Telecommuting is a growing trend. With fuel prices rising, workers have yet another reason to negotiate more work-at-home time. But many employers are still hesitant about allowing this kind of flexibility. Their concerns are based on assumptions about what may happen if employees are allowed to work from home even though most of those assumptions have been shown to be false. For example, supervisors fear that the worker won’t be as productive. But it’s possible to present solid evidence to the contrary and negotiate a work-at-home policy that benefits both employer and employee.
1. You should already be a tried and tested employee. It’s probably not going to go over very well if you show up the first week on the job and announce that you’d like to start working from home. You’ll have a better chance of persuading your boss if you’re already known as a reliable worker.
2. You should show that you’ve thought this through. Your company may already have some sort of plan in place for telecommuting, so it’s worth checking with someone in human resources before presenting a proposal to your supervisor. If there are no established channels, though, you’ll just have to be a pioneer within your company. Anticipate your boss’s concerns and show how you will address them. Work with your supervisor to establish how you can give regular progress reports to ensure that your work is where it should be. Let your boss know your plans for your home office and how you’ll separate your work and family life.
3. You should demonstrate that you’ll be as or more productive. As part of that plan you present to your employer, show that you’ll get even more work done. A CBS News article reported a 2009 Cisco Systems study that showed more than half the time employees had previously spent commuting now went into work. Most telecommuters report fewer distractions from colleagues and a greater ability to focus. Arm yourself with facts and figures about the productivity of telecommuters.
4. You should show your employer that you’ll save the company money. Your increased productivity is a money-saver, of course, but so is your physical absence. The company doesn’t have to pay for a physical space for you or the resources you consume. Of course, it’s not as though you’ll never darken the door of the company again, but you won’t need a regular desk or area like you would if you were a full-time worker. Some companies reserve a few desks for telecommuting workers to rotate the use of when they are in the office. This still takes up considerably less space than if all of the telecommuters were in the office at the same time all day, every day. You may also need fewer sick days since you aren’t as exposed to illnesses while working at home.
Once you’ve been granted the privilege of working from home, don’t take it for granted. Stay in regular communication with your colleagues and supervisor through email and phone. Keep in mind that you’re setting a precedent not only for yourself but for telecommuters who will follow you. And follow you they will; all signs point to employees working from home at least part of the time as a growing trend. And as fuel prices and overhead for office workers continues to rise and employers increasingly realize the advantages of letting their employers telecommute, this lifestyle may just become the rule rather than the exception.