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How To Make That Temporary Work-From-Home Arrangement More Permanent

While it’s true some people were fortunate enough to have work-from-home jobs prior to the pandemic, the Great Lockdown of 2020 shifted remote work culture in a practically unprecedented way. According to WFH Research, more than 60% of days were worked from home at the time. And although that number dropped to roughly 25% by 2023, it’s still a considerably higher percentage than pre-pandemic times. But with many companies currently issuing return-to-office mandates, it feels like that margin may diminish this year. So, what do you do if you want to turn your WFH situationship into a more permanent arrangement?

It’s clear that not all companies and executives see working from home as a positive development. In a 2020 interview with The Wall Street Journal, Netflix Executive Chairman Reed Hastings deemed remote work a “pure negative.” In 2023, Disney CEO Bog Iger issued a memo to employees outlining a four-day-per-week return to office. The list goes on.

However, remote work has become increasingly popular with working parents for its flexibility and convenience. And with today’s technology, working from home is easier than ever. If you’re one of the many (many) workers who feel this way and want to keep your remote setup, keep reading for pro tips and pointers on making things permanent.

How to Convince the Boss WFH is Best

Going toe-to-toe with your boss may feel like a losing battle. Before you head to Indeed, though, it never hurts to have a conversation; it might go better than you anticipated.

Heading into the meeting, keep in mind:

  • What you bring to the table! Come with facts and figures demonstrating how you’ve continued to bring that same quality and dedication when working from home.
  • You need to address their concerns. If your boss feels strongly that in-person communication is essential, offer an alternative plan that sees you agreeing to come to the office occasionally for meetings.
  • According to McKinsey, 21% of Americans say the ability to work from home is a top motivator when looking for a job, and roughly 58% of jobs now offer at least partial remote (or hybrid) opportunities. In other words, if your job won’t flex for you, it’s easier than ever to find a job that will.
  • McKinsey also shares that 29% of employees struggle with childcare issues, 21% of working individuals face difficulties finding transportation to and from work, and 24% of people say physical health and abilities limit their ability to work effectively. All of these problems become easier to manage when working from home.

How to Work from Home Without Always Working at Home

One of the hardest parts of working from home isn’t getting work done; it’s making sure you’re not always working. When your home becomes your office, it’s easy to find yourself answering emails while binge-watching Yellowstone on your couch at midnight. Sometimes, that’s necessary, but it can lead to burnout if it becomes a habit.

To help avoid that fate, try the following tips.

Set clear work hours.

This doesn’t have to mean 9-5 every day. Maybe your day is spread into manageable chunks around school drop-offs and pick-ups. Perhaps you work on Sunday once a month because you’re class mom the following Monday.

Make a designated workspace.

Not everyone has the luxury of enough space for a “home office.” However, if you’re trying to take the pandemic WFH vibes and make them permanent, it’s time to create a space that is specifically for work and isn’t pulling double duty. Sacrifice the hall closet for a hideaway office area, set up a small desk in the corner of the dining room, or, even better, let your little ones share a room so you can create a home office. A physical barrier (like a door you can close) will help you literally shut out work drama when the day is done.

Make sure work and home are on the same page.

If you’re constantly being interrupted by home life while working, it will make you feel like you need to work when you should be off. On the other hand, if you’re constantly interrupting home life to deal with work, you’ll feel like you never have time off. In both instances, you’re destined to end up with serious burnout.

Aside from keeping calendars and timers handy that everyone in the house can understand, you might try setting up a visible reminder that you’re working and shouldn’t be interrupted. Think: an “on air” light or a “do not disturb” sign.

How to Keep Up Productivity During Office Hours

Again, the best way to maintain productivity is to set clear boundaries between work and family time. If your family knows you’re working at certain times, they’ll eventually learn not to interrupt. There are other ways to ensure you’re staying focused, though. Try:

  • Body-doubling. Body doubling is basically setting an appointment with a friend, co-worker, or even a stranger to be on the phone or Zoom together while you work. You might start with a quick chat. Or you might get right to work. Having someone with you holds you accountable for that time allotment — even when you’re not working on the same thing.
  • Functional breaks. When you were in the office, you weren’t tied to your chair for eight hours. You walked to your boss’s office to ask questions, rolled to the next cubicle to see what your friend was eating for lunch, or walked downstairs to the vending machine for a snack. Make sure you’re doing the same at home. Take a stroll through the yard while you take a phone call. Schedule time to step away from your desk and eat lunch… even if you answer emails in the drive-thru line.
  • The Pomodoro Technique. It’s an easy enough concept. Set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on one task. When the timer goes off, take a five-minute break. After 3-4 cycles, take a longer break of, say, 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Adapting your schedule. One of the benefits of working from home is that you’re not locked into a 9-5 schedule. If you’re a night owl who works better after the sunset, see how many of your weekly hours you can get away with squeezing in after bedtime. You’ll most likely need to be available during most “business hours.” However, there will be plenty of time that you can schedule to work when others aren’t.

A Final Word of Encouragement

Don’t get discouraged if your boss just isn’t going for your fully-remote pitch. You can (and should) try broaching the conversation again at a later date. Keeping kicking ass at your job, adding more ammunition you can use when you make the case for remote work again.

And if working from home is that important to you — and a definite no from your current employer — at least you’ll gain some clarity that could give you the push you need to look elsewhere.

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