I started my new job a year ago and haven’t worked a single day in the office. Not that it matters– I work almost entirely with offices in another region. I have decided to move to another state in about six months, a state where my firm doesn’t have an office. The firm has been unwilling to make a post-COVID WFH policy, so I’m terrified I’ll be let go. How — and when– should I broach the subject with my supervisor?
Ill at Ease in Illinois
Dear Ill at Ease,
Normally I would jump into congratulating you on the new adventures you have ahead. But, this move is understandably hanging heavy on your mind, so instead, let’s get on to helping create a path forward.
First, you are in the fortunate position that you have already proven that work-from-home works for you and your company. You even onboarded and learned the job remotely with no in-person contact. Therefore, it seems both you and the company are well-positioned to make this arrangement feasible.
However, your employer is not obligated to offer you a remote working position. And they may not want to for good reason—there can be all kinds of tricky tax and legal implications with employees who work out of state. Allowing one person to work remotely can also set a precedent for other employees, making the whole situation even more complex.
That being said, they may be motivated to want to keep a good employee. To help with your conversation, it may help if you have a few talking points available. Think about which of these might be meaningful to your supervisor:
- Make a list of your successes and how you are a valuable member of the team. If you have recently completed a performance appraisal, this may be a good place to start!
- Look up statistics related to remote working relevant to your industry, your region, and your competitors. If your supervisor is a data person, this information could be helpful to have on hand.
- Consider what benefits the company may gain. Perhaps you will have more space for a dedicated office, be more closely aligned with the time zone of the people you work with most, or even free up their office space in a building with limited free desks.
- Research internet options, strength, and quality where you will be moving so your supervisor can rest assured you will have uninterrupted access.
- Reach out to your fellow APMP members who work on remote teams for ideas, or watch some of the recent APMP webinars on the topic. Perhaps you could also connect your supervisor to another manager who could speak to how they manage their proposal team remotely.
- Decide what you may be willing to offer if asked. For example, if your employer wants you to commit to traveling to the office once a quarter at your expense, would that be feasible?
Now, think about how you want the conversation to go. You have done your homework, so you have plenty of evidence to support your case. But you do not have to bombard your supervisor with every single talking point. Open with a simple statement, highlighting the benefits of the move. If you are comfortable sharing the reason you are moving, it may help your supervisor understand why you are making a request. Here is a sample opener:
Jill, thank you for taking the time to meet with me today. I wanted to talk to you about a potential opportunity to move to Virginia to be closer to my family. But, I very much value my employment at ACME. I have been highly successful working remotely for the past year, completing nearly 10% more proposals than my peers. Moving will also allow me to better serve the teams I work with the most because I will be in the same time zone. Would you consider allowing me to permanently work remotely?
If you are worried that nerves might get the best of you, find a trusted APMP member or another person in your professional network to practice with you. Practice may help you feel more confident, plus the roleplaying may uncover questions you have not thought of yet.
Unless you are concerned that you could be immediately terminated for asking about moving, you may want to have this conversation as soon as you are prepared to do so. That way, if there are concerns you had not considered, both you and your employer will have time to iron them out. If they are unwilling or unable to allow you to work remotely, you will also have more time to figure out your next move.
Also, rather than reaching out to your supervisor on the fly, make sure you have ample time to discuss. If you do not already have regular one-on-one meetings, schedule at least 20 minutes to speak with them. Bonus if you know your supervisor’s work habits and can schedule the meeting when they will be in a good mood. (Everyone differs, but generally, right before lunch is a bad time because, well, people get hungry and tend to be less receptive.)
This is a lot to consider, but hopefully, this helps you feel better about approaching this topic with your supervisor. Best of luck to you—we would love to hear how it goes!
Just a little disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. Use of this column not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. This column, its author, and APMP GMC are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice in any given situation. You, and only you, are completely responsible for your actions.
Heather first encountered the acronym “RFP” when seeking ways to diversify funding sources for a human services company in 2012 and hasn’t looked back since. Since then, she’s moved on to lead proposal teams in both the commercial and government sectors, refining processes and developing efficiencies along the way.