So you want to work from home. Maybe you’re moving further away from the office, maybe you’ve recently had a baby, or maybe you know you’d be more productive not being chained to your cube, trying to block out the ambient chatter of your co-workers nine hours each day.
The good news is, more and more companies are agreeing to part- or full-time telecommuting arrangements for their employees. So if you want to work from home, and you have a good reason, don’t be afraid to ask. I did—and here are the tips I learned for bettering your odds that you and your boss can come to a mutually beneficial arrangement.
1. Weigh the Potential
These days, so many of us do work that can be completed from any location with an internet connection. But—not all positions are suited to working from home, and it’s important to know that before you begin. Do you do mostly solo work, or do you interact with people from different departments on a daily basis? Are you mainly on the phone and email, or do you attend lots of in-person meetings? Do you supervise others? Be honest with yourself about whether or not telecommuting would really make sense for your gig. Unfortunately, your desire to work from home and the practicality of the arrangement may not always be in sync.
Next, outline your responsibilities and detail how much time you spend working on each one. Make note of the tasks that might be more difficult to complete from home, as well as those that would be easier. You’ll need to show your boss how, exactly, working from home will impact your position.
Finally, make sure you think about your timing. If you’re new on the job or gunning for a promotion, now is probably not the time to be spending your days out the office.
2. Formulate a Plan
Rather than just having a casual conversation, it’s better to design a formal proposal—for your boss to take the arrangement seriously, you’ll want to show that you do, too.
First, propose a specific schedule of the days and hours you will work remotely, explaining that you will be fully available by phone, email, IM, or whatever, during those hours. Your plan is also more likely to be considered if you start off asking for a temporary, part-time schedule, say, two days each week to be revisited after 60-90 days.
Then, outline the benefits of your proposed arrangement. Remember, the arguments that will appeal most to your boss are ones that have the “what’s in it for me?” factor. Sure, telecommuting may relieve you of a killer commute, but it will also mean that you can start work earlier (and more refreshed) by avoiding 60 minutes in the car each morning. Present it that way. Be prepared to show at least three ways that telecommuting will make you a better employee and a better asset to the company.
3. Identify and Address Concerns
Alleviating possible concerns—i.e., concerns about your productivity or IT security issues—should also be a big part of your proposal. Try to put yourself in your boss’ shoes, think about what her biggest questions or hold-ups might be, and be prepared with solutions. For example, propose face-to-face weekly catch-up meetings or weekly task lists to serve as accountability that you’re not just watching daytime TV. Or, suggest working with your IT department to ensure that your equipment is safe. Many companies also have secure VPNs (virtual private networks) that you can log into and enjoy the same security benefits as if you were in the office. Doing your research, especially on these concerns, will show that you’ve thought through every facet of the arrangement.
4. Make it a Conversation
Once you’ve done this groundwork, set up some time to present and talk through your proposal with your boss. Keep in mind that she probably won’t approve it right off the bat—especially if it’s not common at your company. More than likely, she’ll need to think through the arrangement and possibly also get it signed off by higher-ups. That’s OK. Just state your willingness to be flexible, offer to discuss any additional concerns and benefits that come up, and show your appreciation for your proposal even being considered.
So, Does it Work?
On a personal note, I recently followed the above steps to propose a work-from-home arrangement with my boss, and the result was—success! I began by doing my homework, then I submitted a proposal, stating that I wished to meet with her to further discuss my intentions and her thoughts. I was lucky; my supervisor was completely amenable to the idea, and just asked to adjust my original proposed schedule a little. Even though I was a little apprehensive about the whole thing, taking the initiative to ask worked out to my advantage, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.
The bottom line: Do your research, make a compelling case, and don’t be afraid to ask—you just might find yourself working from home, too.