how to negotiate remote work once you get a job offer

A reader writes:

I completed final interviews for a fantastic job and I believe I have a good chance of getting an offer soon.

My conundrum has to do with remote work: when people return to the office post-COVID, my commute would be more than an hour each way. This is not possible for me to do very often.

During the final interview, I casually asked the hiring manager about their remote work culture in non-COVID times. She replied, “Work from home is fine sometimes, but not all the time.” I didn’t want to press at that stage, so I didn’t find out what “sometimes” means to her.

This is an individual contributor role, the work can easily be done remotely, and another of this manager’s direct reports works remotely full-time from another state. Also, presumably I’d spend the first six months or so working remotely due to COVID, so I’d have that time to prove myself as a remote worker. And I have worked remotely full time in all of my past jobs and have been continuously praised for my work quality, speed, responsiveness, and dependability.

If I do get an offer, I’d like to focus my negotiation not on salary or vacation time, but on the ability to work from home most of the time. Can you give me an idea of what language to use when I ask? How much of the above context should I include to back up my request? Also, would it help to include options, such as “I’d be open to either working in the office one day a week, or one week a month — whichever you prefer”?

This is the language I’m considering: “I’m really interested in the work, but the commute is giving me some hesitation. Would you be open to allowing me to work remotely, post-COVID? I’d love to come into the office once a week, or one week a month — whichever you prefer. I have worked remotely full time in all of my past jobs and have been continuously praised for my work quality, speed, responsiveness, and dependability. I would agree to make any long-term work-from-home arrangement contingent on my performance as a remote worker during my first six months in the role. If you’re able to allow a remote work arrangement, I’d be thrilled to take the job.”

If I can’t convince them to agree, I’ll have to walk away from the offer, so getting this right is very important to me.

Your proposed language is good!

It’s smart, too, that you’re addressing this head-on, not hoping it’ll somehow work itself out after you’re hired. With so many positions having become temporarily remote, I’ve heard from a lot of people who are considering taking a remote-for-now job without disclosing that they’d want to remain remote long-term and instead are just hoping/assuming it’ll be allowed once the office reopens. In some cases, that might work! But in others it won’t, and it’s dangerous to count on it. Plenty of employers will bring people back at some point, and while we probably won’t see quite as much opposition to remote work as we saw in the past, there will still be managers who want people in-person. (And sometimes that’s legitimate! You can’t always tell before you start a job how challenging it really might be to do the role fully from home.)

When working from home is a nice-to-have perk but you’d still take the job without it, sometimes it can make sense to just see how things go — demonstrate that you work well remotely and then try to negotiate continued remote work later on. But when it’s a deal-breaker for you — as it is in your case — it’s smart to address it directly during the offer negotiation and try to come to a clear agreement.

Your proposed language is good because it covers these bases:
– You explain why you’d like to stay remote (the commute).
– You offer to come in sometimes, and you’re specific about what that could mean.
– You’re clear that you’ve done it successfully in the past.
– You offer to make the arrangement contingent on performance (which it likely would be anyway, but spelling it out signals you’re comfortable with explicitly linking the two, and that you’re likely someone who at least strives to be conscientious).
– You make it clear that if they say yes to this, you’ll accept the job — they don’t need to worry that you’re going to try to negotiate for a bunch of other things they don’t know about yet.

Do be aware that, assuming you don’t have a contract (most U.S. workers don’t), whatever is agreed to won’t necessarily be binding. The employer can change their minds in the future or a new manager can come in who doesn’t like remote work or so forth. But having a written agreement significantly strengthens the likelihood of an employer sticking to it; if nothing else, it avoids mistakes and misunderstandings and people forgetting conversations a year later.

Good luck!

{ 125 comments… read them below }

  1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    I like the suggested verbiage and hope I can find it useful. Remote work is a deal-breaker for me for the next 5-10 years. Even if the dream job were just down the road… So far my strategy has been, in the initial conversation, to confirm that the position is 90+% remote from the beginning. I’ve simply excused myself from consideration for the positions that intend to return to the office post-Covid (which I read as when the employer tires of preventing the spread of Covid) (and that’s been more than 75% of the recruitment conversations).

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I think so too, and I agree. I really want the option to WFH if we have a resurgence of COVID or, as is probably all too likely, another pandemic in our climate-changed future. Or if I’m just feeling a little poopy, or have a contractor coming over, or there is an inch of ice, etc.

  2. Liz*

    Be careful about blaming the desire to WFH on the commute. It opens the door up to “why don’t you move closer?” Ask me how I know.

    1. KimmyBear*

      Had a boss that lived close to the office but didn’t understand that the office was in one of the priciest zip codes in the country.

      1. Liz*

        That was exactly my situation. “Boss, I’d love to leave my dumpy apartment on the Bay Area outskirts behind and move into a beautifully restored San Francisco Victorian just like you, but you’ll need to up my pay by 1000% first.”

        1. Formerly GradStudent*

          I am literally going to have to face this post-covid… I’d love to live within commuting distance to the office, but I’d need a pretty decent salary bump to afford it (got the job p/t while at university in very subsidized university housing, moved in with family 400mi away after graduating/everything went remote due to covid and now am shifting towards f/t but still not enough to cover rent within 2 hrs of the office).

    2. anon73*

      I always bring up commute and not one person has ever countered with “why not move closer?”. If a manager has that attitude, it’s a good reason for me to not want to work for them.

      1. AnotherLibrarian*

        Yes, I agree with that. If that’s why they won’t let me work remote, than I don’t want the job.

