Telecommuting (also known as remote working, flex working, mobile working, and teleworking) is in the news these days.
But the idea of working from home or other remote locations has always held some appeal for many workers.
Advantages to telecommuting include:
- eliminating a lengthy commute,
- allowing more flexible scheduling to pick up or drop off children from school or child care,
- saving money as a result of lower commuting costs and lower wardrobe costs,
- avoiding delays in getting to work due to weather-related concerns,
- increasing productivity as a result of all your time savings, and
- isolating yourself from contagious illnesses that can be spread in the workplace.
Certain types of jobs are more suited to telecommuting.
Some jobs in information technology, customer service, finance, sales, marketing, and research lend themselves to remote work.
Technology has even enabled some jobs that used to require face-to-face interaction — such as counseling, security, and legal jobs — to be telecommuting positions, at least part of the time.
If you’ve been thinking about working remotely, there are a few things to consider:
- Do you have the temperament to work from home full-time, at least part-time? Can you take the initiative to start (and finish) projects independently? Do you have the self-discipline to give your work the same attention and focus as if you were in the office?
- Do you have the physical facilities at home to enable remote work? This includes a dedicated workspace and the technology tools to support working from home (e.g., fast internet connection).
- Does your company already allow remote work? Pitching the idea to a company that doesn’t currently offer remote work opportunities is more difficult than requesting the opportunity in a company that already supports telecommuting.
- How common is telecommuting in your industry and career field? This article from Flexjobs.com provides some interesting statistics. Do competitors of your employer offer opportunities to work from home? If your employer worries about losing employees to the competition, they may be more open to the idea.
- Do you already have the opportunity to work from home occasionally? Expanding your telecommuting to a regular occurrence may be easier if you’ve demonstrated your capability for remote work already.
With the answers to these questions in mind, it’s time to put together your proposal to telecommute. This can be a simple 1- to 2-page document.
PITCHING TELECOMMUTING TO YOUR BOSS AND STRUCTURING YOUR PROPOSAL
Here are some of the things to include in your proposal:
- Benefits to the employer. There have been considerable research studies over the past several years that outline the benefits of telecommuting on worker productivity and efficiency. In addition, employees who work from home can sometimes offer coverage for other time zones that wouldn’t be possible when working from a traditional office. If multiple employees are allowed to telecommute, requirements for office space can be reduced with the use of shared workspaces, saving the company money. Make sure you are emphasizing the benefits to the company, not to you personally.
- How you meet the company’s existing telecommuting policy requirements. If your company already allows remote work, research the company’s existing policies and procedures. Which type of work is eligible for telecommuting? Do you qualify? What are the company’s guidelines for how often employees can work from home?
- Your proposal for telecommuting. Which hours and/or which days are you proposing to work from home? Be specific.
- Describe how you can complete your job requirements remotely. Do you need any additional technology to work from home — for example, a computer, laptop, or tablet? How about a high-speed Internet connection? Virtual private network (VPN)? Specific software? Are you asking the company to pay for — or reimburse you — for this additional expense?
- Identify tasks that can’t be completed remotely — and offer a solution to address these issues. Are there things you need to do that can’t be accomplished unless you’re in the office? How will you handle these tasks?
- Assess other issues that may arise (and propose solutions). Will being out of the office impact your co-workers? Identify these circumstances and propose a solution. For example, if you mentor another employee, you could suggest ongoing Skype or Zoom calls to continue to provide this support, even when you’re not in the office.
- Outline the security of data off-site. Do you work with sensitive client information? How will you secure this information? For example, you might outline your use of a shredder, passwords, antivirus software, and even physical safekeeping of data (locked drawers, safes, or rooms).
- Provide your communication plan. How do you plan to stay in touch with your colleagues and boss? Technology such as Slack, Skype, and Zoom provide access, as do texts and conference calls.
- Create a plan for reporting your time and results. One of the biggest concerns for managers is that things aren’t getting done while you are working from home. Reassure your boss by creating a plan to report your work regularly. For example, you could track your time and projects daily and submit a report of your accomplishments each Friday.
- Start small. In your proposal, discuss telecommuting for a trial period. For example, you might propose working from home 1-2 days per week for a month or three months. Also mention having a plan to review the effectiveness of the arrangement initially (perhaps after the one-month or three-month trial period) and then periodically (for example, every six months).
- Call to action. End your proposal with a request for an in-person meeting to review the proposal and discuss any issues.
