How to Convince Your Boss to Let You Work from Home

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For many it may be gas prices, the long commute, or a new baby that makes a telecommuting arrangement seem so appealing. After all, if you can save all that time driving to and from work, grabbing that mandated lunch, and avoiding office politics, you could probably increase your productivity threefold, right? While you may be certain that it would work, convincing your boss (especially in this economy), is a challenge in itself. Here are tips for asking — and getting — that home office arrangement you want

1. Have a thorough proposal in hand.

It is not enough to walk in with a list of reasons why it will work for all parties involved. Documentation is key, along with written benchmarks for assessing whether the arrangement is working well into the future. While there are many studies available showing how productivity has increased for various employees, your situation is going to be unique to you. Be sure to address your individual tasks, needs, and solutions as it pertains to you, specifically.

2. Give details.

The more information you provide in your proposal, the more convincing you’ll be that you’ve thought through every possible angle. Briefly describe everything from how your home office will be set up, what your schedule will look like, how often you’ll check in to voicemail, email, and in-person, and be sure to include a back-up plan for unforeseen emergencies. (If your wireless goes out at home, what will you do?)

3. Plan to sell within a cycle.

Very few requests for telecommuting get accepted immediately. Be prepared to come back with information to address any additional concerns that are brought up during your discussion. If you’re needing to telecommute for a new child, plan early so that negotiations can continue well in advance of your delivery (2nd trimester at the latest). Use basic selling tactics to get the “yes” answer you want, while reassuring your boss that this will benefit your company, as well.

4. Be wary of the naysayers.

Any successful working woman (or man) with a family is already well-aware of the “special treatment” that is supposedly bestowed upon them. (You know, like actually using a hard-earned sick day here or there to take care of a child or going on vacation?) A request for telecommuting may not be seen as fair to many of your co-workers, and you’ll be challenged daily to earn respect with your new arrangement — especially if it is made as a result of a new child in the family. If the work-at-home setup does in fact do what you claimed it would, the tension should subside after a few months. If not, you may want to reassess ways you can appear more visibly productive without putting you in a position to have to work harder than what’s reasonable. If you’re sensing tension, your boss is, too. You don’t want to have to continually defend yourself.

5. Give updates.

If there was ever a time to sell your contributions to the company, it is now! Track your telecommuting accomplishments on a weekly or monthly basis, so that you’re prepared to show how the new arrangement has worked out for the company. Think of it as the same kind of planning that goes into a performance review, only more frequently. Not only will you be ready to meet any challenges to your work performance, but you’ll be that much more ahead when your review actually does come. (And in the unforeseen case of a potential lay-off, you’ll be in a great position to showcase — and defend — your value.)

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Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

This is also a lot easier to do when you have proven that you can work effectively at home, or if your coworkers are already doing it.  You can try convincing your boss to let you work from home one day a week to start with, and then ask for more later.  Some of my coworkers moved out of state after they had kids and now they work at home full time.  It's really a great arrangement.

On a related note, I find that when I work from home I actually work more. Right now I work at home one day a week, but if we move I might ask to work at home full time instead of finding a new job.