Do you envy others whose quality of life and work-life balance are amazing because they don’t have that miserable commute every morning? Do you prefer your own Keurig coffee maker and having CNN running in the background while you concentrate? Would you like just a little uninterrupted time to think about how you’ll attack your work day? If you’re like many, you’d love the idea of teleworking, at least part-time.
Maybe your company is late to adopt teleworking. If that’s the case, read on an I’ll explain how you can make your case to become a remote worker.
The state of teleworking in the United States
As of June 2017, “3.7 million employees (2.8% of the workforce) now work from home at least half the time. The employee population as a whole grew by 1.9% from 2013 to 2014, while employees who telecommute grew 5.6%. Forty percent more U.S. employers offered flexible workplace options than they did five years ago.”
We also know that:
- 50% of the US workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework and approximately 20-25% of the workforce teleworks at some frequency.
- 80% to 90% of the US workforce says they would like to telework at least part-time. Two to three days a week seems to be the sweet spot.
- Fortune 1000 companies around the globe are entirely revamping their space around the fact that employees are already mobile. Studies repeatedly show they are not at their desk 50-60% of the time.
- A typical telecommuter is college-educated, 45 years old or older, and earns an annual salary of $58,000 while working for a company with more than 100 employees. 75% of employees who work from home earn over $65,000 per year, putting them in the upper 80th percentile of all employees, home or office-based.
I was talking with a friend last night. She helps others find jobs after they’ve been laid off. I asked her what major concerns her clients have. She said that work-life balance is their primary concern. And, a big part of that is being allowed to telework some or all of their week.
As a former CEO working alongside my CFO to find every possible opportunity to lower costs, two things became obvious. First, the space that we were leasing was at least twice if not three times larger than we needed. Secondly, regardless of its size, we couldn’t afford it.
Having teleworked for three organizations, I understood that the elephant in the room, the concern over loss of productivity, proved to be a non-issue if the supervisor and the employee adopted different communication techniques.
Making the case for teleworking
You may work in an environment where teleworking is an opportunity, but you have to convince someone to allow you to do it. Or, your workplace has never allowed it. Or, you may be looking for new opportunities where you’ll want to negotiate a teleworking schedule.
Whatever your situation, you need to know how to make the case for teleworking if you want to join the ranks of those 3.7 million U.S. workers.
Here’s my advice to you.
1. Sit down with your supervisor
You and your supervisor will have to be on the same page. Ask for a spot on their calendar when you can sit across from each other and have this discussion. Teleworking isn’t something you want to casually bring up at the water cooler.
Your case will need to be strong and you’ll need to present it in a non-confrontational manner. Remember, for the most part, it is WIFT, or put another way, it’s a “What’s in it for them” discussion. Explaining how it is going to help you will not win the day.
Think about how it will impact them positively and how you’ll overcome the challenges. Emphasize lower costs, increased communication and productivity, no loss of productivity for bad weather, and how it impacts morale and employee loyalty. Consider using some of the statistics cited earlier.
2. Offer to be a test dummy
At a previous company, our CEO abhorred the notion of teleworking. It was the earlier days of teleworking and like many, she was convinced teleworkers would not be productive. As it turns out, she and others couldn’t have been more wrong. Teleworking at our company was approved and here is how it came to pass.
One of my employees had to move out of state for his spouse’s graduate school attendance. It was either allow him to telework, or lose a star employee. For me, it was a no-brainer but for her, it required a very strong case, one which my HR director and I created. Because he had created amazing trust and political capital with our CEO through his good work, he was allowed to try it.
3. Start gradually
Another approach is to propose a “trial period” where you telework a day or two a week. I’ve seen a single day quickly become three days over time.
Scheduling the day(s) you telework is critical as face to face communication is often desired by your supervisor. This is especially true for company-wide meetings where your attendance is expected. Even though I replaced weekly staff meetings with company-wide Skype meetings, with 25 simultaneous video connections, the occasional in-person staff meeting is still necessary to foster camaraderie and team spirit.
4. Solve communication
One of your biggest hurdles will be finding a way to communicate effectively. If you’re going to overcome the concern over the loss of productivity, you’ll have to find a way to make sure both you and your supervisor are cognizant of what you’re working on, any concerns you may have, and when you’ll deliver your work.
There are many ways to do this, but I prefer daily one on one video calls as I find that they are as close to sitting down in my office with someone. This reinforces trust and confidence for both parties. You may find a different way depending on your supervisor’s communication style and preferences.
5. Explain the need for different types of time
Let’s face it, sometimes you have work that can only be done in a quiet setting. Maybe this is coding, maybe it is strategic thinking, or maybe it is just writing. But, the realities of being in the office when this type of work needs to take place, is nearly impossible because of interruptions. This is bad for both you and the company. In other words, teleworking on these days is in the best interest of both parties.
I have frequently seen this issue, the need for quiet time to get ethereal tasks completed, as the key to getting teleworking approved. This is something everyone up and down the chain understands because it impacts everyone. Even the CEO needs quiet time in their week to get work done. So, when building your case, put this at the top of your list.
Now, go make your case
Take care till next week,
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