This is not your grandfather’s work environment. For the large contingent of Americans who now work in the technology industry — and even many other disciplines — technology has made the world a significantly smaller place.
Need to meet with someone halfway across the world?
No problem, fire up Skype and trade your documents using Google Drive. That’s a simple example, and you’re probably aware of the vast selection of tools that make remote work possible — but what about the logistics of it?
Many managers are still hung up on the idea of people working without coming to the office. So how can you open the conversation and achieve your desired results?
Explain the Why and the WIIFM
If your manager is relatively open-minded, they should at least be willing to hear you out if you request a meeting to discuss the topic of working remote. Don’t spoil this opportunity. The key to getting what you want is presenting a reasonable motive for your request to work from home.
Perhaps you live far from work and want to recoup some of the time you would typically spend commuting. Or you have a family and need to be able to look out for the kids a few days a week.
It’s best to begin by requesting only one or two days of remote time — this lets your employer see that you take the privilege seriously, and they can get comfortable with your productivity while you’re working remotely.
Speaking of productivity, one thing you should share is that productivity often increases when you work from home. This fact is particularly true in roles where you can dig into a specific project and need to avoid distraction to be efficient.
In an office environment, you might be working in a cubicle, entertaining chatter from your peers. When you’re at home, you can cash in on that extra time spent not commuting and enjoy a distraction-free workspace. Investing in an organized, professional-grade home office setup might help sell this idea to your manager.
Have a Plan
Avoiding the stigma of “shirking from home” should be top-of-mind for you when you present your argument. So again, it’s critical that you have some structure to your proposal, and that should include a proposed schedule for when you will work from home and how you will maintain communication with your co-workers when doing so.
Our suggestion to begin by asking for a single day is intended to mitigate most manager’s biggest fear regarding remote work. They’re afraid that employees will fall out of touch with their team when they’re not in the office. It’s a legitimate concern, and to make your case, you’re going to have to demonstrate that you won’t fall victim to this pesky syndrome.
A good way to do this in a professional setting is by preparing a written proposal. In it, you can include your planned remote days, your strategy for staying in touch and a set of criteria that you will be evaluated in a set span of time.
You’re basically putting the act of working remote into an HR-friendly document that adheres to the same set of rules a standard evaluation would.
Understand the Competition
Part of the reason your manager should be willing to hear you out is that they’re responsible for creating a work environment you can thrive in. If you can demonstrate that you’re responsible enough to get the job done from home — or even increase productivity by doing so — then to refuse you could result in an unhappy employee.
Of course, it helps to go into this conversation with some rapport. It might be a more tenuous situation for you if you’ve just started the job.
Typically, we recommend requesting a discussion to work remote at a time when your performance is good, and the company is on solid ground. It might not be so well-received when earnings are in the toilette or there’s just been a corporate merger.
Even so, you can be compelled by giving examples of how competitors use telecommuting. A good managerial staff will read into this as you expressing that “I could go somewhere else and get this perk.” And since you intend to uphold your end of the deal, it’s really more of a business arrangement than a perk.
Losing people is the last thing managers want. It costs money to train you, and it’s difficult to find the right people to fit into the existing company culture.
To be clear, you should not come into the office and say “I’m going to go work for [insert company here] because they’ll let me telecommute.” Instead, give an example of how your competitor uses telecommuting technology to be successful. If you can find a case study or testimonial to share, even better.
Review Policy and Make Good on Your Promises
At this point, your manager will have to decide whether they want to allow the remote time or not. If you do get the opportunity, be sure to express that you understand it’s a privilege.
Set up regular communication with the office to let them know how your time is being spent. If you decide you want to push for more time, this strategy will work in your favor.
Also, keep in mind that telecommuting is fairly common these days, and many companies have policies that dictate when and how much telecommuting an employee can do. If the limit is two days a week, you had better have a very compelling reason to exceed that.
Telecommuting is becoming more and more commonplace, and that’s an advantage if you’re preparing to breach the topic with your manager. The more it becomes accepted, the simpler your conversation with the boss will be.
Still, you need to demonstrate that you’ve got your ducks in a row before you just throw the idea out there. If you don’t, it will only have people asking questions about the motivation behind your request. Make a plan, and present it in a compelling way. You’ll probably face little resistance if you do.