There are lots of reasons why you might want to work from home. Childcare is expensive, long commutes are a drain on your energy and resources, and—let’s face it—the office environment isn’t always great for productivity.
Remote work is a growing trend in the workforce. According to the results of a recent survey, it’s estimated that by 2028, 73% of all departments will have remote workers, with 33% of full-time workers out of office.
Unfortunately, there are still holdouts who aren’t sold on letting their employees work from home. So how do you get your boss to sign off on letting you work remotely?
1) Be a good employee
Successfully working from home is all about trust and communication, so before you can have a conversation with your manager about remote work, you need to work on earning that trust—especially if your employer has had negative experiences with remote workers in the past.
A great way to start is by simply being a good employee. Show up to the office on time, demonstrate your investment in the business, practice good communication skills, and work on proving your value to your boss.
Basically, if you make yourself indispensable, your manager will be invested in keeping you around. Then they’ll be more likely to see the benefits in giving you flexible workplace options, and it may help to overcome their bias against remote workers. Plus, you’ll have the trust and mutual respect you need for a successful work-from-home plan.
2) Make sure the technology is in place
Technology is crucial when you telecommute, so before you actually talk to your boss, you’ll want to make sure you have the tools to get started.
You can start by making sure you have reliable high-speed internet at home (or wherever else you’ll be working). If you regularly experience slow speeds at home, that’ll make remote work extremely difficult—and it’ll make you look less reliable to everyone in the office.
Next, you’ll want to make sure your employer has the tools for remote work.
If you’re expected to participate regularly in in-office meetings, you’ll need to figure out a videoconferencing solution. If your office doesn’t have cameras and TVs set up in your meeting rooms, maybe float the idea by your boss. Even if remote workers aren’t on your manager’s radar, you can pitch videoconferencing as a great tool for screen sharing and client meetings.
If your employer doesn’t have the right tools for workplace flexibility and they’re not looking to invest in that technology, you’ll have to come up with some creative solutions (like using Skype for meetings). Otherwise, you may have to shelve working from home until your office gets the upgrades you need.
3) Make a business case
Now that you’ve laid the groundwork, it’s time to make the pitch to your boss.
Start by explaining all the reasons why you want to work from home. If you have young children and need a better childcare solution, explain that to your manager. If you deal with a long commute or inconvenient transportation, bring that up. If you just think you’d work better away from the fluorescent lighting and chatty co-workers at you office, mention that too.
Next, in your proposal, highlight some of the many well-documented telecommuting benefits. Here are a few to get you started:
i) Higher job satisfaction
Studies have repeatedly found that working remotely has a profoundly positive effect on employee job satisfaction. And if your manager needs a good refresher on why employee job satisfaction is important, you can remind them that satisfied employees statistically drive better results for their employers.
ii) Less turnover
Most employers understand that employee turnover is costly and generally bad for business. So your boss may be more inclined to consider your work-from-home proposal if you make the case that companies with flexible work options have seen sizable drops in employee attrition.
iii) Better productivity
Even more studies have shown the incredible benefits remote work can have on productivity. Many employees who work remotely find it easier to put in a full workday and concentrate better during their work hours. That makes them more efficient, which makes them a better investment for the company.
iv) Fewer sick days
Working from home has another effect that many employers don’t consider: it results in fewer unscheduled absences. Basically, they’re not taking sick days for minor illnesses because they’re not worried about spreading their sniffles to other co-workers. And fewer sick days means enhanced productivity.
v) More profit
Not only will your company make more money if you’re more productive—it will also save a lot of money too. With fewer workers in the office, your boss can spend less on office furniture, real estate, and ancillary benefits like snacks. In fact, some studies estimate companies see an average cost savings of $10,000 per year for each full-time remote worker they employ. Yes, please.
4) Present your plan
Hopefully by now, you’ve warmed your boss up to the idea of employees working from home. But they may still be skeptical about the mechanics of incorporating remote work into their business. To combat that, your proposal should include a concrete plan for how you intend to make remote work feasible for yourself, your boss, and your colleagues.
Here are some questions your plan should address:
a) What will your work schedule be?
One great thing about working from home is the flexibility to work at the best time for your schedule. Unfortunately, that’s scary for a lot of managers, so be open about your schedule and make sure you’re clear about when you’ll be available. What time will you start? How many hours will you work?
You may also want to come up with a way to track your hours so your boss can verify you’re putting in full-time work. Or if you work part-time, you may need to find a remote time clock software that allows you to punch in and out from home.
