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Worried about the delta variant? How to request a flex schedule at work

Many office workers don't want to return full time
How to talk to your boss about continuing remote work
Posted at 5:37 PM, Jul 22, 2021

For millions of workers, this summer is bringing a return to the office after 14 months of working from home during the pandemic.

But some people are not ready for it, having become comfortable working remotely and taking care of children or pets while working.

Others are growing worried about catching the delta variant of the coronavirus, even if they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Surveys show that a majority of office employees hope to continue working a hybrid, or flex schedule, though many companies are indicating that is unlikely.

So we asked an expert about how to talk to your boss about keeping a flex schedule this fall and beyond.

Flexible hours help work-family balance

Beth Schirmer has a schedule most office workers dream of. A chief officer at a law firm, she is also a mom and a new grandmother.

She is in the office full-time just two or three days a week and works from home the other days.

"I'm fortunate to have that kind of flexibility," Schirmer said.

She is able to balance her work and home life now, the way she couldn't 20 years ago.

"It's nice to know that if I have the HVAC guy coming, I can stay home, and not be in that day," she said.

Urban planner Chaunston Brown said he can't comprehend working in the office five days a week anymore.

"I think a lot of people are going to want the flex schedule," Brown said. "This new technology has made it easier than we thought it would be."

But many of us are not so fortunate. The office doors are opening up, the face masks are coming off (at least in most areas, for now), and the boss wants you back in the office in the next few weeks.

Time to see if that suit still fits and buy a new pair of shoes.

But what if you are not ready to return full-time?

How to convince the boss you need flex time

Cincinnati employment attorney Kelly Myers, a partner at Freking, Myers, and Reul, said she is getting calls from nervous office workers who want to keep their remote schedule — or at least part of it.

"Coming back to the office, some people aren't ready for that," Myer said.

She said if you want a flex schedule, don't simply ask. The boss has little reason to grant you time at home.
Instead, she said:

  • Email your boss with specific reasons for staying home.
  • Explain the benefit for the company.
  • Offer to work two to three days a week in the office.
  • Offer to do it on a trial basis, for a couple of months.

"Come to your employer with the business justification of why working from home is good for the company, and good for you," she said. "Make it a win-win."

Next, she said:

  • Explain why you will be more productive at home.

"Give examples on how your productivity was met or exceeded from home," she said. For instance, you can point out how you were not distracted by water cooler gossip.

Myers also said:

  • Explain how you will handle meetings and one-on-one conferences, now that most meetings will no longer be via Zoom.
  • Have a plan for regular face-to-face time with supervisors.

"Give specific examples on how you will address meeting with people in the office now," Myers said.

Schirmer's company is fine with flex schedules, but yours may not be OK, and you could find yourself missing too much if you are one of just a few workers still working remotely.

"The biggest disadvantage," Myers cautioned, "is being out of sight and out of mind."

Myers said if everyone but you is in the office full-time, you run the risk of being passed over for promotions, or worse.

So maybe just request one or two days a week at home, so you remain in the loop.
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