Telecommuting is in the news these days, but the idea of working from home has always held some appeal for many workers. Advantages to telecommuting include eliminating a lengthy commute, allowing more flexibility to pick up or drop off children from school or child care, avoiding delays in getting to work due to weather-related concerns, 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 enabled even some jobs that used to require face-to-face interaction — such as counseling, security, and legal jobs — to telecommute positions, at least part of the time.
If you’ve been thinking about telecommuting, there are a few things to consider:
• Do you have the temperament to work from home, 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 (i.e., high-speed Internet and a separate phone line).
• Does your company already allow remote work? Pitching the idea of telecommuting 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.
• 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, but it should definitely be in writing.
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 affect 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 telecommuting. 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.
Here is a Sample Template for you to use.