Work From Home, Even in a Bad Economy

Just how flexible is your boss anyway? If others on your team are already teleworking, do a little sleuthing to see if your boss is a good advocate of the program. (Hint: Making comments like, "Stan, how nice of you to grace us with your presence today — I was beginning to wonder if you still worked here," is not being a good advocate.)

Also, if your boss has come down on you for "waltzing in to work five minutes late" on numerous occasions, you might have a tough sell on your hands.

Can you get anything done working solo? Do you the need the constant threat of management lurking down the hall to light a fire under your rear, or can you crack your own whip? And how well do you handle being all by your lonesome for eight hours straight? Not everyone's cut out for making water cooler banter with their cat. Some of us need more biped interaction than others.

Write a proposal. To assuage your manager's fears that "working remotely" is code for "only remotely working," you need to make your case in writing. Specifically you need to:

Point out the business advantages. The fact that you'll be more productive with a reduced commute is a business advantage; that fact that you've always wanted to work in your jammies is not.

Include articles and research to back up your point — for example, an April 2008 study by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center found that employees with flexible work arrangements called in sick less and were more committed to the job. Also be sure to throw in a reference to helping the company reduce its impact on the environment; after all, green is the new black.

Suggest a trial period. To ease your manager's mind, Seitel recommends a trial of one or two days a week for a maximum of 90 days. Be specific about the hours and days you'll telework each week so your manager and coworkers know what to expect. Don't choose Mondays, though, or whatever your most meeting-laden day of the week is.

Outline the specifics. How will you interact with your boss, coworkers and customers while working remotely? (Email? Conference call? Morse code?) Where will you work? (In a spare bedroom? Your finished basement?) Do you have all the necessary equipment (workstation, computer), or do you need your employer to provide some of it? Your manager will want to see that you have the resources to pull this off — and the less it costs them, the better.

Set up a yardstick for measuring success. Some managers get nervous when you're not in your chair eight hours a day. Give them a way to measure your productivity and see that you're not just watching "The Jerry Springer Show."

Specifics such as, "I will contact 60 people on the days that I work from home, I will make six sales, or I will send out this much material," will get you far, Seitel says. If you can't quantify your progress with numbers, use anecdotal yardsticks, she says, such as, "Are your coworkers satisfied? Are your customers satisfied?"

Get help. If you need help crafting your proposal, download the telecommuting template ($30) offered on www.WorkOptions.com, endorsed by everyone from the Wall Street Journal to Mr. "What Color Is Your Parachute?" himself, Richard Bolles. Much cheaper than hiring a career coach.

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