Can I be forced to return to the office by my boss after working from home?

CAREERS’ panel of expert recruiters answers a reader’s question each week. Have a question? Email [email protected]

My boss wants me back in the office a few days a week but I’m reluctant to return to the workplace and prefer working from home. Can I stick to my guns?

Lisa Morris



While there’s certainly a new-found acceptance of continued flexibility, what this looks like varies from organisation to organisation. So, if you would like to continue working from home, why not ask your boss for a meeting to discuss the possibility? In the meeting, demonstrate how you successfully worked from home in 2020 by sharing evidence of your achievements. For example, the percentage increase in work completed or improved planning or execution of your individual tasks. Crucially, focus on the gains for your organisation, not just for you. For example, rather than talking about how a reduced commute gives you more time to spend with your family, focus on how you start each day refreshed at peak productivity, which you maintain because of your distraction-free environment. However, to come to a mutually beneficial arrangement with your manager you may need to be flexible. For instance, many employers want to re-establish the in-person interactions of a co-located office. In this case, perhaps you could suggest part-time remote working so that you still maintain some contact with your in-office colleagues, while working remotely the rest of the week.

Justin Hinora

Executive consultant,

Hender Consulting

The best approach is to have an open and honest conversation with your boss and be proactive in addressing any perceived concerns. Covid was certainly a catalyst for many organisations who were new to exploring the concept of working from home (WFH) in a more formal sense. There are now many examples of both advantages and disadvantages associated with WFH. It’s important to establish whether your employer now has a formal process or set of guidelines or is it simply by negotiation on an individual basis. WFH is not necessarily an entitlement so be careful not to present as stubborn and inflexible.

Andrew Sullivan

Managing director,

Sullivan Consulting

Have you been able to meet your targets? Have you been maintaining good relationships with your colleagues? I would suggest identifying the reason your employer wants you back in the office and prepare a case to continue working from home. While some studies have shown working from home may increase productivity and lower stress, it may also isolate you from your team and company. Working from home is becoming more commonplace with the advent of social distancing, but there can be limitations, and you may need to compromise.

Alexandra Rosser

Head of Organisational Psychology Consulting,

Stillwell Management Consultants

The answer to this depends very much on a question of reasonableness. If your employer has an appropriate return-to-work transition program, has implemented required cleaning and personal protection protocols, will enable you to socially distance and has adopted other measures such as temperature checks and having a COVID marshall, their request of you might be deemed reasonable and your refusal to comply could justify disciplinary action. On the other hand, if your personal vulnerability to COVID-19 or the nature of the workplace is such that your health and safety could be considered likely to be compromised, your refusal might be deemed reasonable in the circumstances.

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