      2. Caroline Bowman*

        Completely. It’s not always about the price of housing that is close to the job either. We are extremely fortunate to be technically able to move pretty-much-anywhere (within reason!) that any sort of office job might be in our country, but… we have 3 kids at school, a home we love, you know, roots. Obviously if it involved leaving the greater area, as in moving cross-country or similar, that’s different, but suggesting a person move house purely for some probably-fairly-ordinary job is incredible, I mean, who would, unless they were staying with someone temporarily and looking to move anyway?

    3. Lurker*

      Yeah, my response to blaming it on the commute would be “But you knew what the commute would be when you applied for the job.” (If the commute is that big of a deal breaker, then why even apply?)

      I once had someone ask us to increase their offer to cover the cost of unlimited subway transit (in NYC) because they wouldn’t be able to walk to work anymore. I was slightly annoyed — they knew that would be the case when they applied. We gave it to them because in the grand scheme we didn’t want to lose our top choice over a small amount but I personally felt it was sort of petty of them.

      1. Frank Doyle*

        (If the commute is that big of a deal breaker, then why even apply?)

        Because there’s a possibility that things can be negotiated successfully, as they were in your example. If a job looks fantastic except for just one thing, it’s often worth the time and effort to find out if that one thing can be overcome.

      2. merp*

        There are lots of considerations when people apply to jobs! Especially now when work-from-home isn’t as far off a dream as it may have been before. I don’t know if I would say the same re: applying to jobs you couldn’t possibly commute to, like out of state, but there’s nothing wrong with the the OP is asking, even though, yes, they knew about the commute when they applied. I’m glad you all covered the transit and I don’t think it was petty at all for that person to ask. You want good workers, you try to make it worth their while as well.

        1. Lurker*

          I’m sure this person took public transportation for personal trips even when they were at their previous job. It’s petty to ask for that when it’s something you’re already paying for. It was a nonprofit, not some cushy corporate gig with lots of extra money for perks. And then they left after a year to move out of state anyway.

          I stand by my comment — if you know you don’t want an hour long commute, thinking you can negotiate for WFH seems like a big ask. Asking for subway fare is not as big of a deal, imo.

          1. BubbleTea*

            Why is it a big ask to work from home, especially since working from home is the standard right now anyway? I used to drive to the office every day, which was a 45-55 minute commute each way. Working from home has been going pretty well, once I figured out how to stay focused, and now I have absolutely no intention of going back to the office full time. Once a week, maybe. But I have discovered I can gain back 8 hours a week, not to mention saving a lot of money in petrol, with no effect on my productivity. Why would I not ask for that to continue?

            1. Black Horse Dancing*

              I don’t know if WFH is the standard even today. Certainly for privileged, yes. Many production and public sector jobs (essential) can’t be done from home, however. From farm work to factory work to public sector to banking, many can’t be done from home. WFH honestly will cause more inequality in the world and especially the US because WFH is only for a privileged group.

              1. Koalafied*

                It’s not the standard right now everywhere, but it’s the standard right now at the job the LW has applied to and wants to negotiate a permanent WFH arrangement with.

                I’m curious about the idea that it will lead to more inequality. I’m not disputing that claim, to be clear – but I’ve never really connected WFH to pay/wealthy disparity before and would be interested to hear more.

                1. Black Horse Dancing*

                  I haven’t read a lot but you can put work from home and wealth inequality and a number of articles pop up!

                2. Doc in a Box*

                  Totally agree that WFH is not an option for most lower-income jobs. Who is stocking your grocery shelves? Who is driving the city bus? Who is collecting your garbage from the curb?

                  Permanent WFH (i.e. not “the world is burning, let’s make do”) also assumes you have a high-speed internet connection and a quiet-ish workstation somewhere in your house or apartment. It assumes a level of privilege re square footage/number of rooms that doesn’t jive with the way many people live around the world.

                3. Koalafied*

                  Right I understand that working from home is only available to the privileged and well-off. I thought the previous comment was suggesting a causal path where increased working from home will lead to increased wealth disparity as opposed to just bring a reflection of the unequal status quo.

              2. allathian*

                What on Earth? If a job can be done from home, the option to do it from home should be there. Not everybody wants to WFH. Many people who have been forced into it by COVID don’t like it at all and would much prefer to be back at the office. But that’s no reason to punish those who do a great job WFH and who hate working in open plan offices, when there’s no business need to be in the office all the time.

                Certainly most jobs in the services sector have to be done from a place of business or in person, but none of them are typical office jobs.

                Certainly there are people who live in cramped conditions that aren’t really suitable for WFH who are forced into it now, and a large proportion of these are people from disadvantaged groups, so I do see where you’re coming from, in a way. But I would not appreciate being told that I can no longer WFH because not everybody is fortunate enough to live in a big house that makes WFH easy. It would honestly only make me resent those disadvantaged people. Making me go to the office won’t improve those disadvantaged people’s lot in any way.

                1. Black Horse Dancing*

                  Many typical office jobs can’t WFH either. Think public sector jobs, receptionist, etc.

          2. Weekend Please*

            Considering the OP has done this work 100% remote before and someone currently doing a similar role at that company is 100% remote, it isn’t necessarily a big ask. It might be, in which case the employer can say no.

          3. Just me*

            Why does it matter what they wanted to do with the higher pay? They were probably already paying rent before this job, does that mean they shouldn’t ask for a salary that allows them to keep paying their rent? What if they were just negotiating a higher salary because they thought they were worth it? Are job candidates never supposed to ask for more than their initial offer?

