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How to find a new remote job if your current employer wants you back in the office

And what to say if you want to stay at your current job, but work remotely some of the time.

How to find a new remote job if your current employer wants you back in the office
[Source illustration: ma_rish/iStock]
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The global pandemic has permanently reshaped the workplace and how, when, and where people work. Business models have been forever disrupted with the realization that remote work is smart, strategic, and sustainable for companies to embrace, improving not only the bottom line but also providing benefits to the overall workforce.

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Before the pandemic, only 5.2% of the U.S. workforce worked from home full time. Today, 58% are working remotely. And according to a new FlexJobs survey of more than 2,000 pandemic remote workers, 65% would prefer to stay fully remote after the pandemic, and 58% say they would “absolutely” look for a new job if they weren’t allowed to continue working remotely in their current position. But not all businesses are ready to make the leap to long-term remote work.

If you’re a professional whose company is asking everyone to return to the office, what are your options?

The good news is that the remote job market has grown by leaps and bounds this year, and will likely continue to do so. FlexJobs saw a 76% increase in fully remote job listings in 2020 over 2019.

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And even if a company isn’t ready for fully remote work, 82% of middle-market CEOs say they are likely to allow for a partially remote workforce even after the pandemic is over.

Let’s tackle both situations: How to find a new, permanently remote job—and what to say if you want to stay at your current job, but work remotely some of the time.

Strategy 1: Looking for a permanently remote job

If you’ve been working remotely for the past year, you have remote work experience—a highly valuable asset in your remote-job search. Mention this remote experience on your resume and in cover letters.

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What counts as remote experience?

  • Working not in the same physical space as your coworkers, across time zones or in different offices, for example
  • Working from home occasionally or regularly
  • Earning a degree or certification online
  • Volunteering where you did most of the work from your home office

Along with having some remote experience and strong remote skills, the key is to communicate that remote work experience and skills into your application materials.  We recommend job seekers frame their application materials (resume, cover letter) very specifically when applying to a remote job versus non-remote jobs.

Here are three specific ways to highlight your remote work experience and skills on your resume:

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  1. State it clearly. In your Experience section, mention “Remote Work” next to your job title or location. For example, Director of Marketing (100% Remote Work) or High School Biology Teacher, Partially Remote Work, Anaheim, CA.
  2. Include your experience or skills in the descriptions of your past jobs. For example, “led a team of five customer service reps in a completely remote-work environment, and successfully earned an average team satisfaction rating of 94%.”
  3. Build it into your skills section. For example, make sure you list the types of skills it takes to be a successful remote worker. Time and task management, communication, self-management, the ability to work independently, and comfort with technology are some of the top skills employers like to see when hiring for remote jobs.

Lastly, be sure you’re looking for remote jobs in the most trustworthy of places. Unfortunately, there is a long history of work-from-home scams. The Federal Trade Commission received more than 58,000 reports of work-from-home scams between 2015 and 2019, with victims losing an average of $1,200 to a scam. And the pandemic has only increased their prevalence.

How can you stay safe? Start with specialized remote-work sites, and no matter the site, pay attention to the quality control process for their job listings. Do they screen every job and company before posting, or rely on job seekers to self-screen? It’s important to use remote job sources that help connect you to the best listings, and stay clear of the scams, multi-level marketing, and other less-than-professional opportunities.

Strategy 2: Negotiating a hybrid remote work arrangement

If you enjoy your current role, but you’re not interested in working from the office all the time, you’re not alone! According to that same FlexJobs survey, 33% of professionals would prefer a hybrid work situation after the pandemic.

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Our Career Coaching Team recommends the following approach when asking for a hybrid work situation:
1. Ask your manager for a meeting to discuss your options. Here’s a sample that you can adapt:

To best prepare for the coming months, I’d like to get a good sense of the company’s plans to return to the office and what the options are for longer-term remote work. Could we set up a call for later this week?

2. Prepare a proposal to present in your meeting. Include the specific arrangement you’d ideally like (for example, working from home three days per week), your reasoning for the request and the professional and work-related (not personal) benefits of a hybrid arrangement, and details or scenarios for your potential schedule and communication with the team.

3. Practice your pitch until you feel confident delivering it, and prepare responses to possible questions your manager might have. Try to anticipate their concerns or worries ahead of time, and brainstorm ideas to divert any pushback you might receive.

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4. If you don’t receive a “yes” right away, you might want to ask your manager what concerns they have, and then think of ways to address those. Consider asking to revisit the subject three or six months from now, or propose a trial run where you can demonstrate how the arrangement would work.

Over the last year, remote work has proven itself to be a smart, strategic, and sustainable option for millions. As more companies embrace remote work for the long-term, I fully expect that the number of jobs that can be performed from anywhere will continue to grow as well. If you see remote work as a key part of your professional future, now is the time to make it happen for yourself.


Sara Sutton is the founder and CEO of FlexJobs.