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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Approach your boss about working from home

So you want to work from home? Sure, why not right? Well, "why not" is the easier question to answer here, but when your manager asks you "Why should I allow you to do that?" what will you answer?
Here are a few pointers to make sure that you are prepared when you get that question, and you will get it if you choose to pursue working from home without changing jobs.
Like most things in business, showing your boss why granting your request, any request, is good for him or her as well as yourself is paramount. If there is no benefit to granting the request, you really have not answered the "why?" question at all.
So let's look at 'why' by breaking it into two categories, benefits to the organization and benefits to the individual, and they don't have to be mutually exclusive.

Benefits To The Business
  • Cost Savings - If you don't lead off with this one, you're really setting yourself up for failure. Take a look at the total cost of having an employee in the office, beside the obvious rent/utility expense, there are the often overlooked expenses of building security, insurance, benefits like food/drink subsidy, on site gym, day care etc and the big one people most often miss, liability. When you are in your company's building, they are liable for your safety and security, if you are in your own home, they get to transfer that liability to you. So for an employer who has more than a few people in one spot, this can be attractive. Present these cost savings along with your best estimates to your management and see if you can open their eyes a little to the somewhat hidden benefits of having fewer people on site.

  • Employee Satisfaction and Retention - This is another big one, for both the employer and employee. If you're asking for it, it will obviously make you happy, but for the employer, it can help retain and attract top talent. Having a defined program in place so that people know they will have an opportunity to work from home is a great benefit that many people will value highly, and that value goes up every time gas pries increase and traffic gets worse. A good way to present this is to highlight success stories from other companies in your industry or field and to cite examples from recruiters who can tell you how highly talented job seekers value working from home. Here are a couple great examples of things to site:
  • Productivity - If you are in software development or software production support, working from home can give you the flexibility to work when you are needed, not when the office is most full. If you have offshore developers you can meet with them, if you have production issues come up late at night you can deal with them, if you have things happening in your life to deal with, you can do it without losing a whole day in the office. Its has been demonstrated (and I can confirm through personal experience  that you will work more and work more productively if you are free to do so when the moment is right and not just between 8am and 5pm. I know this does not apply universally, but in my SQL Server jobs it has always been to the company's advantage that I could just go downstairs and turn on my computer when I get a page instead of having to get dressed, pack up and drive 30 mins before I can even start working the issue. 
    • Research on the hours people tend to work at home compared to at the office: BusinessWeek
EDIT - I don't think I made my point clear enough yesterday, I think the best way to get the answer you want to this and almost any other request at work, is to present a case that is already closed. By that I mean you need to package up the benefits and savings in a way the person you are asking can understand and use, and you need to anticipate their questions and objections and have those answers ready as well. By being prepared with facts and case studies, and an impassioned personal plea, you will have given them all the material they need to make the best decision, or to present your case on your behalf to decision makers. Leaving things open to interpretation or assumptions is your worst enemy here, because people can and will assume the worst.