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Getting Your Boss to Let You Work From Home

written by: Nacie•edited by: John Garger•updated: 2/10/2010

Welcome to part one of this series where we will outline the fundamentals of working at home. In this first article, we look at the steps that any office employee can take to move his/her work from the confines of an office to the comfort and convenience of home.

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    For many of us who make the daily commute to the office, the idea of working from home feels like an unattainable dream. “My boss will never allow it,” “it would cause problems for me with my coworkers,” and “it just wouldn’t work,” are common responses people have when asked why they don’t try to make their dream a reality. However, if everyone knew how easy it was to suggest and sell this idea to their managers then there would be no people left in any office!

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    Why Work From Home?

    Why work at home in the first place? There are myriad reasons why working from home may be right for you, but one of the largest reasons is you would eliminate your commute time. According to a study done by ABC News, the average U.S. worker spends between seven and ten hours each week - which totals to between 350 hours and 500 hours over the course of fifty weeks during the year. That is a lot of time badly spent in a car, on a train, or in the air. Imagine how so many other areas of your life would improve, including productivity at your job, if you could remove that meaningless and get that time back.

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    Before You Get Started

    The first thing you need to do is take a good - and honest- look at your current job responsibilities and decide if working from home is reasonable. Generally, the best candidates to work at home are employees who work independently, do most work on the computer, and communicate with coworkers or clients primarily through phone or email. To determine if your job meets these criteria, ask yourself the following questions:

    -Who do I have daily interaction with?

    -How do we most commonly communicate?

    -What resources do I utilize daily?

    -Where do I most commonly work?

    -Could I work remotely on my daily projects?

    If after answering these questions you still feel confident that your job would work well outside of your office, consider the next aspect: would your personality do well working at home? Are you a self-starter, who can manage and run your own schedule, or do you tend to procrastinate and need someone to keep you on task? Also, are you fine with working alone all day, or does your personality responded better as part of the office community? You need to think about this not only to be able to convince your boss to let you work from home, but also to make the venture successful - you don’t want to be called back into office life because you couldn’t keep yourself on task at home!

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    Take It For A Test Drive

    Before taking any action, pick two days in the middle of the work week to stay home “sick,” but volunteer to continue working remotely. Use this time to test your productivity as well as provide a good example you can cite when you pitch the idea to your boss. Make sure during these two days you push yourself into overdrive and overachieve, especially in terms of reaching goals and producing content that you can easily point to and say “look what I was able to accomplish.”

    If this test was a success in your mind, begin to think reality and prepare yourself to pitch the idea to your boss.

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    How to Pitch a Work From Home Proposal to Your BossGetting your boss to agree to let you work from home can be difficult. In this second part of the article, learn how to pitch a work from home proposal to your boss. Explore how to convince your boss that working from home has benefits for you and the company.
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    Writing a Formal Proposal

    Once you are convinced that both you and your job would transfer easily to working at home, you need to begin drafting your proposal. No matter how approachable your boss is or how good your relationship is, you should write a formal document outlining your desire to work at home; this not only speaks to how serious you are about the idea, but also gives you both a reference for any situation that might come up.

    Depending on your job, there maybe specific issues you need to address and arguments you need to anticipate, however there is a basic set of questions your proposal should answer irrefutably: Why you want to work from home, why it would be a good choice for you and your company, and a plan of action to make it effective and productive. You want to keep your language brief but effective - make each word count. Also, remember to focus on the benefits this new arrangement will have for the company as a whole, not just your desire to stay in your pajamas all day. Each point, try to relate it back to how it will increase your productivity or increase your efficiency.

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    Pitching It To Your Boss

    As soon as your proposal is completed, set up a meeting with your boss to discuss your idea. Unlike the proposal, where you want the tone to be formal, informed, and carefully planned, your meeting should be casual and non-threatening, especially the initial pitch. To try and head off any basic concerns before the meeting, send your boss a copy of the proposal after they have agreed to meet with you and picked a time.

    You: Hey Mr. Kay, I know how busy you are, but I had a few thoughts about increasing my productivity and I wanted to run them by you - do you have ten minutes anytime today to meet up?

    Boss: Sure, why don’t we circle up about it around 4pm?

    You: That works fine. Also, if it’s OK I wrote a general overview of the ideas and will send them to you now if you like. I’m really interested in your thoughts.

    Boss: Sure, send it over. I’ll see you at 4pm

    When it is time to meet with your boss formally, continue to keep your tone casual. You also want to downsize the request by acting like it isn’t a big deal - if you act like it is obviously reasonable then it will subconsciously encourage your boss to act with the same attitude.

    You: So the details of the plan are in the document I sent over, but the general gist is that I was really productive last week when I was working from home and would like to propose a trial work at home schedule. During those two days I was able to finish three projects, complete six proposals, and edit five documents - and that was all while I was sick! I know this would really help push my productivity to the next level, and I can’t wait to see what I can do when I am at top health. What would you say to a three week trial period where I would work remotely one day, and afterwards we can meet and discuss how you are feeling about the situation? You could pull the plug on this at any time, but I am completely sure you will be pleased with the results. Does that sound doable?

    Boss: I don’t know, what about your team?

    You: During my sick days last week I had no problem communicating with them through email, phone, and messaging. So what do you think, can we give this a try?

    Boss: Well, let’s see how it goes next week and then take it from there.

    You: Thanks, Mr. Kay. I am looking forward to showing you what I can do.

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    During the trial period, you want to make sure the days you work from home are super productive and have material successes you can show your boss as proof. During the follow-up session, be sure to parade these with a positive, enthusiastic attitude. Read your manager’s reaction and if you think they would buy it, feel free to ask for another day at home. Depending on your situation, you could use the method described above to parlay working from home full time.

    No matter if you get one or all five days at home, just make sure you deliver on your promise to do your work. You don’t want to give your boss any reason to call you back into working from the office full time.

    Just remember to be cheerful, enthusiastic, confident, flexible, and honest. If your manager rebuffs you once, wait a few months, build up your credibility, and try again. The worst they can say is no - but you won‘t be taking that for an answer, will you!