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Working Remotely: How to Have Tough Talks with Boss While Struggling

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And they should.

Here are four issues employees might be facing now and tips on how to discuss each with your boss:

Yes, there are perks to working remotely. But it also can be tough.

If you are having a hard time working from home, the first step is to figure out exactly what the problem is. For instance: Is it too much work? Do you need more feedback from your boss? Are you having a hard time connecting with your colleagues?

“Pinpoint what it is and talk to the boss,” said Steve Arneson, author of “What your Boss Really Wants from You.” “Don’t just say: ‘I am struggling.'”

Once you’ve identified the problem, now it’s time to ask for what you need to help solve the issue. Here’s a good phrase to use with your boss: “In order for me to be the most productive, I need…”

“The boss’ ears perk up when they hear this phrase” said Amy Cooper Hakim, an industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and workplace expert. “We want a productive and engaged workforce.”

So if the problem is you feel stretched too thin with too much work, try saying: In order to be most productive, it would help to have clear priorities on where I should focus my attention first.

You probably aren’t alone with your struggles, so try crowdsourcing solutions by opening up the conversation with your colleagues, suggested Dana Brownlee, author of “The Unwritten Rules of Managing Up.”

Try asking others at the next meeting about which practices have helped them and you can also offer to share what you’ve learned over the last few months. Not only does this help solve the problem, but it also shows some leadership and can help boost morale among the team.

“It is unfortunate, but true: When we aren’t in front of someone, we are easily forgotten,” said Cooper Hakim.

You are going to have to be more proactive when it comes to communicating, especially if there’s a hybrid situation where some colleagues have returned to the office, but you’re still home. But you can’t be too pushy.

Figure out what works best for you and your boss when it comes to check-ins and status updates.

For some, a quick daily email or Slack with an update on plans for the day will be preferred. Other bosses might want a more formal weekly chat.

“It is very important that we request a daily or weekly touch base to show that we are on our game,” she said.

For many working parents, the fall is going to be a big test of how working and caregiving at home will continue to play out. Meeting the demands of full-time work, child care and education is going to be unsustainable for many. When approaching your boss on what work might look like without reliable child care options, focus on offering solutions but also be transparent.

“We tend to focus on what we need, but first think about what you can offer,” said Brownlee. Have a schedule ready to share that will best work for juggling everything.

Set expectations by giving clear time frames of when you will and won’t be available and try to stick to them as much as you can so everyone is aware and can plan accordingly.

It might also be worth checking in with human resources to see if there are any options for working parents, advised Cooper Hakim. Some companies are offering different solutions, like job sharing, which involves splitting a full-time position, moving to part-time work or offering more leave.

It’s normal to be worried about returning to the workplace. Even if you are excited about seeing your co-workers again, the idea of commuting or spending the day in an enclosed space with other people where you could possibly contract Covid-19 can still be nerve-racking.

Everyone is trying to figure out how to make the workplace as safe as possible, so don’t be shy about voicing your concerns and try to be specific. Just be mindful about how you come off.

“Make sure it doesn’t come across in a complaining manner. No one likes a complainer, but they respect those providing constructive suggestions,” said Cooper Hakim.

Keep in mind that some concerns, particularly when it comes to a pre-existing disability, could require reasonable accommodations from an employer under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

And be sure to offer up potential solutions that would make you feel better. Maybe an office with a door would make you feel better or sitting in a more remote area of the office.

“This is a time you have some ‘power,'” said Arneson. “The old rules don’t always apply, you have license to ask more questions and push back a little.”

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