How Can I Convince My Boss to Let Me Work from Home? // Lifehacker
We love this all encompassing post on how to convince your boss to work remotely.
By Alan Henry
I know that the trend lately at Yahoo and now at Best Buy is that workers should stop working from home and come into the office, but I still think I can be productive at home. My coworkers agree with me, and we’d like to convince our boss to let us try it one day a week. How can we talk him into it?
Dear Cubicle Prisoner,
If you want to work from home, don’t give up hope just because a few companies have been backtracking on their own telecommuting policies. In the case of Yahoo and Best Buy, the decision to end their remote work programs was either for reasons specific to those companies or because both companies in dire straits (eg, they’re taking out poor corporate performance on easy targets, or they’re trying to make the work environment inhospitable enough that those workers either quit or get laid off, saving the company money.)
Whatever the reasons at Yahoo and Best Buy, don’t assume that this is a global trend. More companies than ever before allow their workers to telecommute at least part of the workweek or on occasion when it’s necessary (during inclement weather, sickness, or injury for example,) or let them work from their home offices because they want the talent that the whole world offers without forcing them to relocate and possibly losing them to a company that won’t. With that in mind, you and your coworkers can put together a compelling case for your boss to let you work from home. Here’s how.
Make Sure Your Job Is the Type that Can Be Done Remotely
It sounds like you’ve already determined that your job is the type that can be done from home, but it’s important to make absolutely sure of this first. Ask yourself some of these questions:
- Are there special tools only available on your office network or physically present in your office that you need every day?
- Do you have the right equipment (eg, a printer, decent cell phone reception or a landline, steady internet access, etc) at home to do your job and a proper workspace in which to do it?
- Do you have secure remote access (VPN, remote desktop, etc) to your office network for files, network shares, or other information that’s only traditionally available at the office and isn’t accessible over the web?
- Do you have a computer you can work from at home, like an office-issued laptop or a solid desktop loaded with the OS, tools, and utilities you’ll need for your job?
Once you’re sure you have a home office and a nice place to get some work done while you’re there, you should also make sure that you have the type of work that can be measured by results, not just by how many hours your butt is in a chair, being lorded over by a manager. If your boss or your company measures your performance by the work you do and the time required to do it, not just by how many hours you put into the office, you’ll have a better chance at convincing your boss to let you work from home.
Unfortunately, many managers just don’t believe they can properly manage or gauge someone’s productivity if they can’t physically see the person to see what they’re doing, so even having a completely connected job and a well put-together home office won’t help you there. Similarly, some jobs that require shift work, or need you to be physically present (retail, some customer service jobs, physical labor like warehouse stocking, for example) for some reason, won’t be as easy to do from a remote location.
Start with Special Circumstances
Before you ask your boss to approve letting you work from home two days a week or more, be ready to make compromises. You may have to do this on a trial basis to make sure it works out well for you and other people in your department who may want to take advantage of the program. You may also need to lower your expectations and agree to do it only in cases of inclement weather, special projects that require serious focus, or extraordinary circumstances. If that’s the case, negotiate, but give it a whirl: being able to work from home when you don’t feel like driving in the snow or when you have a ton of reports to crank out and need a little peace and quiet is better than not being able to work from home at all.
Over time, as you prove that you can be productive and trusted to do your job without your boss’s eyes watching you (this works best if you already have a boss that trusts you) it won’t be an issue to make working remotely a more regular affair.
Learn to Be a Master Communicator and Check-In/Follow Up
When I was a manager and was managed in a job where I could work from home part of the time, I had to learn to follow up as regularly as possible. Keeping those lines of communication open is probably the biggest way you’ll make sure your working from home experiment will be a success with everyone involved. Here are a few tips:
- Ask your boss how you should best communicate with them while you’re at home. The answer may vary from person to person, but one thing that many managers fear when their employees start working from home is that they won’t be able to communicate with them effectively. Or rather, they already have communication problems and distance makes it more difficult to make sure they’re working on the right priorities, making progress, and that they’re available to help if their employee runs into any roadblocks. Head all of those concerns off at the pass by asking your boss ahead how to address them, and make resulting fixes part of your telework plan. Photo by Irish Typepad.
- Set aside time at the beginning and the end of the day to check in with your boss, if they’d like you to. A quick phone call will suffice just to replace a normal beginning and end of day chat to see what’s going on and what you’ve accomplished that day.
- Use video chat and IM to keep lines of communication open while you work. It doesn’t take much time to start a Google Hangout, make a Skype call, or even send a quick IM to make sure that you’re on top of something or just see how things are going. Again, you should be focused on your work, but video chat is a great way to get a little face time and prove that yes, you’re up, at the keys, and not just lounging on the couch with your laptop while you watch TV. IM is a great way to chat quickly without being too distracting.
Being available and regularly in touch will be your strongest tool in making sure that both your boss and everyone else who’s stuck at the office while you’re home are all happy with the idea of you working from home, even if they’re not. Plus, being open to these options helps build the kind of trust that’s essential to telecommuting. It’s unfortunate that so many offices still lack the kind of basic trust that their employees will do their work even if they’re not sitting at their assigned desks, but it really is the biggest obstacle to telework in most companies.
Make Your Time at Home Really Worth Your While
It almost goes without saying, but the best way to convince your company to let you work from home periodically is to really do great work when you have the opportunity to work from home. You don’t have to commute, so use your commuting time to clean up your inbox instead of doing it during the day, or get a headstart on your work. You don’t have to commute home either, so use that time to follow up with your boss and fill them in on what you accomplished while you were telecommuting.