When I decided that I wanted to work from home at least one day a week, I did not prepare a pitch. I barged into my manager’s office one day and simply blurted out that I was going to work from home every Friday. While my manager did agree that having an established day in which I was home was acceptable, I would not recommend this approach. My tactic was unprofessional and while it did work to get me what I wanted, it most likely won’t work for you.
The best thing to do is to be prepared. The power of information is in your favor when it comes to working from home. In order to earn that Telecommuting badge, you must prepare a thoughtful and comprehensive proposal.
Once you are comfortable that telecommuting is right for you, then it’s time to get informed. Use the following guidelines and strategies to craft an effective telecommuting proposal:
Are there other groups or individuals successfully telecommuting at your company? Most corporate policies on telecommuting have the little one-liner of “Upon Manager Approval.” But this doesn’t mean that you cannot showcase other groups in your company that have created a flexible workforce. Set up time to talk to those individuals and managers about how the arrangement works for them. What are the pros and cons? What were the biggest challenges? What contributed to their success? Getting the inside scoop is always powerful. Believe me, your manager will probably do the same thing. Having this insider information will help you craft a plan and show that you are committed to making it work.
How will your productivity increase when you work from home? Don’t mention your need for better work-life balance, more time to spend with your kids, care-taking responsibilities for elderly parents, or any other personal need. State only that telecommuting will make you more productive and efficient, be a better use of the time you previously spent on the road, make your boss’s life easier — whatever benefits you come up with that focus on the employer’s needs — not yours.
Look at your schedule. Most telecommuters don’t telecommute full-time, instead working from home two or three days a week. I recommend proposing one or two days a week. Give specific examples of how you will be reached (cell phone, instant messenger, email, fax) and how often you will check in. After you work from home for a while, you may decide that it isn’t for you OR you may want to increase the days at home. Offer to revisit the situation after 90-days and make any necessary adjustments. This gives both you and your manager the opportunity to bring up any issues that arise with new arrangements.
Revisit your job description. Telecommuting will most likely not change your basic job responsibilities. You may want to construct a table that shows which of your job activities will be accomplished off-site, which will be performed in the traditional workplace, and which can be done at either location. Describe how you will handle key relationships with other team members.
Get ready to address personal issues. When crafting your persuasive proposal for working from home, this is not the time to tell your manager that you want this time to be home with your kids (even if that is your main motivation). However, you still need to mention the day care arrangements that you will have while you work from home. Managers do not want to hear that you will be managing your household while you work from home. I wouldn’t make the kids a bullet point in your proposal, but I would be prepared to reassure your manager that your children’s needs won’t distract you from work.
Be prepared for every question and objection. If the boss feels your work habits and performance don’t qualify you for telecommuting, ask what you can do to prove you’re up to the task. The 90-day trial period might persuade the boss to take a chance on you. Other common objections include:
- If you do it, everyone will want to.
- We don’t telework here.
- You can’t telecommute; you’re a manager.
- You can’t telecommute; you interact extensively with customers.
Starting writing all the answers and strategies down. Next week we’ll discuss how to put together the written proposal and oral presentation.