Making the case for telecommuting
Tips for going from suits to sweats
By Robert Half International
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As employees and businesses increasingly recognize the benefits of telecommuting, the number of professionals working remotely has grown dramatically. By many indications, the practice seems here to stay.
A recent report by technology research firm Gartner, Inc. revealed the number of employees worldwide who work from home at least one day a month reached 82.5 million by the end of 2005, double the figure from 2000. Gartner predicts this number will grow to more than 100 million by 2008 as technology continues to advance at a steady clip.
A survey conducted by Robert Half International mirrors the forecast: 87 percent of executives polled said there will be increased telecommuting in the coming decade.
While the proliferation of high-speed and wireless Internet access has made telecommuting much easier, many professionals are adopting this work style not only because it's convenient, but also because it allows them greater work-life balance.
In addition, rising gas prices and lengthy commutes have made working from home -- or even cafés and satellite centers -- an appealing option.
If you'd like to work remotely, you'll need to show how the arrangement is good not only for you but also for the business. If you are uncertain about how to approach your boss, consider the following steps to create a convincing argument:
Gather the facts
Start by contacting your human resources department or consulting the employee manual to determine whether your company has a telecommuting program already in place. If one exists, you can build your proposal on actual policies.
Of course, you may discover rules that prohibit or limit telecommuting. If this is the case, tap your professional network to identify people who have worked remotely and ask them what steps they took to secure the arrangement.
Consider all angles
Although telecommuting presents many benefits, remember that not everyone performs well outside the office. The best candidates for telecommuting are self-disciplined, feel comfortable setting priorities and deadlines, and are able to work independently with minimal supervision.
In addition, some tasks, such as graphic design or research, lend themselves more easily to telecommuting than others.
If much of your work requires face-to-face contact or ongoing access to equipment and materials that are situated only at the office, you may want to reconsider this option.
Prepare a written proposal
If you are convinced telecommuting is right for you, make your case in writing. A written proposal enables your boss to carefully consider your ideas, demonstrates forethought and underscores your commitment to the proposition. It also serves as a crucial tool if your manager must obtain approval from higher-ups. Your document should include:
Employer benefits: How will telecommuting increase your productivity or help the company reduce costs? Remember, there must be something in it for your employer.
Qualifying characteristics: Are you self-motivated and well organized? Do you have a history of dependability and proven work habits? Describe qualities that will allow you to thrive outside the office and, wherever possible, cite supporting evidence of these characteristics.
Outside evidence: Add punch to your proposal by including applicable articles and studies that cite the benefits of telecommuting, such as increased business performance and productivity. This may be particularly valuable if your company has no telecommuting program in place.
Safety measures: Many firms are concerned that allowing staff to work remotely increases the likelihood that confidential information will be compromised. Ease your employer's fears by including a description of the security measures you have in place at home, such as current antivirus software and active firewall settings.
Your company's information technology department also may be able to provide hardware or software that allows you to securely access the firm's systems from remote locations.
Consider alternate proposals
If you think your boss will be resistant to the idea of you working from home, consider proposing a trial period. You can even suggest an "out" clause that enables either of you to discontinue or adjust the arrangement before the end of the trial if the situation proves problematic.
Convincing your company that you are a good candidate for telecommuting is only half the battle. Once you begin working from home, you have to prove the arrangement continues to benefit both parties. Here are some strategies:
Record on- and off-site responsibilities: Distribute to your team a list that shows which of your job activities will be accomplished at home versus in the office. Include information on how you will ensure key relationships with co-workers are not negatively affected. This will show your boss that your absence will not affect the progress of group projects.
Make sure you're easily accessible: Let everyone know which days you will be working from home and give them your contact information. Check in frequently and pledge to return phone calls or e-mails within a given period of time. Assure your boss you can come into the office if you are urgently needed.
Build in accountability measures: Your manager's biggest fear is likely that you will be unproductive without close supervision. Keep him or her informed of your progress by submitting a weekly report of your at-home activities, or setting up regular evaluation meetings to review your accomplishments.
If the possibility of working from home appeals to you, put together a case that indicates how such an arrangement could benefit you and your employer. By considering all aspects involved, anticipating your manager's concerns and continuing to demonstrate the advantages of telecommuting, you may soon find yourself among those who dial, rather than drive, into work.
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