Working from home: Making the case, and making it work

Telecommuting is far easier now than it was even a few years ago. Here’s how to make remote work feasible for your staff and even profitable for your organization.

Several years ago, a loyal longtime employee told me her boyfriend had taken a job in New York City-and that she was going with him.

I panicked: What were we going to do without her? How would we replace her? How long did we have?

Then she threw something at me I hadn’t considered: She asked whether she could work from her new home.

Today, that wouldn’t be a big deal, but back then, we weren’t set up for anyone to work virtually.

She made a great case, though, and I really didn’t want to lose her, so we went for it.

It wasn’t easy.

How it rolled out

Because we were still server-based, we had to send her files, she’d make changes and send them back, and then we’d save the final version to the server.

The video chat capability that is so common today wasn’t affordable back then, so we had her on conference calls for meetings, which is never good for anyone. And she overcompensated—a lot.

There also was a great deal of staff resentment: Why did she get to work from home and everyone else had to come to the office? It just wasn’t fair, her colleagues muttered.

I like to think she opened my mind to new working possibilities and paved the way for our current telecommuting culture.

I think about this when people say, “Oh, my boss would never let me work from home.”

If you present your argument well and show how it benefits the company, I guarantee you’ll be able to work from home, at least once or twice a week.

Here are four ways to get your boss to say OK to a work from home proposal:

1. Get yourself organized.

If you want to work from home, you have to make sure you’re organized and don’t have distractions that will prevent you from doing your job.

I recommend having an office—with a door—in your home.

Though some people can work from the couch with the TV on in the background, I’ve found that when you can replicate your work office at home, you are much more successful and productive.

You also want to be sure you have a professional-looking space for meetings, which will almost always happen on video. No one wants to see you in your skivvies on the couch.

2. Present your proposal.

We know how a work from home arrangement benefits you: There’s no time required to get ready for work, no commute, less stress, better work/life balance—but how does it benefit your company?

That’s what you must present to your boss. In your proposal, include and support these benefits:

  • More billable hours (because you can spend time working instead of commuting)
  • Deeper work
  • Uninterrupted work
  • Cost savings (maybe you’re willing to give up a perk or benefit in exchange)
  • Increased productivity (though this is hard to prove until you actually do it)
  • Fewer meetings, meaning more billable hours and cost savings
  • Increased collaboration (it’s now a priority, versus taking it for granted because colleagues are nearby)

3. Take it slowly.

If your company doesn’t already have a policy on working from home, you’re going to meet some serious obstacles.

People who you thought were your friends will be resentful and, quite frankly, will try to sabotage you. Be ready for it, and ease into the process.

You might start by telecommuting one day a week or two half-days or something similar. You don’t want to telecommute every day and never show your face in the office.

It also means that you might randomly show up for a meeting in person when everyone expects you’ll be calling in from home. This shows you’re reliable and that you put the company first.

Those people who think they are stuck working in the office will be resentful and unkind. You’ll have to work through that and figure out what works best for you-and for the company.

4. Emphasize your own accountability.

Document everything, and stay in regular contact with your boss. If she or he truly supports you, all the negative talk among the jealous people won’t last long.

When you have one-to-one meetings with your supervisor, be prepared to discuss your results.

Everything outlined in your proposal should have a goal and metric associated with it. For instance, “I anticipate being able to bill an additional 10 hours every week.” Then prove it.

Every meeting should include how well you’re doing, what you’re doing and how it benefits the company.

Pretty soon, you’ll have started a trend. Everyone will want to take advantage of it. And your leadership team will begin to see the real value to having a virtual team.

What other ways have you found success in working from home?

A version of this article originally appeared on Spin Sucks.

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