Working from home sounds like a dream. Stroll to your desk after your favorite morning talk show and work in your favorite yoga pants and bunny slippers, and then take leisurely lunch hours at the local coffee house. In reality, working from home is still working. Your boss will expect you to meet productivity goals, respond to emails in a timely manner, and consistently answer phone calls. Videoconferencing is likely to become your best friend – or your worst enemy, because it means you have to brush your hair. And as soon as you decide to step away from your desk to walk the dog, that’s when your boss will chime in with some perceived emergency. In spite of this, research shows that remote workers are more productive than in-office workers.
There are many good reasons to work from home: a shorter commute, a more flexible schedule that permits you to get school age children off to school or to make time for volunteering. But how do you convince your boss the decision is best not just for your lifestyle, but for the organization? Follow these suggestions when you talk to your boss about working from home.
1. Create a formal proposal.
A written proposal shows your boss you’ve given the plan some thought and already invested time into making it work. Your pitch should include your proposed hours, your daily or weekly goals or work quotas, as well as long-term career goals, to show the boss you are a committed and dedicated employee with a long-term vision. Include statistics demonstrating that working at home works for employees in many successful, high-profile organizations, and your boss will have a hard time arguing your points.
2. Cite studies that show remote workers are more productive.
Harvard professor Nicholas Bloom and graduate student James Liang, owner of the travel website Ctrip, performed a nine-month study with Ctrip’s call center workers and found remote workers more productive than their in-office counterparts and also worked more hours. The study showed remote workers started earlier, took shorter breaks, and worked until the end of the day with fewer interruptions. They also took fewer sick days, perhaps because it’s easier to work at home if you’re not feeling well than to drag yourself out of the house, and also because people may call in sick for something like a cold (as they should), to avoid spreading germs, even though they could be working. Another study from Dell and Intel shows that perceptions about teleworkers are also changing. More than half of all employees polled globally believe their telecommuting coworkers are just as productive, or more productive, than those in the office.
3. Outline a plan for communication while you’re working from home.
From Skype and FaceTime to Microsoft Lync and other teleconferencing software, there are more ways to stay connected with your coworkers than ever before. The next generation of chat apps offer features designed for the workplace, with document-sharing, audio and videoconferencing, and ways to organize chats into various topics, create groups of team members, and simplify project management with task creation and corresponding chats. Recommend a few of these options to your boss and he’ll know you’ve done your homework about working from home.
4. Suggest a trial period of working from home one day a week.
If your boss still isn’t sold on letting you work from home full-time, suggest a trial period of one to three months where you work from home one day a week. Before you begin, set quantifiable goals for performance. Establish how and when you and your boss will evaluate these metrics. On work-at-home days, go out of your way to maintain communication with the office and exude professionalism.
Remember, working from home is not a substitute for childcare, and noisy pets don’t belong in your home office any more than they do a public workspace. During this trial period, work only from your home office and check in with your supervisor frequently. Enjoy the benefits of working at home. If you’re like most remote workers in numerous studies over the past several years, you will be more productive, as well as happier, working from home.
If you transition to a full-time work at home position, your boss will also reap the cost-saving rewards of less office space, and fewer desks and chairs, needed for employees. Even more importantly, thanks to the energy you put into asking about working from home, you could be an instrumental force in changing your company’s culture. Plus you get to work in bunny slippers.