Work From Home, Even in a Bad Economy

Ah, late spring. The tulips. The lilacs. The mountain of press releases on teleworking and how it makes for happier moms.

Look at the statistics, though, and you'll see it's not just moms, but dads, Millennials, Boomers, and anyone else who has ever spent 75 minutes slogging through 10 miles of rush hour traffic that wants to work from home once in a while. But given our crumbling economy, is the hope of convincing the boss to let you work in your slippers and bathrobe a pipe dream?


"Even though we're at the edge of a recession if not in it, it is the perfect time to negotiate a flexible arrangement," says Susan Seitel, president of WFC Resources, a Minnetonka, Minn.-based consultancy that helps employers tackle work place issues. "Employers are looking for ways to keep their top performers, and they're looking for ways that don't cost anything."

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Having to replace a star employee who flies the coop can cost a company 150 to 200 percent of that worker's salary, Seitel says. Considering Millennials and some of the youngest Gen X employees job-hop every one to three years, she adds, that turnover gets pretty pricey. Employers must spend time and money to hire and train new employees while sustaining losses in productivity, she said.

Right now, 25 percent of Americans telework at least eight hours a month, according to a recent report by Gartner, a leading technology research firm. But employment experts anticipate that number jumping significantly in the next year.

"Because of rising gas prices, we expect to see a spike in the number of telework requests," says Marcia Rhodes, spokesperson for WorldatWork, a global HR association.

Companies may not be lining up to hand out cost-of-living subsidies to workers feeling pain at the gas pump, she adds, but giving employees telework privileges is one band-aid employers can afford.

Add to the mix companies tripping over themselves to convince the public that they really do love the environment (really!), and you get what Seitel calls "a perfect storm" for making a convincing case for that coveted 60-second commute.

So how do you know if you're a good candidate for a telework arrangement? More important, how the heck can you get your boss's blessing?

Ask yourself the tough questions. Not all positions lend themselves to offsite work. But don't rush down the hall to chat up your boss just yet. A bit of fact-finding (not to mention soul-searching) is in order first:

Does your job require constant face time? If you can't do your job without standing three feet from your manager, coworkers and customers, you can't telework.

In case you aren't sure, creative, marketing, sales, IT, customer service and finance professionals are good candidates for working from home; bartenders, healthcare providers and auto mechanics are not.

What's your relationship with your boss? If the answer is, "not good," sources say you'd best spend the next several months charming the pants off him or her (figuratively speaking, of course) before you ask for the moon.

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