies like insurance giant Axa, which is opting for a hybrid model with high flexibility, are taking a more balanced approach.
Since the pandemic, legitimate fears about remote working have surfaced from both sides: reduced productivity due to lack of space and privacy; the mental strain of being digitally connected 24/7; Teams become isolated and spend less time collaborating; the difficulty of onboarding and acclimatizing new employees in nearly empty offices; the loss of skills and cultural confidence once acquired through informal mentoring chats in hallways and elevators.
While companies are still figuring out what’s best for them, workers are very conscious of what they think works best. With survey after survey, they want flexibility.
Over two-thirds of respondents to a 2021 FlexJobs survey wanted to remain full-time remote workers. More than half said they would “absolutely” look for a new job if they couldn’t continue working remotely.
Three years later, the balance of power has shifted. Many workers no longer have the upper hand when it comes to flexibility. But as a Senior Training Consultant, I have some tips for job seekers caught in the predicament between dream job and dream life far away:
Negotiate your case
Before you quit your job or turn down an offer because it requires five days a week in the office, prepare to present and argue your case.
First, look at it from the company’s perspective. You’ll be looking for a good, enthusiastic co-worker, someone who can befriend the team and won’t hide with the camera off on a Zoom call.
Achieving that perfect balance between WFH and office work will take time and it will be difficult to convince your interviewer. Here are some steps you need to consider:
1. Find out about the company beforehand
How does it work? Is it already open for remote or hybrid work? Keep in mind that regardless of the company’s remote work policy, you may be expected to work in the office during a trial period. You have to be clear about that.
2. “Any questions?”
Take the opportunity to get some information about the day-to-day work structures in the company. How many people are in the team? Where are you? Who do you report to and where does this person work? This will give you a good sense of where people are and where and when the work is likely to get done.
3. Reframe the narrative
Achieving that perfect balance of WFH and office work will take time and is unlikely to be achieved during the interview, where your motivation for the job will be crucial in the eyes of the hiring committee.
Will they believe that you really want to work with their particular company – or that you will take up a career that allows you to work from home? A common pitfall I often encounter with clients is people who state a need for flexibility because they don’t want to give up childcare or be stuck in traffic for hours every day.
These are externalities – they have nothing to do with the employer. Instead, focus on the positive aspects of WFH for them; You will be more motivated, more organized, less distracted and have more freedom to innovate.
4. Focus on getting the job first
Negotiate the terms second. During the interview, focus on concrete examples of your achievements. Mention how this work was done remotely or in a blended environment, but not before describing the success and outcome. If all else fails, get the job and then negotiate a transfer.
5. Use your location to your advantage
I know a manager who ran a large recruitment round in September 2022 and none of the job applicants were based in the organization’s hometown.
The applicants who got the jobs were the ones who explained how their specific locations could be a valuable asset to the company. When I contacted her recently, she said that much of what the candidates said had borne fruit and, as a result, the firm was better able to gain a foothold in traditionally undeveloped parts of the country.
5. Be flexible
Remember that flexibility is a two-way street. Whatever the company policy regarding remote work, show your enthusiasm for the day-to-day work, but also for the general culture. Tell them that you would appreciate some training or even a trial period in the office so you can learn about their processes and bring them back to their more permanent place of work: your home.
Do not approach this ultimatum (or negotiations). One woman I’ve spoken to in the past told me that her company announced Wednesday was a new “anchor day” when all employees were required to be present for face-to-face meetings. In response, she told her manager that she bought a house across the country during the pandemic and would quit if she was expected to take the train to the capital every week. You can guess their answer.
6. Be patient
Work on the basis that remote work can be earned if it’s not an option at first. One of my clients is halfway through his six-month trial in a role he loves.
When he started, the company made it clear that he was expected to be in the office any day, four days a week. Once he has passed his probationary period, he can reduce it to two. But everyone knows that he has to prove himself first.
Don’t turn down an attractive position if you can’t start working remotely; Instead, plan to build trust and a track record that can then be used as a foundation for finding what you want six months from now. If this is agreed, get it in writing.
WFH or remote working can mean anything from never showing up to the office, to Zalando with the ability – in some cases – to work abroad for up to 30 working days a year. It could mean that a company like Bolt is supporting your move to Estonia. Or Immersive Labs’ offering could appeal with flexible start and finish times and job-sharing options.
This depends on the role and the type of work required, which in turn affects the company’s work patterns.
Take the flexible-sounding Octopus Energy: “Ideally you work in the greater Manchester area and like to come into the office a few days a week. But we appreciate that things have changed and flexibility is high on everyone’s agenda. So if you prefer to work remotely, please let us know.”
Well, that sounds like the kind of company that wants to make work “work” for you.
Discover some of the other flexible employers currently actively hiring through the House of Talent Job Board