July 29, 2019

To Remote or not to Remote

Stephanie loves San Francisco.  The problem?  She lives in Seattle.  Here’s how she approached her manager to make the move South.

Stephanie loves San Francisco. 

From the hustle-bustle of the Ferry Building to the amazing shops and restaurants of Hayes Valley, she feels super at-home in the city.  Plus, her boyfriend also lives in the city, working for a tech start-up in SoMa.

The problem for Stephanie? She lives and works in Seattle…

Stephanie approached me after one of my workshops asking if I could help.

“I want to talk to my manager about changing my employment status to ‘remote,’” she said.  “I want to move to San Francisco and I’m not sure how to approach this situation.”

“Ok, lets figure-out how to talk to your manager about this change,” I said. “With stakeholders across the world, plus the fact that the company already has a sales location in SF might make this conversation easy.  But let’s put together a plan.”

In my experience, these decisions are made at the manager level. It’s not some big corporate/HR conversation.  Of course, there are sometimes space and logistical elements to consider, but the front-line manager (usually) makes the final “go” or “no-go” decision.

Stephanie’s boss was the person we had to convince.

We met for several hours putting together our plan.  My recommendation – approach the situation more casually in vibe/attitude (she was already super-nervous), outline all details, and anticipate questions.  Leave no stone unturned with a “yes” or “no” as the only decision for the manager.

Here’s how we justified a remote working set-up:

  • Highlight previous performance.  You know what they say – past performance is a great indication of future potential. Stephanie highlighted the fact that she’s a rock-star, with great feedback, history of working independently, and smarts for continued impact.
  • Outline how the role might change (both the “what” and the “how”).  Getting honest here is important.  Stephanie knew that physically not being with the rest of the team might be hard (at first) and she addressed that.  She also highlighted how she would work with her partners and make sure that her work continued to get visibility coming from a sales office.
  • Figure-out all the logistics.  This is one of the first things managers think about.  “Is there space?” “How does this work?” “How long does this take normally?” Stephanie made sure she contacted the local office administrator (in SF) to answer as many questions as possible, before presenting it to her boss.  Again, she did all the heavy-lifting here, leaving only a “yes” or “no” to her manager.
  • Define success-metrics (my favorite!!!!).  How do you know this is a good thing for everyone involved?  Stephanie wanted to think about this as well.  Team culture and work priorities were both very important to Stephanie – so, she created metrics to track (and report back) to put her manager’s (potential) fears at ease.
  • Think about budget.  Are there any budget issues to consider?  Traveling back to Seattle for key events? Additional costs for office space? This might be a later conversation, but Stephanie wanted to make sure it was part of her agenda.
  • Include a “check-in” clause.  A formal check-in every 6 months was included in our discussion.  This might make the decision “less permanent” in the manager’s eyes, plus you never know what might happen with re-orgs, manager changes, etc. Good to get this check-in on the calendar!

How Stephanie presented this plan:  She took her manager to lunch during a regularly scheduled 1:1.  She did give him a heads-up that this conversation was coming the day prior (he was the type of person who liked advanced warning on important topics).  No PowerPoint, no spreadsheet … just a discussion around a new (potential) working situation.  Plus, the expectation that this was going to take some time for a final decision.

The end-result?  Stephanie’s request to work remotely from the San Francisco office was declined.  The manager decided that there was too much risk for the role to be based in another office.  He needed someone here in Seattle.

The take-away for Stephanie?  Now she knows where she stands with her current team/manager!  We are currently working together on next steps/Plan B, but she’s grateful for the clarity with her current team (and totally bummed out this didn’t work out).  Will keep you posted on her progress!

* Stephanie isn’t her real name, but she’s confident she’ll be drinking Blue Bottle coffee in Hayes Valley very soon!

Here’s to your Engaged Pursuit!

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