            1. doreen*

              I think what seems petty is that the person explicitly linked it to having to pay for public transit because they couldn’t walk to work anymore. If the same person had tried to negotiate a $2000 higher salary for the same job without mentioning transit, it wouldn’t have seemed so petty – but they way this happened, I’d kind of wonder if they would expect a raise every time the fare went up.

              1. Lurker*

                Exactly. Of course it’s presumed you are going to try to increase your salary anytime you change jobs. And maybe you will try to negotiate more money after the first offer, but in NYC I feel like subway costs are sort of like a personal “cost of doing business;” you factor that into your bottom line when you give your initial requirement range. (At least I do.) It’s not the employer’s responsibility to pay more just because they chose a job where they are not within walking distance of the office.

                1. Anonym*

                  Maybe they thought you were more likely to accommodate this request than a higher salary – it is non-profit, as you say. Many employers might be more willing to cover a separate benefit than salary increase, since the salary is a baseline that should (likely) increase over time and ultimately be more expensive than a flat transit cost. (Which I’m sure goes up every few years, but presumably less than salary ought to.)

                  I don’t think it’s right or fair to describe someone’s financial choices as “petty”. You really don’t have enough information to make that call. Especially in a non-profit environment when your employees have already sacrificed potential long term income to work in your field.

                2. Anonym*

                  Oh, and in case it’s relevant, my NYC employer covers commute costs for all employees up to ~$280/month. I would find it pretty weird if an employer didn’t offer some kind of transit coverage, unless they were very tiny. It’s a super common benefit that makes people’s lives easier.

                3. merp*

                  I’m with anon for this. Look, the employer has nearly all the power in this type of situation. You can either agree to their request or not, but judging the candidate as petty for asking is something that leads to allllll kind of issues. People have the right to ask.

                4. JustaTech*

                  Does NYC not offer businesses a discount for buying transit cards en masse?
                  Seattle does, and it’s much cheaper (on a per-card basis) for a business to buy transit cards than for an individual to buy them. So maybe the employee didn’t think it was a big ask at all?

                5. Lurker*

                  @ JustaTech

                  NYC requires employers with over a certain number of employees to offer them the option of pre-tax transit withholding but there is no requirement for employers to pay for employees’ transit costs.

                  The NFPs I’ve worked for have never paid for transit costs. You sign up if you want pre-tax transit and the amount is withheld from your paycheck; then you get a subway card every month (or however frequently you elect). The employer doesn’t get a discount for buying the cards or buying in bulk. In fact, the employer has to pay an administrative fee — either to the company that administers the benefit (e.g. WageWorks), or pay the shipping and handling fee if they buy and distribute the cards themselves.

                  @ Anonym

                  The employee wasn’t asking for it to be separate. They asked that the base salary be higher to compensate for the fact they couldn’t walk to work and would have to take the subway. They framed it as “can I have $XX more since I now have to take public transport?”

                  I don’t need to know anything about their personal finances to think it’s a petty ask.

          4. Khatul Madame*

            +1. I hired for jobs with NO telecommute (non-negotiable client requirement), it was clearly stated in the job posting, and applicants still tried to negotiate WFH citing commute. It was a waste of time for them, and for us.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Same, and we’re very clear that there is not a telework option for most employees due to the nature of the jobs. It’s in the job description, and questions about it are answered directly – fine on occasion, like once a month if you have to meet the cable person or something, but not regular and not anything approaching even half-time. Still, there are people who try to negotiate for it in the end as well as the ones who take one WFH day one month, and then two the next, and then go for four the one after that, and it starts to impact their coworkers who are in the office.

              I very much hope that policies change post-COVID and that some WFH is allowed (my jobs could not be 100% remote in normal times, but at least some), but it does irritate me when we’re up front from the job posting through interview and then suddenly working onsite is a showstopping problem.

              And it’s DC, so 75% of us have shitty commutes.

              1. merp*

                That would be frustrating but as someone idly job-hunting at the moment, I will say it seems (from my experience) extremely rare to be that upfront about it in the job description! I wish every employer was more open about it.

      3. Koalafied*

        They knew they wouldn’t be able to walk to work when they applied, but did they know the salary when they applied?

      4. TassieTiger*

        …that’s a little sad to hear. It’s hard for me to understand how you can see it as petty. They wanted the job you offered, they knew it was going to cost them more to have to take a subway, and they negotiated for what they wanted. It’s a little hard to hear that openly communicating what a person is looking for would ruffle someone’s feathers so much.

    4. RabbitRabbit*

      I actually had a coworker pull that on me, literally saying that I had no right to complain about a long commute because I ‘chose’ to live so far away. I wasn’t even blaming it on anything, just lamenting the length at times.

    5. Nicotene*

      Honestly I think most employers are used to the somewhat-disingenuous thing where you apply for the job as if you’re willing to work in-person and then wait to get the offer before you ask to go remote, and IMO several times they have passed on the candidate, with a bit of an eyeroll (I’m sorry to say). I like it when people do this to my company because it demonstrates how desirable work from home is to some folks, but just flagging it for the OP.

    6. Arvolin*

      For about fifteen years, our house was very close to a line connecting my and my wife’s offices. Moving closer to one would have meant moving farther from the other.

  3. WellRed*

    I think “sometimes is fine” means no. Either they won’t let you or they will but then won’t know how to manage it and you’ll end up out of the loop or feeling disconnected.

