Being a parent who works full-time outside of the home is exhausting is a huge understatement. Between meetings, extracurricular activities, project deadlines (both yours and your kids’), the mental and physical load of managing a family and a home, school obligations, and trying to maintain your general wellbeing, you probably jump at any opportunity to save some time or make things easier on yourself. It's precisely why so many parents prefer working from home.
Some parents work for organizations that allow employees to work from home on an as-needed basis but don’t have a set schedule where they can do it regularly. Then, some parents spent the better part of 2020 and 2021 working remotely because of the pandemic, only to be asked to return to the office for no other reason than because that’s how they were operating pre-COVID. In both of these situations, parents have experienced the freedom and flexibility of working remotely, and many want to make it permanent.
If you’re in one of these groups, or if you work somewhere that doesn’t allow remote working at all, you don’t have to sit around hoping and waiting for your employer to change their remote work policy. Instead, approach the topic head-on with your boss and advocate for yourself. After all, the quickest way to get something you want is to ask for it.
Working Remotely vs. On-Site for Parents
There are arguments for and against working on-site and remotely as a parent. For some, a hybrid setup of working a set number of days on-site and at home is a happy middle, while others may want to be remote full-time or on-site full-time with the option to work from home when they choose (without needing approval or feeling guilty for doing it). It all depends on your personality, priorities, and home situation.
Pros of Working On-Site vs. Remotely for Parents
Time away from the house
Having a sense of community (and talking to grown-ups)
The opportunity to get dressed up (con for some)
Clearer boundaries between work and home
Possible on-site childcare
No commute means more time in the mornings to get the kids ready and off to school
Not having to get dressed up for the day
Proximity to kids’ school/childcare in an emergency
The option to do things around the house during breaks (laundry, dishes, watering the plants, etc.)
Flexibility without the optics of having to leave early/arrive late for kid-related reasons regularly
Self-Advocacy Tips & Best Practices
If the personal pros of working from home outweigh those of being in an office, then you’ll need to come up with reasons why a remote setup would also benefit your employer.
Remember, the bottom line is that you were hired to do something for the company, so you need to prove that you can still do that, possibly even better, when you’re working from home. Here are some tips and best practices to help you successfully advocate for yourself:
Familiarize yourself with your company’s remote/flexible work policies so that your request stays within these parameters
Clearly state what you’re asking for; if you want to work remotely full-time, then say that so that there is no room for different interpretations
Keep your points professional and data-driven; your boss may care about you and your personal life, but this conversation should not be emotionally centered (even though this setup would impact you personally)
Compile examples that demonstrate your quality of work and what you bring to the table; ideally, some (if not all) examples will be from work you delivered while working from home
Address typical concerns head-on before your supervisor has a chance to bring them up; explain how you’ll make yourself available throughout the day and that you’re willing to come into the office as needed for projects and meetings
Prepare yourself for pushback; don’t immediately take no for an answer, ask questions and address concerns, and if all else fails, offer a trial period
Be persistent; if your boss says no, ask if there is anything you can do to change their mind and don’t be afraid to bring the subject up again in a few months to see if they’re willing to reconsider
Getting The Conversation Started
Now that you know what to say to frame the topic with your boss to get the conversation started. Exactly how you go about this will depend a lot on your current remote-work situation, the relationship you have with your boss (is it more casual or formal?), and how much you’ve been able to prove yourself as a remote employee to this point. No matter what, though, you’ll need to find a way to get in front of them and present your pitch, which you can usually do by email or in person.
The benefit to starting the conversation with an email is that you’ll have a digital trail and a written request to refer back to in the future if you need to (like if your boss says no, and you want to revisit the conversation in six months). If you choose this option, make sure the email's subject line is direct and to the point (example: Request for Remote Work) and that the email itself is short.
The drawback to starting the conversation by email is that your boss can put off reading the request or try to turn down your request without meeting in person. To avoid this, immediately after sending the email, send a calendar invite to your boss to block off some time on their calendar. Yes, they could still decline the meeting request, but they’re more likely to accept it and try to turn you down in person (which allows you the opportunity to address pushback directly).
Sample Email Template:
Subject line: Request to Work From Home
[Appropriate Greeting to Supervisor],
I want to formally request to transition to/continue working [from home/hybrid/flex] full-time moving forward. This setup will allow me to better/continue to focus on [insert your deliverables] without distraction, increase my productivity and deliver higher-quality results.
I will be sending a meeting request to you shortly to discuss this further in person and work out the details. If there is anything you’d like me to address during the meeting, please let me know.
Thanks for your consideration, and I look forward to chatting soon.
If you want to approach the topic in person (giving your boss less opportunity to avoid the conversation), be sure to approach it professionally. First, make sure no one else is nearby to hear the conversation, either following a group meeting when it’s just the two of you, at the end of an unrelated one-on-one meeting between the two of you or even popping into their office.
You likely won’t be able to anticipate whether or not they’ll have the time to meet with you at that very minute, so you’ll want to prepare for either scenario. Have all of your data and documentation with you if they’re free to chat, but don’t ambush them with it either. Allow them the opportunity to say no to an impromptu meeting and then follow up with a meeting invite later (no email required).
Sample In-Person Pitch Script:
[Supervisor Name], do you have a few extra minutes to chat?
[If No]: No problem. I do have something I’d like to discuss with you when you have the time, though. I will go ahead and send you a meeting invite so we can block off some time on our calendars.
[If Yes]: Great. I want to put in a formal request to work [remotely/flex/hybrid] regularly moving forward.I have found that I’m more productive at home, where there are fewer distractions than in the office, and I think my quality of work is evidence of that.
From here, as the conversation allows, go into your primary notes and fact-driven points (which you should have prepared ahead of time).
Maybe this is an easy process for you where your boss says yes, and the transition is easy; perhaps there is a bit of lag between your request and their response, in which case, stay persistent in following up until they commit to either a yes or no. There are a lot of ways this conversation can go, and you may not get exactly the setup you had hoped to get and in that case, you have to decide if it’s acceptable to you or not. If it isn’t, and you don’t see room for further negotiation, then it might be time to start searching for a new employer that will give you the flexibility (and work-life integration) that you need. You are an asset, and the right employer will see that and be willing to provide you with what you need.
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