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Want to work from home? Here's how to convince your boss

Those who wish to work remotely will have to prepare a business case, one expert says

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Studies show being able to work from home at least some of the time has become a top priority for many Canadians. (Delmaine Donson via Getty Images)

The ability to work from home has quickly become a new bargaining chip in workplace negotiations between employees and their employer, where topics such as pay and health benefits might have typically dominated such conversations in the past.

The latest incidence of remote work being a sticking point between an organization and its workers is the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) strike. The union is at odds with the federal government over the right to work from home in the collective agreement.

The key for employees in negotiating the ability to work remotely, even if it's just a couple of days a week, comes down to removing emotion from the discussion and focusing on the business case for the employer, according to Mike Shekhtman, senior regional director with recruitment firm Robert Half.

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Individuals that make it more emotional and make it more about ‘me,’ tend to have the negotiation go sidewaysMike Shekhtman of Robert Half

Regardless of the employee's personal reasons for wanting to work from home, they need to lay out the benefits for the employer, he says.

"An employee needs to put together some sort of business case to the 'why' where you can explain, maybe with supporting data, why you'll be even more productive with your job," he told Yahoo Finance Canada by phone.

"Individuals that make it more emotional and make it more about 'me,' tend to have the negotiation go sideways."

A recent survey from Robert Half found 85 per cent of workers say they were interested in a hybrid or fully remote work model, and a quarter of those respondents say they would accept a pay cut of 16 per cent on average if they were able to work from home.

While employees should have their boundaries and deal-breakers in place going into talks, adopting a "my way or the highway" approach will likely mean they'll run into a wall of resistance from the boss, Shekhtman adds.

Long commutes a deterrent in return to the office

Earlier this year, the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research examined how much time workers in different countries saved on commuting by working remotely. For Canada, employees saved an average of 65 minutes, and about 40 per cent of that time was instead spent working at their job, the study found.

A compromise employees could make, Shekhtman says, is offering to dedicate some of the time to working that is saved from not commuting to their job.

Another option to increase flexibility could also be discussing shifting your work schedule to avoid travelling in the thick of rush-hour traffic, he adds.

Convincing senior executives

In some cases, it's the managers who need to advocate to senior leadership to allow their team to work remotely.

In early March, Dave McKay, chief executive officer of Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) (RY), one of the country's largest employers, said remote work was hurting productivity and innovation in Canadian society and acknowledged that some corporate leaders are having difficulty getting employees to come back to the office.

Weeks later, RBC increased the number of days its employees were required to be in the office to three or four days a week, depending on the team. McKay said he prefers workers be on-site but admitted the hybrid work model is here to stay. It was a significant example of the battle employers are having with some workers who want to continue doing their job remotely post-pandemic.

For managers, convincing the higher-ups requires a plan to maintain the team collaboration and culture executives want in their organization even though employees are working remotely, Shekhtman says.

"I think if you create an environment where you can still drive a high level of collaboration within departments, within teams and a brand identity, then ultimately your employees will work even harder for you. And we see that," he said.

"They ended up being much more productive and engaged, and ultimately, that's what you want as an executive."

Michelle Zadikian is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @m_zadikian.

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