Home Office Computing, June, 2000 by Phil Albinus
How to teach a tough boss that working at home is right for you
YOU'VE MADE UP YOUR MIND: IT'S TIME to ask your boss if you can work from home. But before you march into his office with a list of demands, consider stating your case using some or all of these airtight arguments. While we can't guarantee you'll get a "Yes!" right off the bat, there's a good chance you'll come away with an encouraging and genuine "We'll see."
Everyone Else Is Doing It A 1999 International Telework Association & Council survey estimated that 19.6 million Americans work from home at least one day a month. That's approximately 10 percent of the U.S. adult population. This is the future of the workplace.
I Will Be More Productive Nothing is sweeter music to a boss's ear than the promise of getting more work done. And if you're the type who works best by yoursell working from home will let you meet more deadlines. "The person who does the best is a self-starter," says Scot Faulkner, spokesperson of the American Management Association. "The efficient worker who delivers without costly interruptions in an isolated environment, compared to one who is distracted by office gossip, coffee breaks, and spontaneous meetings that have no agenda, is the better home office candidate."
You'll Save on Real Estate Space and Furniture Costs Tell your boss that when you telecommute, you'll free up precious office real estate and equipment. And if a few coworkers from each division and workgroup work from home, savings will increase and space will open up even further.
Keep Us Happy and the Revolving Door Will Stop In today's robust economy, employees are often calling the shots because bosses are desperate to keep staff from leaving to find other, better jobs. "Retention is a big issue in this job market," says Debra Dinnocenzo, author of 101 Tips for Telecommuters (Berrett-Koehler Publishing, 1999). "In fact, [whether they can telecommute] is one of the first questions people ask when interviewing at a new job." For every person who actually does telecommute, she estimates there are 10 more who want to.
I'll Always Stay in Touch "There are managers who are still control freaks, who feel that if you're not in your cubicle hunched over your desk that you're not being productive," says Faulkner. If your boss performs constant bed checks, prove to him that you can be reached with a dedicated home office phone line, e-mail, a cell phone, a pager, and even instant messaging.
I'll Work More Hours Most people who work from home tend to work longer hours, experts say. "If you work with clients and colleagues who are overseas," says Faulkner, "you can certainly conduct business before and after work hours from home, even though you can't do that back at the office."
In addition, there are fewer workplace interruptions and fewer visual cues that the sand is slipping through the hourglass. Without having coworkers around stepping out for lunch, snack breaks, or putting on their coats to catch the 5:15, the possibility of looking up and discovering it's 7 p.m. is quite good.
I Have Better, Faster Equipment at Home If your IT department thinks your 90MHz Pentium from 1995 is more than enough machine to get the work done, mention the specs of your home PC. "Often, people have faster PCs with larger hard disks in their homes than they have on their desks," says Paul Rupert, principal of Boston-based WFD Consulting. Don't forget to mention your printer, fax machine, and backup device as well.
I'll Take Fewer Sick Days Remember the flu that traveled from cubicle to cubicle this past winter? Tell your supervisor that you can get some work done on your sick days. We're not talking about crunching numbers during major surgery, but if you're sidelined with a cold or hay fever, writing a few memos or answering e-mails won't kill you.
You Can Always Change Your Mind Tell your boss he can evaluate the arrangement in a few months. You and your supervisor can discuss his concerns, your coworkers' reactions, and any issues that might have come up since you started working from home.
Still can't convince your time-clock-punching boss that working from home is a win-win situation? Try these six arm-twisters that will show him you're not trying to get away with anything.
Back to Work Errands and doctors' appointments don't have to kill half or an entire day. I can go to the doctor's office and return to my home office after an hour or two.
Reduced Overtime Do you really want to pay me time and a half during those special crunch times, when I can work from home and get those projects done quicker?
I'm Better Prepared for Road Trips After working from home, I already know how to dial in to the office network, send and receive e-mail, retrieve files via remote access software, and send faxes from my notebook. So when I'm traveling on business, I'm ready for any bumps in the road trip.
Safety First I know I have to work late, but walking to a subway or bus station at 11 p.m. isn't good for my health. Nobody ever got mugged walking from the home office to the kitchen.
I'll Pay for the Setup If cost is all that's getting in the way, I'll buy my own equipment and add a second phone line myself.
Write the Perfect Pitch Letter
(1.) Suggest a telecommuting pilot program. Supervisors are loath to dive right in and let just anyone work from home. With a program, there will be guidelines, rules, expectations, and more. Volunteer to help write those documents along with human resources and other bosses.
(2.) Give the benefits, but not yours. Supervisors are interested in one thing: return on investment. So when you approach your boss, under no circumstances make this a personal plea. Don't mention that it'll ease your hectic commute, at[ow you to drive your kids to soccer practice, work out with your Pirates coach, or steep in. You'll sabotage your intentions and will effectively equate the phrase "work at home" with "loaf from home" in your boss's brain.
(3.) Have a specific schedule. Don't be vague about the number of days you'll be working from home. Supervisors don't want to hear "Can I work from home a couple of days a week?" Have a specific schedule in mind, as in "I'd tike to work from home on Tuesdays and Thursdays."
(4.) Equip yourself. In your work-at-home pitch letter, mention the computer equipment and communication services you already have. A supervisor will be impressed if you're ready to work from home without costing the company anything.
(5.) Work the room. "You need a dedicated space tike a den or alcove," says Scot Faulkner, a spokesperson for the American Management Association (AMA). Faulkner doesn't recommend a dining room or kitchen table, especially if you share it with a family member or a pet--no matter how welt trained either might be.
(6.) Seed the clouds. Like any relationship that requires diplomacy, a nudge can work better than a shove. Start by sending magazine and newspaper articles about the benefits of working from home to your boss and your human resources department and have discussions about them.
To: Sue Pervisor From: Phil Albinus Re: Telecommuting Proposal
Sue, after five years of meeting deadlines, heading projects, and increasing our department's overall performance, I'd like to propose a telecommuting pilot program.(1)
Allowing employees to work from home would benefit our company greatly; we'd gain increased productivity, have more available office space, and longer workdays.(2) And after we lost Linda, Sam, and Martha to NewGuys.com and its liberal work-at-home policies, we need to launch an employee retention program.
I'd like to take the first step and start working from home two days a week, specifically Mondays and Wednesdays.(3) If this program is successful for me, we can then branch it out to include other employees.
In terms of equipment, I'm ready for work.(4) I have a Pentium III desktop, a fast laptop, a color inkier printer, a fax machine, and more. I also have a cell phone with a pager and a Jump instant messaging account so I can be in constant touch with you and the rest of the staff.
And of course, I have a room in my house where I can work? This isn't baby-sitting; my daughter will still attend day care.
I've included newspaper and magazine clippings about how telecommuting improves employee morale, keeps employees from looking for work elsewhere, and increases individual performance.(6) Let's get together tomorrow to discuss my proposal.
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