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Why Your Boss Says “No” To Remote Work (and How To Respond)

December 3, 2019 | By | 470 Replies More

boss says no to remote work


Getting a “Yes” when you ask to work from home is not easy. Managers have a lot of concerns about remote work. For the fun of it, let’s go over some of those concerns, along with some evidence-based responses you can give to help counter them.



“If I let you work from home, I’ll have to let everyone.”

Although employers would like to believe they do things fairly across the board, they don’t. Nor should they. Employees don’t get the same pay, they don’t all get the same raises, and there is no company-wide promotion of employees.


Ideally, employees get what they deserve, whether it be paychecks, raises, or more freedom. That means if you’ve proven over time to be a capable employee, they would give you more freedom. Especially if you show evidence that such freedom will benefit the company’s bottom line.


work from home unfair to coworkers


Managers who are in tune to the different levels of staff performance know who is capable of working remotely, and those who need constant supervision. Despite this, requests to work from home are overwhelmingly answered with a “No”. The excuses they give to deny remote work are so commonplace, we can almost anticipate them.



“It’s easier to collaborate when we’re all together.”

From Yahoo! to Aetna, industry giants like these have made headlines by lassoing their remote workers back into the office, in the name of improving employee collaboration and creativity.


The fact is, collaborating is just easier for managers when everyone is in one place. As far back as the 1960s it was noted that collaboration is more about how management operates, than staff proximity or the tools used for collaboration.



Frequent meetings, viewed by many managers as effective ways to get everyone on the same page, have become nightmares for employees. Very little collaboration occurs in these meetings.


According to a study by Wrike Management, “more than a quarter of employees attend 6 or more meetings a week. However, only 46% say they leave a meeting with a clear understanding of what to do next.” Instead, Wrike writes, such meetings become platforms for the loudest employees to push their own ideas, leaving everyone else unheard.



“It’s easier to communicate with everyone from the office.”

Sure, it’s easier to strike up a conversation when someone sits at a desk next to you. “Chance encounters” at the water cooler encourage chatting, too. But how productive is this chatting? Much in-office communication is more small talk and interruption than useful communication.


As for managers who claim to have an open door policy, how often to they really engage in valuable communication with their staff?


remote work collaboration


According to an, article, What Great Managers Do To Engage Employees, “mere transactions between managers and employees are not enough to maximize engagement. Employees value communication from their manager not just about their roles and responsibilities but also about what happens in their lives outside of work. The Gallup study reveals that employees who feel as though their manager is invested in them as people are more likely to be engaged.”


Successful communication is more about how well people communicate with each other, rather than where they are while they’re communicating. “Furthermore, telecommuting permits greater forethought in other types of communications, which may prevent conflicts so typical in many workplaces.” (Myths & Facts About Remote Employees,



“Working from home is against company policy.”

Policies become policies because someone made them into policies. Unlike the 10 Commandments, policies are not graven in stone. In fact, a company that can’t be flexible enough to modify a policy based on current or changing situations is in for trouble.


Many managers are highly resistant to change, which is why they rely on policy. They don’t view policy as a guideline but as a crutch to avoid new ways of thinking. Change Management, as this is referred to, is difficult and deeply embedded in larger organizations. However, for a business to move forward, change has to happen when it is time.



Any time management cling to their policies it’s difficult to progress. All the empirical data supporting the benefits of remote work fall on deaf ears because they will keep going back to, “It’s not our policy.” Only when a situation threatens the department or organization does management become willing to reevaluate policies. Even then, it is usually one clause at a time.



“Remote work puts our data at risk.”

It’s true that employee error or negligence accounts for almost 70% of the causes of security breaches. Data breaches happen all too often. Yet, a review of these breaches reveal that none of them—certainly not the most damaging ones—directly resulted from someone working remotely.


It’s not remote work per se that creates security risks; it’s a lack of necessary safeguards—all which a company can provide to a remote employee. “If a company provides the same protection to teleworkers as they do onsite workers then there is no reason to assume that teleworking will create data security risks,” reads one article on employer reasons for denying remote work.



Security breaches can happen from any location, and that’s because security is not a location issue as much as it is a people issue. A bad employee will do bad things regardless of where they work.  Likewise, a good employee—and remote employees tend to be better employees—will be good whether onsite or at home.



“There’s too many distractions at home for you to get work done.”

Many managers are concerned that working remotely will be too distracting for you to accomplish anything. The distractions at home will impede on your productivity and therefore affect the organization’s bottom line.



It’s true that working from home might mean being interrupted by the occasional deliveryman or pile of laundry. Yet, study after study has shown that remote work increases employee productivity. In fact, “escaping the distractions in the office can help employees become more efficient,” says in an article on remote work and productivity.


In-office distractions, which are not only more frequent, are the biggest cause of reduced productivity. Why? Because even a 15-second distraction (such as a colleague pausing at your desk to see if you’re going to lunch) can take an employee up to twenty minutes or more to refocus on their task. Studies have also shown that increased distractions, especially unnecessary distractions like coworker chit-chat, increase work errors, and give the interrupted worker “an experience of workload increase”, even though no real change occurred.



A final word

Any time you request something out of the norm for your company, such as remote work, timing is everything. There are better times than others to stage your request.


Good time:

  • After you’ve accomplished something outstanding
  • After you’ve done something valuable for the team
  • When you’ve reached a new level of communication with your manager


Bad time:

  • When your boss is waiting to hear about a promotion
  • When your department has suffered a setback
  • When conflict is happening on your team



Your turn: What employer concerns have you heard in the past when wanting to work from home?


Let’s talk  more about it. Join me on Facebook or LinkedIn.



Category: Featured, Telecommuting, Work-Life Balance


About the Author ()

Pamela La Gioia has been researching and writing about remote work since the early 1990's. She is CEO/Founder of RemoteWork Source, the leading provider of technical and professional remote career opportunities.

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