Recently, a journalist from Celebrity Parents Magazine asked, “What should employees do if they are afraid to return to work because of COVID-19? How can you talk to your boss about not coming back in if you’re nervous? Can an employer fire you or let you go for not wanting to be back in the workplace? And if your job can be done remotely, how do you convince your boss that you can be just as productive working from home?”
Here was my response about how to ask your boss to continue working remotely:
I’ve been working with both employees and management on this issue. The key is in the employee’s approach to his/her/their manager.
The following format works best with managers you’re afraid of approaching:
Use a win to your advantage.
Shortly after you’ve just completed a task for your boss or you’ve just received some type of praise, ask if you can run something by them.
Prop up your team.
Say something positive that came out of this situation and tie it to benefitting the team. For example: “I never would’ve imagined that what’s happened this year would be anything more than a movie, but our team (department, pod, etc.) has really pulled through this.”
Make it about benefitting everyone.
Acknowledge you understand the company’s perspective of wanting to return to the “prior normal,” your worry about the health and well-being of everyone else, and then state factual evidence as to how you’ve performed the same or better working remotely. For example: “I know that our company is making plans to bring everyone back in the office so we can have some semblance of normalcy again. I’m concerned about our health. I wouldn’t want to pick up the virus and somehow spread it to anyone on our team. In the past couple of months, I’ve completed X, Y and Z on schedule even while working remotely. I’d like to continue to work in this format until the spread of COVID-19 is under control.”
Can an employer fire you for simply requesting this? We’re in unchartered territory, so legal analysts still haven’t come to a consensus on this.
But if whatever you say is about supporting the company, your team and your boss, and you have a proven track record of doing this remotely, it will be very hard to argue against that.