Experts Share Advice On Telecommuting Requests

An increasing number of people are turning to remote working arrangements, which can be a real boon to your professional and personal life. While there are plenty of studies that show such a setup provides benefits not only for employees but also their employers, when it comes time to talk to the boss about the idea, you might start to doubt the wisdom of your plan.

Feeling Nervous?

It’s natural to feel nervous when pitching a big idea to your supervisor, one that can make a huge difference in your career, like when you ask for a raise or promotion. After all, you’re putting yourself out there in a way that is far beyond daily job performance. Deep down inside, we are all fearful that being proactive could backfire big-time, resulting in some serious consequences.

First off, if you’ve been entertaining these sorts of ideas and fears, relax. Know that you certainly aren’t alone in your desire to work remotely, nor your worry that giving voice to such a desire will saddle you with some negative labels. Plenty of others have gone before you, and fortunately they’re willing to share some sage advice that can help see you through the process. Many of these pioneers are even managers now, meaning they understand how to persuade your boss and keep the situation positive.

One such individual is Ramon Khan, Online Marketing Manager with National Air Warehouse. He suggests making some preparations to ensure that your time away from the office doesn’t go awry in a hurry.

Propose a trial period with performance reviews. If you don’t think they will go for it right away, offer for them to let you work from home two or three days out of the week first. Evaluate and then renegotiate. If you do go for a full switch like I did, then make sure that you make them feel safe about your new work environment, your confidence in your ability to perform and your availability to them. Offering to meet with them often will go a long way and making sure to follow up on your performance review will have a huge impact as well.

Take Baby Steps

One of the best ways to go about working remotely is to ease you and your boss into the whole arrangement. If you’re nervous about the whole thing, just imagine how your supervisor must feel. After all, you’re sailing into uncharted waters, so taking things slow is a great idea. Depending on performance reviews to give you a clear read on what your boss is thinking about the remote working arrangement is a solid way to catch problems early before they turn into major situations.

Bill Rice, CEO & Founder of Kaleidico, has some additional advice on how to protect against a long-term remote work situation not leading to big misunderstandings (and even bad blood between you and your boss).

As important as it is for you to give the boss a value proposition, you also have to make sure that you’re not setting yourself up for failure. Out of sight, out of mind can be the recipe for lots of misperception, confusion, and loss of employment if the organization is not prepared to support remote workers. You need to ensure that your organization has and uses proper project and communication tools, for synchronous and asynchronous communication.

Be Willing To Compromise

If you’re never around, there’s the very real risk of being the odd one out, depending on where you work. In situations where a number of workers are gone for long stretches of time, you might be okay to check in occasionally. Otherwise, be prepared to ditch your pajamas for office clothing at least once a week or more, giving you the chance to log some valuable face time.

Sandra Rand, Director of Marketing for OrionCKB, agrees that being in the office is a vital part of working remotely. She adds some other provisions that can help put your boss at ease about the whole situation.

Come to the table with solutions: easy processes that are either 1. already in place or 2. can be seamlessly put in place that allow you to have a presence with others in the office. Daily check-ins, weekly check-ins, open chat windows, “office hours”, being willing to come in for important meetings in-person, etc. They want to know that you’ll still be as available at home as you are in the office.

Back Up Your Request With Statistics

You need to understand that your boss has a lot of pressures to deal with. If you can communicate how working remotely will help lighten some of those burdens, or at least won’t make them heavier, you increase the chance that the conversation will go well. Sandra Rand goes on to suggest some great points to address that will allow you to speak to the points your boss cares about most, instead of just covering the benefits that appeal to you.

Come to the table with savings: How will you save the company money? How will you save your department time? Numbers speak volumes, so be persuasive with stats. Also: your boss doesn’t care how late you’ll be able to sleep in, nor does he/she care how much gas money you’ll save. It’s most applicable when you talk about how your specific situation will impact the company/department, but it might also be helpful to cite research that talks about how telecommuters call out of work less often, are happier/more productive, etc.  Suggest a trial: it’s much easier to swallow the idea of you working 1 day/wk at home vs 5 days/wk. Suggest you work from home 1x/wk for 90 days and then be willing to review.

Be Flexible

In the end, your decision to work remotely can’t be one made out of pure selfishness. Bosses and coworkers will quickly realize that you’re only out for yourself, which won’t impress anyone. Alison Strickland, Sr. Public Relations Manager for The Creative Group, has some great suggestions about how to not make your new work arrangement an inconvenience for those who are still showing up to the office each day.

* Be flexible. There’s value to being in the office, especially for planning or brainstorming gatherings. When determining which day(s) to telecommute, consider your colleagues. I tend to work from home on days I have few meetings – and do my best to be in the office for a weekly touch-base with my manager. This helps ensure communication stays strong.

No matter how nervous you are about having the remote working conversation with your boss, remember that you can’t move forward without opening the door. You can’t guarantee that the answer you receive will be in the affirmative, but by following the above advice, you will increase your odds of a favorable outcome.

It’s important that even if your boss shoots down the whole idea, you don’t let it affect your job performance or professional relationships. Supervisors are usually quite adverse to workers who are sore losers and allow conflicts to begin poisoning the work environment, so it’s best to continue conducting yourself in the most professional manner possible, even if you don’t get to show up for work in slippers.

What about the future of telecommuting?

Check out what some industry experts predict for the future of telecommuting.