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How to Negotiate a Raise When Returning to the Office

As more and more offices open back up with lessening pandemic restrictions, an increasing number of employees find themselves no longer able to work remotely. This shift has become a point of contention for many – 16.3% of workers would leave a job if required to return to the office or on-site work, according to iHire’s 2021 Talent Retention Report.

However, not everyone can afford to resign, nor want to leave their job. But at the same time, the ability to work where you please is a benefit employees don’t want to lose. To fix this dilemma, workers may consider asking for a raise. If you’re thinking of doing the same, keep reading to learn how to negotiate a raise when going back to the office.


Woman doing salary research


Research Your Situation

As with any salary negotiation, you’ll want to have the power of data on your side. The first step is to do your research and find appropriate salary information related to your position and your location. That way, you’ll know if you’re currently paid a fair rate, and you’ll have an idea of how much more you can reasonably request. There are plenty of online salary research tools available to help you find your worth. A good place to start looking is iHire’s Salary Research Tool.

Once you have relevant salary data, take stock of your personal accomplishments while working at home. Summarize your achievements in an easily remembered list to show your manager the value you brought to the company while away from the office.

When doing your research, remember to also factor in the costs of going back to the office. Travel expenses like gas, public transportation, or parking fees may seem small, but they add up over time. Be realistic when explaining this to your employer – don’t exaggerate – but make sure they know it is costing you extra to work in person instead of at home.

Determining your worth is important, but you’ll also need to consider your employer’s circumstances. For example, if there have been a lot of layoffs recently, your employer might not be able to accommodate a significant raise. However, if the company has been successful and you can pinpoint how you contributed to that success, then you’ll have a much stronger case.

If your company isn’t doing well and can’t afford raises, but you’ve taken on more responsibility and achieved all your goals during the pandemic, you may be able to negotiate for something other than money.


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Consider Alternatives to Salary

Since many people see remote work as a given benefit now, another option in your negotiations is to ask for a different benefit in return for going back to the office. In fact, some companies are already doing this and offering generous incentives to get employees to return.

If your employer can’t swing a raise, negotiating for benefits might be a better way to go, especially if you’re trying to regain some of the freedom you had while at home. The benefits could include flexible hours, extra PTO, on-site childcare, or even a hybrid work-from-home system. Having the choice of working at home or in the office can be just as good as working remotely full-time. Salary isn’t everything, and if you can secure a lifestyle improvement instead of a small raise, that may actually be more valuable to you in the long run.

If you’re set on more compensation, asking for a performance bonus might yield better results than a raise, especially if you can show an impressive list of accomplishments during your work-from-home tenure. Employers are more likely to approve a one-time payment, particularly if it comes from a different budget than salaries.


Asking for a raise


How to Bring Up Salary if Asked to Go Back to the Office

Timing is critical when asking for a raise after being told to return to the office. You don’t want to wait too long after the announcement and risk losing out on the immediacy of the situation, but you also don’t want to rush in too fast without doing your research.

Get your thoughts together and set up a meeting a few days after the announcement by email preferably, so your employer isn’t blindsided. A simple message like “I’d like to set up some time with you to discuss my compensation as we head back to the office” should be sufficient. Then, when you sit down to negotiate, remember to be professional and positive, and be prepared to explain your reasoning.

If you get a “no,” that’s OK; it doesn’t necessarily mean everything is over. It could just mean “not yet,” or that your manager needs time to come back with a counteroffer. Ask your boss if there’s room to negotiate and determine what you want to do based on the answer.


Asking for a raise when returning to the office is stressful, but if you do your research and go in with a plan, you’re more likely to get what you want. For more salary negotiation tips and tricks, head over to our Job Seeker Resource Center.

by: Doug Atkinson
November 18, 2021

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