askST Jobs: How do I convince the company to let me continue working remotely?

Companies may reinstate working from the office due to other considerations like team morale, cost and quality of work. PHOTO: ST FILE

Manpower reporter Tay Hong Yi offers practical answers to candid questions on navigating workplace challenges and getting ahead in your career.

Q: My company wants me to start working from the office again. How can I convince it to let me continue working remotely or from home?

A: Since the stabilisation of the Covid-19 pandemic, more companies in Singapore have begun to ask their employees to return to full, or near full-time office work, said Ms Kirsty Hulston, regional director at recruitment firm Hays Singapore.

“The biggest factors driving this are culture and learning – working together in person helps to build team and company culture, while facilitating on-the-job training and knowledge sharing,” added Ms Hulston.

Although flexible work arrangements can improve productivity while retaining talent, companies may reinstate working from the office due to other considerations like team morale, cost and quality of work.

“Employees who want to make a request for flexible work arrangements at companies where it is not the norm will need to craft the ask carefully,” she said.

Ms Hulston said employees who make such a request should ensure they have a list of reasons that clearly show how working remotely would benefit their productivity and thus team and business performance.

“Consider your company’s viewpoint too and pitch a reasonable and realistic request, such as a hybrid model, and express flexibility to prioritise any critical business requirements.

“Finally, make sure you have a clearly defined approach for communicating and collaborating with your manager, team, stakeholders and the wider business when working remotely.”

Ms Allie Teh, sales and marketing principal consultant at recruitment firm Robert Walters Singapore, said that while there are numerous benefits to working from home, employees could also shift their perceptions to understand the advantages of working from the office.

“They should not view themselves as independent contributors within an organisation, but instead as part of a larger team.”

Working in the office promotes engagement, collaboration and increased productivity, said Ms Teh.

“Having in-person meetings has proven to increase participation and contribution as it allows one to be fully present,” she added.

“Many companies also organise non-work-related team bonding activities as part of their retention strategy and to promote a great work culture.”

These advantages might not manifest if employees do not involve themselves in these initiatives, she said.

Ms Teh also suggested that employees take on hybrid work arrangements, which remain available at most organisations, balancing flexibility with ensuring their employer’s objectives are met.

“I would recommend that talents have an honest conversation about their circumstances with their managers.

“If the request to work from home is largely due to convenience, then it may send a message to the employer that the employee is individualistic and not fully committed to the job and organisation.”

In addition to demonstrating that working from home does not affect their productivity, employees should show how they have explored alternative work arrangements which were not feasible due to their personal circumstances.

“Employees may also request a short-term extension to working from home of three to six months, if the obstacle to return back to office is due to a short-term circumstance,” noted Ms Teh.

“More often than not, employers are willing to review the request or make exceptions on a case-by-case basis.”

Ms Rupali Gupta, talent solutions leader at global consultancy Mercer Singapore, said employees should find out if everyone at the company has been asked to return, or just themselves.

They should then review whether their role is time-sensitive or flexible on duration, if their role requires them to be in a fixed or varied location, and how often they need to interact with other colleagues.

This would help employees analyse how other people depend on their work, and therefore the feasibility of working remotely indefinitely, said Ms Gupta.

Employees should also review how working from the office might serve their career aspirations and personal circumstances, as well as build up exposure.

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