    1. WFH Problems*

      From my own experience, this is probably true. I felt like I’d been so successful working remotely for other companies that surely I could do it here. But turns out, the culture/processes of those other companies was much better suited to WFH.

    2. WindmillArms*

      Yes, this! I wrote to Alison last year about a job I took where the CEO and I (very small company) had matching expectation about how much I could WFH, but my direct on-site manager (CEO’s daughter…yeah) had a very different interpretation of that “sometimes.” She could not believe that anyone would actually do any work if they were remote.
      Ironically, the head office was three provinces away from where the manager and I lived, but she couldn’t understand that SHE WAS REMOTE from the rest of the office even though she physically left her house and came to a coworking space.

      /rant. Just confirming that it’s worth being clear on slippery words like “sometimes”!

    3. Ali G*

      This would be my fear. And what if there is a disconnect between the hiring manager and HR (or whoever extends and negotiates the offer)? I think we had another letter where someone was allowed to work from home but then was constantly fielding questions from their manager about where they were and why they weren’t working (they were, just at home) etc.

    4. MissGirl*

      I’d be hesitant about taking a job at a company that doesn’t already have a WFH policy even if they do agree to your terms. For a lot of the reasons mentioned here: a new manager can come change it, you might be left out of the loop, you might get subtle or not-so subtle blow back.

    5. Public Sector Manager*

      When I read “sometimes is fine,” I translated that to mean once or twice a month. This might be a manager who wants remote access for things like the plumber coming over between 1 pm and 5 pm. If they were open to full time remote access, they would have just said so. Even if it was one or two days a week, I think they just could have said so. Having “1-2 days a week” translate to “sometimes” just appears odd.

      So I agree–this manager sounds like a “no” to full time remote access. And I also agree that the OP’s proposed language is really good.

      1. pbnj*

        Yeah, I read it as you can WFH if you have a really good reason – house repairs, feeling under the weather, etc. Maybe OP can pull off 1x/month at the most.

    6. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I think “sometimes is fine” means no.

      I agree. That gives me the vibe that it’ll always be some other time that’s fine.

    7. Lucette Kensack*

      I agree, but this employer does have someone working remote full-time. So they’re obviously open it to in some circumstances. I wish the OP the best of luck!

    8. BRR*

      I think there’s a chance it will be fine but that part gave me pause. I’m not sure if that’s the hiring manager’s policy or the company’s. At my last job, my manager didn’t love people working from home and had no idea how to manage it (neverminded that there literally wasn’t a desk for me to sit at). I was out of sight out of mind and it ended up coming back to bite me.

    9. TassieTiger*

      Unfortunately I do have to agree. To come back from someone telling you “sometimes is fine but not always” with the request of working from home 75% of the time… I would expect eyebrows to shoot up. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to ask! But I don’t know if there’s a great chance of it working out.

  4. WFH Problems*

    Good luck, LW!

    I recently negotiated remote work for myself. Actually, what we agreed to was a one year trial period. At the end of the year I said I would be willing to relocate if WFH wasn’t working out. I think the non-permanence made them much more comfortable, because they’d never tried remote work before. And it lowered the risk of taking a job in another state by a lot, because my husband doesn’t have to change jobs while I try out this company (and, if we liked it, gave us almost a whole year for him to find a new job)
    On the much-less-positive side…. we are 3 months in, and it is not going well. I really don’t think they have a culture or workflow that supports WFH, so I feel like that trial period isn’t going to go in my favor. And it’s frustrating to me that they said they thought it could work, but they haven’t really changed anything to me have a shot at success. I did leave a good job for this one so that regret is a-creeping….

    1. Bostonian*

      Ah, I remember you from the open thread! I hope your situation gets better.

      To be honest, I don’t think things are looking good for OP. “WFH is OK sometimes but not all the time” is super vague and not very promising that they actually support WFH. When I’m interviewing people, I’m very explicit that we allow X number of days for WFH under Y circumstances. The fact that this company/department doesn’t have an official policy OR didn’t communicate the unspoken rules is a bit concerning. I wouldn’t be surprised if they act miffed at the ask.

      Also the fact that *one* employee does it full-time could just mean they had one special case.

      I could very much see OP end up in a case like yours (if able to negotiate it in the first place) where they’re not really built for success for WFH, and OP would end up having to work extra hard to be seen and included.

      1. WFH Problems*

        Thank you. Without totally sidetracking the thread, things have gotten a little better since I had a blunt conversation. I asked if we could decide on clear owners for different tasks and publish that, so people would come to me for my tasks instead of whoever happens to be nearby. So far the ownership list has been created, and during that exercise some other areas were identified where I could help out. But whether or not it will be enforced remains to be seen.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      At the end of the year I said I would be willing to relocate if WFH wasn’t working out.

      I know hindsight is 20/20, but there’s no way I would agree to trust an employer to make that call. If I’m not hitting metrics that people in the office are, that’s one thing, but “not working out” could be any reason or no real reason at all, just an assertion.

      1. WFH Problems*

        Sure, but most states are at-will. Really any company could decide at any time that things “aren’t working out” without any hard evidence. It was more about avoiding them feeling like the choice was “live with this forever” or “fire someone in a year.” And, truly, I am willing to relocate… I just hoped it would be because it was beneficial for my career advancement at some point to be on-site so I could be a manager to other employees, not because they didn’t want to try to overcome common WFH hurdles like “video conferencing in the conference rooms”.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          And, truly, I am willing to relocate…

          That’s where we’re apples & oranges. I can’t accommodate a relocation almost indefinitely.

