I’m often asked by business owners how to set up the infrastructure to support employees working from home. By this, these owners are not simply referring to computer systems and intranets, but the means to provide confidence to co-workers and managers that the employees are, in fact, working from home!
Today, I thought I’d address this question from a different perspective: that of the employee, because I’ve had employees ask the same question. In the past I have worked from home as an employee and, as an employer, I have allowed/do allow people to work from home. I often champion it and once owned a business where everyone was virtual.
- The benefits of working from home are greater employee productivity and job satisfaction. To work from home effectively, a company must have clearly defined daily or weekly objectives for the employee working from home. In addition, to ensure the employee feels part of the team, a company must have a regular means to communicate – Skype, IM, email, phone calls, texts, video conferences, etc. Furthermore, employees must understand how what they do impacts the company. Companies that focus on the deliverables have significantly more success with people working from home than those that, instead, try to monitor the hours the employee actually works! Not all employees are sufficiently disciplined to work from home but those that are, that have the support I’ve mentioned, tend to perform at high levels and be more excited about their jobs. Working from home is also a great way to provide outside sales people and engineers or technicians, who spend so much time traveling or out in the field, with more time at home or to attend to errands.
- You must approach your boss with a clear story of how working from home will benefit him or her and the company. For example, you may have many co-workers who like to chat and who constantly interrupt you. Working from home will therefore free up your time. You may write extensively but find it difficult to concentrate with the hubbub of noise around your cubicle. By working from home you can complete articles, papers, or reports faster or on a more timely basis. If you do not have clearly defined daily or weekly deliverables, write down what you think they are and discuss them with your boss. This is how your boss will measure how well you work from home. Also share how this will cut down on your use of sick days, increase your job satisfaction, and increase your loyalty. After stating your case, ask your boss if he or she has any reservations and, if so, what those are. If you can, address those reservations (without being defensive) immediately; if not, return the next day with a response to the reservations.
- The most convincing argument is increased productivity. This means working from home you will write more, if you are a journalist or writer, or you will sell more, if you are a sales person. Quantify that productivity i.e., “I’ll be able to do 20% more.” Numbers are factual and therefore convincing. However, you must back up whatever you state with that performance level. Because you will be out of the office, providing a summary of what you’ll be responsible for and deliver on a weekly basis, and how you will communicate with the rest of your team, will add impact. Now you’ve provided me with the benefits I’ll reap as your boss and alleviated or eliminated the concerns I have about you being out of the loop. Finally, offer a trial. Offer to work from home for a week and from the office for a week, alternating, or work two days from home each week to start. This allows your boss to compare your performance without needing to make an upfront commitment to you.
What are some additional suggestions you may have regarding making it possible to work from home?