Nearly a third of American workers now work at home, at least part of the time. Often, it's a much happier, healthier, and more productive lifestyle.
Maybe you like the idea, but what do you do if the choice isn't yours? Perhaps you're eager to start a business of your own, but in the meantime you're working for someone else. If so, here's a seven-step plan to persuade your boss that working from home can work for you, too.
1. Ease into it.
First off, if you're working in an office Monday through Friday, and you're the only one asking to work from home, it's probably going to be a bit of a struggle. So, start off by asking to do so just one or two days per week. If even that won't work, here's an alternate strategy: Next time you're on the fence about taking a sick day, do it, but instead of eating chicken soup, boot up your computer and put in a full day's work--and make sure your boss knows you're doing so. Your goal is to be even more productive than you would have been if you were in the office.
2. Build your case.
This is an important point: Your goal is not to convince your employer that you will be happier if you work from home. Instead, put your employer's interests first. Show your boss that you will be more productive and make his or her life easier. For example, are there customers you can reach more easily from home? Show that being in the office is actually a hindrance to your work, and that you have a well-thought-out solution.
3. Demonstrate your emergency plan.
You also want to show that if something comes up and you need to get to the office quickly, you can do so. So, don't wait for an actual emergency. You want to be the person who shows up unexpectedly for a routine meeting when you're working from home--just because you thought it was important. Besides buttressing your case, it just might make whoever called the meeting feel good that you thought it was important to be there in person.
4. Be reliable and then some.
This might be fourth on the list, but in some ways it's truly the most important item. You need to show that there is literally no risk involved in your boss allowing you to work from home, because you'll be as available--even more so--than if you were in the office. Even if you're taking advantage of the chance to run a quick errand at 10:30 a.m. on a Tuesday (because you were working instead of commuting in the morning), make sure you answer your phone. Be super-responsive via email and video calls. Perhaps most important, don't just meet deadlines--beat them.
5. Be ready to challenge some rules.
If the rules or the customs at your employer discourage working from home, be prepared to challenge the rules--but do so strategically. Let's assume you've taken some unscheduled time off and shown that you can be more effective from home. Couple that with a survey of the policies of others in your field. Has your team lost out on a good hire because he or she wanted more flexibility? Point out that recruiting and retention might benefit from a relaxed policy.
6. Document everything.
When you succeed in working out an agreement to work from home, even some of the time, ensure that you've got it down on paper--or at least electrons. An email trail might suffice, for example. Doing so ensures you've understood correctly just how often you can work out of the office, and it also creates a policy. The last thing you want to have to do is renegotiate the whole thing from scratch, for example, if your boss gets promoted or is replaced.
7. Regroup and repeat as needed.
What if you try all of the above, but your boss just isn't having it? Granted, there are some industries in which working from home isn't practical. Maybe you need to deal with onsite clients, for example, or maybe there are information security issues that make working from home impractical. However, if you're running into static, figure out the real reason why. (Here's one common hurdle: Someone else in the past persuaded the boss to let him or her work from home and failed to exceed expectations.)
The point is to figure out the real obstacles, be resourceful, and find a way around them. And, if the only issue is that your boss is a control freak, well, at least you'll know for sure that it's time to start looking for a new job.
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