    3. Philippa*

      Big surprise, there. Atomized, patchwork employees do not make for serendipitous ideas or exceptional teams. “Making do” during a pandemic is not a scalable business model.

      On the much-less-positive side…. we are 3 months in, and it is not going well.

      1. allathian*

        It really depends on the job. Mine requires very little synchronous collaboration. Some asynchronous, as in I’ll write a text and my coworker will comment on it or vice versa, but that can all be done WFH. Some jobs require a lot more collaboration than others. The less collaboration is necessary, the better suited the job is for WFH, all other things being equal.

        When things hopefully return to whatever post-COVID normal, I would be happy to WFH most of the time, maybe go to the office once a quarter for our team development days.

  5. Hey, me too!*

    Thanks for asking and answering this question! I am in the midst of a job search and have applied to at least two positions that I feel similarly about – assuming the conversations go well, I’m interested if it’s mostly remote, with a day a week in the office due to commute.

    I’ve struggled a bit with whether or not to even apply, but they’re genuinely interesting positions and there’s no other way to kick off the conversation

    1. anon73*

      I’m looking as well and commute is a deal breaker for me too. I always ask early in the process (not wait until until an offer is made). It’s no different than making sure you’re in the same ballpark on salary. There’s no use in wasting everyone’s time if you’re not on the same page about things that are important to you.

  6. Jen*

    Sigh, you could be going to work for my organization. We’ve had several employees go remote over the years due to a spouse’s job transfer. It has been rocky, so when we got a new director, she was firm that we’re not going to have any more truly remote workers. We’ve all been remote since March and will be for the foreseeable future, but I do not see allowing our almost new hire to be remote. Everyone is different, and only an hour away is better than another time zone, but our remote employees have a level of entitlement that is beyond normal – like telling us we shouldn’t have potlucks because they can’t participate, not participating in all staff meetings (even since we’ve all been remote), and shifting their time so that they’re not working when those of us in town are (blaming it on the time zones, but really are only available a couple of hours the rest of us are, making collaboration difficult). As someone who is fairly new to the organization, it made for a difficult transition for me to navigate who does what as well as build camaraderie with my coworkers. But it just doesn’t work in the culture of our organization, event though our work is rather singular and involves working with individuals throughout my large state.

    An hour commute is not bad – it is routine for many people in big cities. We have an employee who lives an hour away, and is in the office most days. He stays home if he has a doctor’s appointment or the weather is bad, but he’s around 95% of the time.

    1. No hour commute for me, thanks*

      Just because an hour commute would be acceptable to one person, doesn’t mean that it is a blanket statement that an hour commute is not that bad. I did it for a while (actually more like an hour fifteen) and it was fine for me at the time. I would no longer be open to a position with an hour commute, though. There’s no universal rule on what is an okay commute length (time or distance).

    2. Bee*

      I have an hour-long commute, because – as you say – big city, and I can’t afford to live closer and also live alone. The trade-off between the commute and the lack of roommates is worth it for me, but since we’ve all gone remote, I’ve really noticed just how much of my life it sucks up. It’s a full quarter of my free time! I can easily see how it would be a dealbreaker if I had kids – frankly I don’t know if I’ll still be willing to do this in five years anyway.

    3. Disco Janet*

      How “bad” a commute is can be very subjective and depends on many factors.

      The issues at your workplace sound like more of a management issue than a remote issue. A good manager should out the kabosh on your remote colleagues griping about things like not being able to participate in potlucks and come up with some protocols around times for meetings that work for everyone.

      1. pancakes*

        Yes – none of these problems are intrinsic to working from home, and some have rather obvious solutions. Having core business hours and requiring attendance at important meetings, for example, should make lack of participation in meetings a non-issue.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        How “bad” a commute is can be very subjective and depends on many factors.

        Right. If that hour commute means I can live 70+ minutes away, and my life could actually support a commute right now, that’d be a conversation worth having. An hour commute that’s 8 miles away as the crow files might not even motivate me to pick the phone up next time you call.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          *sigh*. 70+ miles away, not 70+ minutes away.

          You’d never guess I type for a living, right? =?

      3. Jen2*

        I think I should add that I’m thinking the commute shouldn’t be playing a part in the negotiations because lots of people see an hour commute and don’t think that’s bad. I for one, would not want that kind of commute.

        I’m just thinking about my organization and how in my area cities are nicely spaced an hour apart. I’ve known people who have moved that hour and people who drive it. No one is going to put not wanting a commute as reason to let you work remotely. If the commute is an issue, they can tell you “no” and ask you to move. It isn’t all about your needs/desires, but about those of the organization you are working with as well.

        1. Just me*

          “If the commute is an issue, they can tell you “no” and ask you to move. It isn’t all about your needs/desires, but about those of the organization you are working with as well.”

          Or they can tell you no and you can not accept the offer or quit working there. You’re not obligated to do whatever a company wants you to do.

      4. Calpurrnia*

        Definitely agree here. I previously had a job in DC with an hour and a half commute – 15 minutes to drive to the train station, and 1:15 on the train to get to within a block of my office. In that 1:15, I could nap, read, play games, whatever. It was a little annoying, but overall I didn’t mind the commute that much.

        Now I live outside of LA. If I had that same commute, but driving in LA traffic? Hell no, I’d be looking for a new job before I even started. The time is not the only factor that makes a commute unbearable.

    4. higheredrefugee*

      One other piece on the 1 hour commute (or any length of commute) is if it can be done via public transportation safely. My longest commute was 25 minutes door to door but sans driving, and it didn’t stress me out the small ways driving does. I’d feel comfortable on public transportation right now, when fewer people are using it, but not likely again after things open up even more.