Finally, you may want to include in-office days in your plan. Communicate clearly which days you plan to be in the office and which days you’ll be at home.
b) Where will you work?
When a lot of employers think of remote work, they either imagine an employee who stays in bed all day or an employee who goes surfing during work hours. This mental image feeds into an impression that remote workers do the bare minimum amount of work and prioritize their own enjoyment over their responsibilities.
A good way to combat this negative perception is to share details with your boss about your workspace. Show them pictures of your home office, your desk, and the equipment you plan to use. Basically, give them no reason to think you’ll be less efficient while working remotely.
Also: you may be all about that digital nomad lifestyle, but if your boss is already hesitant to allow remote work, you may want to hold off booking that backpacking trip until your work-from-home situation is a little more established.
d) What distractions do you foresee? How will you handle those distractions?
Sure, you and I know that there are often fewer distractions at home than in the office. But to your manager, working from home presents hundreds of temptations that might distract you from your job.
So anticipate and address those concerns. Make a list of potential distractions (social media, children, the lure of Ellen) and describe what you will do to combat those distractions and how you’ll communicate to your coworkers that you’re unavailable.
Showing your boss that distractions won’t negatively affect your ability to work will help your case substantially.
e) How will you participate in meetings and collaboration remotely?
A lot of employers worry that remote employees won’t be able to collaborate and participate at the same level as in-office workers. Fortunately, you’ve already scoped out the technology available to your company and should have ready solutions for remote meetings and collaboration.
Share your plan to communicate using instant messaging, videoconferencing, email, cloud storage, project management tools, scheduling software, and any other tools you think are necessary. If you’ve already got those solutions worked out, it means less work (and less stress) for your boss, which ups your chances of getting your work-from-home request approved.
f) What new processes are needed to make working remotely effective for yourself and your team?
Having a remote team member can create some pain points for your coworkers too, especially if your current processes include a lot of face-to-face collaboration. But if you anticipate the pain points your flexible work arrangement may cause and propose solutions, you may be able to sway your manager to see things your way.
Will you need to schedule extra recurring meetings to better collaborate? How will you hand off projects to colleagues who work in a different location? Do any of your team’s day-to-day processes need to change for you to work remotely? Address all that in the plan you present to your manager.
5) Start a trial run
Even after you’ve presented all the benefits of remote work, your manager may still feel hesitant. In that case, advocate for a trial period. This gives your boss the opportunity to try your proposal without committing to an at-home employee policy.
A trial run may also be a good thing even if your boss is completely won over. After you work remotely for a bit, you may find that you miss interacting with your coworkers daily or you underestimated the distractions of working from home.
In any case, make sure that you and your manager set clear expectations about how long your trial period will be and what constitutes a successful test. Schedule regular check-ins with your manager so you can touch base on how the test is going, and agreeing in advance on what the next steps will be once the test is over.
6) Get your work done
You’ve put a lot of work into talking your boss into allowing flexible work. Now, all you’ve got to do is not blow it. Unfortunately, though, you may have to work even harder to deliver on your promises.
It’s sad but true that many employers have a negative impression of at-home workers. So even after you’ve proven to them in theory that working remotely is good for the business, you’ll still have to prove it to them in practice.
That means you’ve got to overcompensate in terms of productivity—at least until you’ve definitively proven that you can work from home without it negatively impacting your work.
It’s also a good practice to start meticulously documenting your work and your achievements. Keep track of your sick days, your hours, your efficiency—anything you can use to prove that your work-from-home proposal has merit.
7) Be proactive
One of the drawbacks of remote work is that at-home workers are often forgotten or overlooked because they’re not putting in face-time with the boss every day. To combat this (and cement your ability to work remotely long-term), it’s important to be proactive about anything and everything relating to your work.
During your trial run, be aggressive in asking for things you need. If you have tasks that pose a challenge because of your flexible workplace arrangements, be communicative about those obstacles and suggest solutions.
Once your trial period is over, proactively schedule a conversation with your manager to go over the results. Come prepared with your documented work stats and ready to talk about how your plan has been successful (or how it can be improved).
Finally, be your own advocate! Some studies suggest that even though work-from-home employees are more efficient, they’re 50% less likely to receive a performance-based promotion. Be vocal about your wins, and don’t hesitate to ask for raises and promotions when you feel you have earned them.
THE BOTTOM LINE
But if your boss has a hard time seeing the positive effect at-home work can have on the business’s bottom line, you may have to help them warm up to the idea.
Hopefully, with this guide, you should be well set-up to start drafting a business case for your boss and get your proposal approved. Good luck!