These are the basic areas that should be covered in your proposal.
Here’s a sample proposal:
HOW TO BALANCE HOME AND WORK?
Balancing your home and career can be a challenge for any employee, especially when you live and work in the same space.
How do you allocate your time between personal and professional responsibilities?
How can you focus on conference calls when you’re surrounded by dirty laundry?
Learn how to set priorities and reduce distractions during work hours whether you’re new to remote working or you moved out of your cubicle years ago. Use these tips for staying peaceful and productive when you work from home.
STEPS TO TAKE FOR YOURSELF
- Follow a schedule. Set a start and end time for your day. Tackle your most challenging tasks during the hours when you’re at your peak. When it’s time to quit for the day, leave your job behind.
- Design an office. Designate a separate space for business. It could be a whole room or a corner in your dining room. Decorate your space with pictures, art, and objects that you find inspirational and uplifting.
- Select office furniture for comfort. An ergonomic chair is your most important investment. Try to get an adjustable model with adequate back support. You’ll also need a desk that enables you to keep your wrists straight when using a keyboard.
- Optimize your lighting. Lighting is important for performance and your mood. If you have a window in your work area, position your computer monitor at a right angle to the natural light. Layers of artificial light are also a great option.
- Change clothes. You may not want to wear a suit and tie but changing out of your pajamas will help you to feel more professional. Hang up your bath robe and get dressed each morning.
- Limit distractions. Do you waste time watching TV or checking social media? Ban leisure activities during business hours except during break times.
- Take breaks. Speaking of breaks, take them. You’ll be more productive if you refresh your mind and body periodically.
- Wind down. Do something at the end of each day to help you transition into an off-duty mindset. You might listen to classical music or take a walk in the park.
- Get organized. Create routines and systems that encourage efficiency. Buy a cabinet for your office supplies. Use an online calendar to block out your time.
- Keep track of your hours. It’s easy to lose track of how much time you’re spending on work. Aim for a schedule you can sustain over the long-term. You may want to start off small and gradually increase the days you work from home until you find the right balance for you.
- Continue learning. Career development matters whether you work at your dining room table or in a corner office. Take a course online or order a catalog for the adult education program at a local university. Read industry publications and general business news.
- Evaluate your performance. Conduct your own job evaluations. Look for ways to increase quality, save time, and manage stress. Update your strategy as your goals evolve.
STEPS TO TAKE WITH YOUR FAMILY, FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES
- Talk with your boss. It will be easier to balance your life when you and your boss agree on overall expectations. Negotiate the flexibility you need to succeed. (re-review the section of this report on pitching your boss)
- Set up a regular meeting schedule with your boss. You may be concerned that working at home can be a barrier to advancement if you’re less visible to your supervisor. Actually, intentional, regular meetings can give you more chances to set goals and review progress than you might have working on the office.
- Post your hours. Ensure your boss and coworkers know the hours that you’re available. Discuss arrangements for how to deal with emergencies that occur outside of those times.
- Go out for lunch. Your midday meal is a daily opportunity to stay connected while you work at home. Plan a weekly date at a local cafe to catch up with your office friends or other employees who work from home.
- Remain visible. Make business lunches and other events part of your strategy for cultivating your network. Show up at the office on a regular basis for staff meetings, birthday parties, and other gatherings. Volunteer at the local chapter of your professional association.
- Let colleagues know the best way to reach you. Circulate your contact information to everyone at the office. In case of emergencies, advise people whether it’s best to reach you by email or your cell phone. Check all messages frequently.
- Make outside parties aware of your arrangement. It’s usually easiest to let clients and other callers know that you’re working from home. As long as you convey a professional demeanor and provide high quality service, they’re likely to feel comfortable with the arrangement.
- Pull together. A strong support network helps you to build your confidence and accomplish more.
- Ask your family and friends for the emotional and practical assistance you need. Let them know how much you appreciate them and pitch in when they need a hand too.
You don’t have to give up life balance when you give up your commute. Enjoy more health and happiness by drawing sensible boundaries between your personal and professional activities.
With some planning and discipline telecommuting, or working from home for an employer, offers great benefits for both you and the company you work for.
By telecommuting, you can cut down on commuting time and distractions and get more accomplished in the comfort of your own home. Telecommuting can reduce stress and help you achieve a better work-life balance.
When working from home for your employer, take steps to maintain your morale, stay productive, and keep in touch. You’ll both enjoy the results!