• Courtney Kirschaum

How Not to Go Back to the Office in 7 Steps

Many people have been asking how they or someone they know can keep their remote work situation. This is so common right now, I'm sharing this 7-Step Starter Kit.


How Not to Go Back to the Office in 7 Steps.

Preamble: Whatever you agreed to before the pandemic is null and void. If your employer doesn’t get that, a few things are possible. They are…

  1. Jerks

  2. Pretending nothing's changed because they're afraid of doing something wrong

  3. Incapable of responding to a change in the market.

Or all three.

That's their problem. How you proceed is up to you. These steps will get you started.

1. Assess your value to your employer on a scale of 1-10.

For example:

10: “Without me, they can’t function.” Muuuuaawwwwwwwwawawaw (Evil laugh optional.)

One: “I can’t believe they haven’t fired me. I don’t even know what I do here.”

If it’s the latter, they’re not doing their job anyway.

Not sure what number to give yourself? This question will help.

“How hard will I be to replace?”

If you’re under duress, i.e. already stress eating KFC, Nutella and ice cream while binge-watching Mare of Easttown, find a friend or ally (who believes in you!) or hire someone to help you do a fair audit of your value and options.

This is important. You spend a third (probably more) of your life at work. The question is not. "Is it worth it."

The question is, "Are you worth it?" Yes, you are.

2. Business is business.

Many professionals personalize their relationships with work which can make conversation like this “icky” or “awkward” when those emotional responses have no place here.

Business is business.

You ask. They answer. Next.

It’s employment, not marriage.

Boundaries are healthy and relationships end.

I wrote an article about it here.

If you're finding this difficult, here's why: the idea of loyalty to your employer is thrown in your face at every turn and almost never thrown in the employer's face. This paradigm serves them tremendously and you, not at all. No, you're not dumb, weak or a slow-learner. Breaking out of this paradigm is hard.

3. Cut to the chase. Be brief!

“We just survived a pandemic. The world has changed, and my priorities have changed. I can do my job remotely. I’d like to continue that arrangement."

If you start rambling or overtalking, your chances of getting what you want nosedive.

4. Don’t get sucked into the “Let me explain" vortex.

This is the kiss of death. Your boss is not your parent, master, teacher or your PhD advisor.

You explaining and justifying is you giving all your power away and that’s not going to end well.

Your priorities have changed. That’s it. You explained.

5. If you don’t want the “hybrid,” say so.

A lot of work is a pile of useless compromise. Here’s why.

At work, everyone lives in fear of two things.

  • Making a mistake and

  • Giving the appearance of losing face, a.k.a. losing power.

Do your best to create an environment where your boss can agree without looking weak or dumb. Be sensitive to how they're perceived by others. Believe me, they think about this a lot.

They’ll have to propose this and/or justify it to someone higher up. Give them as many bricks as you can for them to build a case.

Free sample:

If they say, “Well, we already give you [whatever the hybrid arrangement is].”

All you have to say is: “I appreciate that. What I’m asking for is what I need now.”

Then: silence.

6. Start with temporary

One reason people make such watered-down choices at work is they're afraid of looking the fool, but saying “it’s temporary,” or "we're floating a trial balloon" protects them. They have a line they can feed their boss that makes them look smart. "We’re going to test this for a quarter."

We all know people who've been working temporary arrangements for decades. The key here is don’t accept a compromise.

Getting what you want even for a few month is better than getting what you don’t want indefinitely.

Free sample:

“Let’s try this for a quarter and revisit it.” You can also ask for six months and let them drop it back to a quarter.

They don’t have to commit to forever which will get you an alarmingly better “Yes” rate.

During this time, you can look for another job or plan your escape in some other way.

7. Tips

Do not give an ultimatum.

Ultimatums are almost always the result of poor planning, lost tempers and haste. It’s a last resort move when you don’t care what happens to the relationship. Not a good play even if you don’t care.

Guilt has no place here.

They’d fire you with five hungry kids and Santa on the way and say, “It’s business.” And it is, so don’t be taken advantage of.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Set a deadline

Escaping accountability with a non-response is common.

With no deadline, they’ll drag it out and you’ll be in the powerless position of a nagging harpy, “Any news yet?”

A non-response is a "no."

Don’t let this happen.

Free sample:

“Let’s set a date on this, so we can both plan.”