There is an allure to working from home. Many employees dream of the possibilities that a home-based office affords them: flexible hours, a non-existent commute, and the autonomy of working alone. All these can be tempting reasons to work from home. Few people who are able to make the transition from the cubicle to the home-based office, however, consider what’s required to work effectively in this setting.
Before you start daydreaming about working in your pajamas, make sure you understand what will be involved.
1. Your boss doesn’t have to allow home-based positions.
This may seem obvious, but it is not a guarantee that all employers will allow such a flexible workplace. If you want to start working from home, be prepared to argue your case, and have information ready to address your boss’ concerns.
Have answers to the following questions:
Why do you wish to work from home? Do you have a long commute? Do you need more flexible work hours? Are you caring for an aging parent and need to be more available during the day? Whatever the reason, be honest with your supervisor about your reasons for wanting to make the switch.
What hours will you be working? Are you planning on an adjusted workday with an earlier or later start time? Will you be working a split shift with off-hours in the middle of the day? Develop your schedule in advance so you can discuss the idea with your boss.
How will you handle sick days or time off? If you need to take personal time off, what is your plan for making up the time?
2. Be prepared to compromise.
Many employers, particularly those who have never had work-from-home employees before, may be more open to allowing the change if you can do a trial run. Consider agreeing to a probationary period of 30 to 60 days during which your employer can monitor the success of the experiment.
3. Offer a modified schedule.
Instead of proposing an all-or-nothing plan, suggest a partial work-from-home schedule. Perhaps you can work from home two days a week during your trial run to allow your employer time to gauge the effectiveness of the change. As an alternative, offer to work from home on an “as-needed” basis during the probationary period, only staying home when your circumstances require it.
4. Give your boss time to consider your proposal.
While the idea may seem like a no-brainer to you, it may be something your boss has never considered. Make your presentation and then give your employer time to think about the plan. Suggest they think about the idea for a week (or two) and then let you know of their decision.
5. Be gracious.
Regardless of their answer, the decision is ultimately theirs to make. Even if they turn down the idea now, it may become a possibility in the future. A gracious response now could make the difference in their consideration later.
Once your supervisor has given you the green light to work from home, there are some things you can do to start your remote worker status on the right foot:
Establish a regular schedule.
Depending on the agreement you made with your boss, you may have some flexibility in your workday schedule. Did you agree that you would work from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. every day? Treat those hours as though you have to clock in and out. If you need to change your workday, communicate those changes to your supervisor in advance.
During your work hours, your boss or coworkers should be able to communicate with you easily. Ensure that you are available via phone, text, email, or instant messaging system.
Giving your supervisor regular updates and milestones will help reassure them that you can maintain your effectiveness as an at-home employee and will help to assuage any concerns about falling behind.
Discuss any problems immediately.
Are you having connectivity issues that may be preventing you from being productive? Is there a break-down in communication between you and other departments? Identify any problems (or potential problems) right away, and brainstorm solutions.
Be honest about your limitations.
Despite your best intentions, not everyone is suited to working from home. If you find that you are having difficulty managing the workload, speak with your supervisor about changing your schedule or transitioning back to the office.
Working from home can be beneficial to both employer and employee, but only if it is managed correctly. To maximize your effectiveness, be prepared to offer substantive evidence of your ability to work from home. Not sure if your employer will allow you to work at home? The number of companies willing to allow their employees to trade in their commute is growing—yours could be next. All you need to do is ask!