      1. Sasha*

        Agree a I’ve had 2hr commutes before (each way, due to temporary twelve month secondments, so not worth relocating my whole family for).

        The commutes by car almost broke me. The commutes by train were kind of a pain, in that I had to get up at 6 am and was often getting home after 9 pm, but I could nap/read my book/listen to podcasts/generally rest my brain, and it wasn’t half as exhausting as the driving commutes.

  7. Random Commenter*

    Does the fact the the LW already broached the topic mean that this discussion should happen now, and not wait for an offer?

    1. anon73*

      IMO the conversation should happen in the beginning, not when an offer is made. I realize that it was “sort of” discussed, but an answer of “sometimes” is vague and I would have made them explain what that means to them. Once a week/one week a month is not WFH “sometimes”. I always ask up front.

      1. Hello*

        It’s like salary, I wait until hey have a vested interest in me. I’ve been successful negotiating remote work pre-Covid for a non remote job in the past

        1. anon73*

          If you’re not even in the same ballpark on salary, why waste your own time? I want to know up front. Maybe not the exact amount, but at least a range.

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      I’d wait for an offer. Then you know they want you, so you have some leverage. I wouldn’t wait to the offer to bring it up at all, but I would wait to make it clear it’s a make or break issue. As Hello suggested, it’s like salary.

    3. Des*

      Definitely wait for their offer. Their minds are already ‘committed’ at that stage, they want her. Before the offer they’re still deciding and it can swing the decision in the wrong direction.

  8. fisharenotfriends*

    I wonder how effective it would be to negotiate now, though?

    The company can just as easily decide that they don’t want the role to be from home after covid times later and you’d still be forced to choose because of the commute, wouldn’t the LW be better off to spend her negotiating capital on things that might make the job worthwhile if the commute were to change in the future?

    1. Eliza*

      It sounds like the LW is pretty clear that the commute is a dealbreaker for her and there’s nothing that’d make up for it, though. If the company initially agrees to WFH and then changes their mind, presumably she’ll quit rather than going into the office full-time.

  9. anon73*

    Based on their answer of sometimes, I would be very surprised if they agree to one day a week/one week a month as you’re suggesting. If something is important to you and you can afford to be particular about it, it’s best to bring it up early in the process so you don’t waste everyone’s time (including your own).

    1. Handwashing Hero*

      This. I’ve been specifically looking for a remote position and have been frustrated with how many recruiters/HR and/or first phone interviews I’ve been on that it comes out that they are targeting back in the office for the position. Even though it’s has and is being successfully done remote per them. And the job listing post is ‘remote’.

      I’ve been bowing out at that point as remote versus 1hr+ commutes is a deal breaker for me which has been disappointing on both ends. I kept hoping that as the pandemic has dragged on that will change but so far no dice. I’m not about to leave a job with a commute I can manage for one that will be remote for a time and then demand an untenable commute later on.

    2. Bex*

      I agree…. If I told a candidate that “work from home is fine sometimes, but not all the time” and then they waiting until the offer stage to tell me that they wanted to come into the office once a month, I would be pretty frustrated. IMO, sometimes means 1-2 remote days a week at the absolute most.

      1. allathian*

        Then it’s up to you to define precisely what you mean by “sometimes” so you don’t waste your or the candidate’s time unnecessarily. If “sometimes” means 1 or 2 days at most, say so.

        1. anon73*

          It’s also up to the candidate to ask more specific questions if it’s a deal breaker. If I know that I won’t take a job that won’t allow WFH at least 3 days a week, then I need to be up front about it. It’s similar to salary. If I know I won’t take less than 50K, then I’m going to be up front about it. If a candidate isn’t honest and asking the right questions about things that matter to them, then they are wasting everyone’s time moving forward and *hoping* they can negotiate their way into a dream job when it’s evident that there may be some issues.

  10. Hello*

    Pre-Covid i negotiated remote work for my job. During negotiation I I asked them if 50% remote would be fine, they said sure. Once I was there for several months to prove myself, I asked for full time remote and they had no problem.

  11. Des*

    Good luck, OP!

    And you can negotiate on multiple fronts based on the strength of your candidacy. (That is, don’t drop negotiating salary if they agree on this remote work.)

  12. Black Horse Dancing*

    Umm, to me ‘sometimes is fine’ is code for once in a while when the weather is bad or you have an appointment or a cold. Like once every six weeks or so can you WFH. It’s great verbiage but I can see this workplace being kind of testy and saying no and being frustrated that OP ‘wasted their time’ as to them it may seem very clear that WFH was for very occasional use

    1. Black Horse Dancing*

      Ah, It’s great verbiage was meant for the language OP was using in what she was proposing.

    2. JC*

      Agreed. I’ve been a hiring manager in an office where, pre-COVID, full-time remote would be a hard no. Barring emergencies or temporary medical situations, we let people work from home once a week and no more. I would have been very annoyed if someone asked me about work from home during interviews and then tried to negotiate full-time remote after hearing my response.

      Granted, since my office was so inflexible on WFH, I would have been somewhat clearer about our policies during the interview than OP’s interviewer was. And in the current environment where we are all WFH, I don’t think I’d be annoyed by it unless I was crystal clear in the interview that we would not entertain full time remote once we’ve returned to the office (which, obviously, the OP has not heard). It’s reasonable to think that things could be different after this experience that they were before, even in offices that used to be rigid on WFH.

