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Talking to Your Manager if You Aren’t Comfortable Returning to the Workplace

Published by: LifeWorks,

If your workplace has reopened following a period of working from home, some of your colleagues might be thrilled, as many people who have been working in cramped conditions look forward to returning to a dedicated workspace. Some will want to get back to socialising with others and some will want space away from the people they live with. But you might not share their enthusiasm, and if you’d prefer to keep working from home, this might require having a difficult conversation with your manager.

Ask what the company policy is

If your workplace announces that staff are returning to the office, it’s worth finding out from your manager or from your human resources (HR) department what the company’s policy is, and how it is making the office space COVID-19 secure. This will help you understand what your employer’s expectations are. The policy may also explain the procedure for applying to continue to work at home, such as completing a form or asking your manager or an HR team member in writing. Find out who needs to approve the request and make sure you follow the correct procedures.

Consider your reasons for wishing to continue to work from home

There are many reasons why working from home may remain the best for your physical and mental health or that of your family. You may be in an at-risk group, or are caring for someone who is; or your children are sent home from school to self-isolate, and being able to work from home with flexible hours means you can better coordinate care or supervision.

Like many others, you may be experiencing anxiety about the pandemic, meaning that being exposed to other people on public transport or in the office would be detrimental to your mental health.

Another reason may be that you find you can work more effectively from home due to the lack of interruptions, or because you have more energy when you don’t have to commute.

Prepare your evidence

As you’ve been working from home for some time already, you will have evidence of your effectiveness while working remotely. You may also want to show that you have the right equipment—a dedicated space, office chair, computer screens, etc.—to accommodate remote work.

If eldercare or childcare is one of the reasons why you’d prefer to stay at home, you may need to demonstrate that you have someone else to take on those responsibilities during work hours.

Be prepared to negotiate

Depending on your reasons for not wanting to return to work in the office—for example, you prefer not having a long commute—your manager may ask you to compromise. For example, you might work from home for most of the week but agree to come in occasionally for a team meeting or to meet a client.

Regardless of your reason for wanting to work from home, it is important to be prepared for the conversation with your manager. If at all possible, set up a time to discuss this with your manager well ahead of the expected return-to-workplace date. This will give your manager some time to look into company policy and any possible exceptions.

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