  13. Uranus Wars*

    Great language LW and good luck! I agree its great to tackle this head on and not “work it out later” or hope it all works out. I hope that since you are an IC and have a track record of success that they will take this into consideration.

    I do think views from WFH will be much different moving forward, but sometimes I worry about the dynamics once everyone isn’t WFH anymore. And for those taking jobs that are remote for now, what if it really isn’t feasible for one person to stay at home?

    Part of me really hopes to remain WFH full-time after the pandemic ends and we start bringing back people. Right now, I am functioning fine, feel like my opinion is heard and am not talked over in video or phone meetings. I am in a great place and things are running smoothly, plus I have had some great exposure to senior leadership I likely would not have without a global pandemic. BUT I am also hesitant to approach my boss, though. I keep wondering if once everyone isn’t remote anymore, will I still be as visible as I am not if I am at home. I also lead a team of 2, but I plan to give them the choice to WFH if they want once we get back to a more “normal” office life.

    1. Philippa*

      Don’t kid yourself: you won’t be. Half the battle is showing up.

      I keep wondering if once everyone isn’t remote anymore, will I still be as visible as I am not if I am at home.

  14. JSPA*

    You need to incorporate the “sometimes” explicitly, or you risk looking like you’re ignoring the only response you were given. Additions in caps:

    “I’m really interested in the work, but the commute is giving me some hesitation. CAN WE REVISIT YOUR STATEMENT THAT THE JOB CAN SOMETIMES BE REMOTE, THOUGH NOT ENTIRELY SO? SPECIFICALLY, would you be open to allowing me to work APPROXIMATELY 80 PERCENT remotely, post-COVID? I’d love to come into the office once a week, or one week a month — whichever you prefer. I have worked remotely full time in all of my past jobs and have been continuously praised for my work quality, speed, responsiveness, and dependability. I would agree to make any long-term work-from-home arrangement contingent on my performance as a remote worker during my first six months in the role. If you’re able to allow a PARTIAL remote-work arrangement WITH 20% IN-OFFICE TIME, I’d be thrilled to take the job.”

    Also, are you offering one week out of every four, or one week a month? They’re similar, but not identical, and it’s worth clarifying it advance. (One week out of every four is 25%, one week a month is ~23%, one day a week is ~15%.)

    In this version, you end stressing the time you will be in office, rather than the time you won’t, which is a plus. And it forestalls them raising an eyebrow and asking in a chilly way why you wasted their time, after they said “remote” was not an option. (If they were imagining 5%, they’ll still be irked, but they should be more irked at themselves for not being specific, than at you, for asking them to define “sometimes,” given that you are willing to go in.)

    Also, think through the permutations, in the same way you’d think through other negotiations. What if they want you there for two days, every two weeks? What if they don’t tell you which days, until two days in advance, when they realize they’re swamped and confused, or someone important is visiting? If they say it’d be fine except if there are special visitors, are you prepared to find out how often that’s projected to happen? And are you still interested?

  15. Letter Writer*

    OP here. Thanks so much to Alison for her excellent-as-always response, and to everyone who’s commented so far with their insights. I love reading them.

    Update: In the time since writing in with my question, I did *not* get the job offer in question (whoops), so this issue became a moot point for me! (I’m sure Alison’s advice here will still be helpful to many others.)

    The good news is, I actually ended up getting a different job, which I knew right off the bat was going to be fully WFH, including post-COVID. It was so much easier going through the interview process with the knowledge that I wasn’t going to have to convince someone that remote work was a good idea — they already knew. :)

    1. 2020storm*

      Congratulations!!!! It sounds like the best possible outcome, sinc eyou have no trial period to content with, and the “sometimes” answer was worrying every commenter. Best of luck to you in your new job!

  16. General Organa*

    Does anyone have any thoughts on a similar scenario, but when the job is in a different region? I’m in the final stages of interviewing for a job that would be in another state when the office reopens–but there is absolutely no hint as to when that will happen, and I have a significant other and a long lease. Would it be reasonable to say something like, “I understand that the position is remote for now, but do you think there is any flexibility regarding keeping it remote in the future, contingent on satisfactory performance and willingness to travel once it’s safe?” Also, I’m not sure it’s useful to say, but I’m concerned about my significant other’s ability to get a job in the city where the job is located–there’s work in his field in another city a couple hours away from the job’s head office (which currently is an airplane ride away), and I’d be willing to move there too, but I feel like saying that would complicate things.

    1. Tiny Kong*

      There can be different HR repercussions if it’s a different US state–taxes, does HR know those labor laws, etc. Even if they’d be willing to allow remote work, it may be a different decision if state lines are being crossed (but maybe not, depends where and if your company has an office in that state).

  17. ElleKay*

    Unpopular opinion but an hour commute is not at all uncommon in much of the US. Every job I’ve had (up until my current one) was a 45 min – 1 hour 10 min drive each way and that’s never been uncommon.
    Is this ideal? No.
    Do I wish it was different? Sure.
    But for tons of the US this wouldn’t be uncommon and I’d be expecting to go into work post-Covid

    1. Roeslein*

      Not in a the US but a one hour commute sounds fairly normal to me, as long as it’s by public transport (train / subway / tram) with maximum one change – but I would not do it if I had to drive (much more stressful) or even take the bus (I have motion sickness so can’t get read on the bus).

    2. Beth Jacobs*

      This is a completely valid, but not really relevant to the OP. OP has chosen to seek a remote only job and that’s her choice. Companies aren’t obligated to enable that choice, that’s fine, it’s on her to find a position where it works.
      It’s like salary. Medium income for FT workers in the US is about 35k. Is it uncommon to earn less than 35? No it isn’t – half of workers do. Is it unreasonable to decide you won’t accept an offer below 35k? Below 60k? No it isn’t. If you’re confident you can find a job on your terms, go ahead and to that.

      1. Beth Jacobs*

        * median

        I just saw the update upthread that OP managed to secure a different fully remote position! That’s great news and shows she was right not to “settle” for a commute.

  18. Kanga*

    Most US workers don’t have a contract? How does that even work? Do you not sign anything before starting?

    1. Formerly GradStudent*

      Apparently. This threw me for a loop recently as well. I’d taken other, like 1099 work in the U.S. where I wasn’t contracted per say and that made sense to me. I secured a job, did the job, got paid, got my 1099, went on to the next job. But trying to negotiate like, a full time position (so, like a W-2 job) and asked when I’d be able to sign my contract before starting. Blank stares. “We don’t do that here.”
      I was like, ok, so how do I have a record of what I should be paid?! What my hours are?! What my job title is, at the very least?!

      1. Wolf*

        Without a contract, what are your taxes based on? Your health insurance rates? How do you show a new landlord you have a secure income?

        1. Attack Cat*

          Your landlord calls your employer and asks your usual pay rate. No really, people buying homes right now have had their employer contacted multiple times in these COVID times to double check that they were 1. still employed and 2. still making the same amount or more. It was the mortgage lender doing the contacting. Also taxes are done as a best guess, you fix it at the end of the year when you file your W-2 along with either a payment or refund request. Also health insurance rates are not based on income, the only time income comes up is in making sure your full time employer offers at least one self-only plan where the premium is less than 9.5% of your income, your rate of pay, or the federal poverty line. And this affordability protection is post ACA, we didn’t even have it before.

    2. pcake*

      You can be fired or quit at any time. They can change your work conditions at any time; hours, pay, whether or not you can work from home. Your job can change your status from full to part time.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      There’s usually some sort of formal offer that you would accept or decline where they lay out various terms like salary and maybe some benefits like PTO or health insurance or whatever so you all have proof on what was agreed on. But it’s not really binding like a contract (aside from some things like the fact that they can’t change you pay retroactively). Not everywhere does written formal offers I think, so if for some reason someone doesn’t I would push back and request one. But everywhere I’ve worked had a standard “offer letter” process.

    4. GradBoss*

      Not a contract necessarily but an offer letter, that you may or may not sign and return. You also may have to sign a non-disclosure agreement, non-competes, conflict of interest forms, etc. depending on industry. I think I signed about 100 papers before I started my current position.

  19. GradBoss*

    Kudos to you for addressing this upfront and not waiting to bring it up once you start the job and just hoping it works out. This blindsides your manager and puts them between a rock and a hard place. Since you’re bringing this up upfront I would encourage you to get whatever is agreed to in writing (ideally as part of your offer letter) just in case someone forgets or the person who authorizes it leaves the company in the interim. I always get the terms of my telework agreement included in the offer letter to avoid this. When I worked at an organization that had a more hostile attitude toward WFH I addressed commute in the later stages of the interview process because commuting in the DC area can be horrible so for managers if you’re hiring someone and the expectation is that they will come in to the office after WFH ends please be upfront with them about this expectation.

  20. DiscoCat*

    I am in a very similar position. Applied mid-August and didn’t hear from them for 6 weeks, then they interviewed me and offered a job, all within 10 days. Yay! Right? Good employer, great job and industry I’d been dying to get back into for years. Only thing is that in those 8 weeks, summer came to an end and winter is looming (foreseeable but still…), Corona cases rose again dramatically so that in the 3 days between interviewing and receiving their offer there was talk of new lockdown or new tight restrictions. I live in southern Europe now, the job is in a big, cold, grey, gloomy northern European city where I hardly know anyone I could trust to hang out with as part of my or their inner circle or health bubble, work is on a 50:50 weekly staff rotation so I wouldn’t even be in the office that much. I’d have to quarantine for 2 weeks upon arrival, and wouldn’t be able to conduct an uncomplicated move, flat search, or visit friends in other nearby cities, I can’t go to work every day to take my mind of the stress of relocating and settling in, etc. and would be utterly miserable with being locked in under these circumstances. In addition they have to consider the risk to themselves of letting me in from a high risk area to their still-low-risk city. I wrote them very quickly explaining the situation, being proactive, seeking their pov and basically saying that a move at this point in time would be foolish, that I could work remotely from down here just as well as from a hotel room in their city. Their response was lukewarm, considering how fast they jumped at employing me (too fast…?) they were now being very unforthcoming and tight lipped, they told me that some new staff had recently moved there (not really comparable as they came from low risk areas and before this whole thing reescalated), they also told me that they wouldn’t change anything about their current 50:50 set up. I’m stumped, I don’t want to reject their offer (there are no jobs here), but I also really don’t want to move, both countries have gone into light lockdown since I wrote them, travel is severely restricted and my anxiety is spiking. I have decided that since my openness wasn’t really taken seriously or worked with procatively, I’ll wait until I receive my contract, sign it and then pick up the topic again, pointing out that the situation is continuing to escalate, that I’ll start work here on my usual start date and we see how things work in 4 weeks. It’s like playing poker, I’d rather they rescind their offer/ annul the contract than me loosing my nerves and rejecting their offer. It sucks.

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