Home Office

Of all the various posts I’ve written, the most consistently popular ones are about working at home. You can guess why; what’s not to like about a thirty-foot commute and no dress code? Then there is your kitchen, just a few steps away. Take it from me — I’ve been here in my home office (in various states and cities) for eleven years, and it’s great to work from home.

But maybe you already have a good job and you have no intention of throwing away everything it took to get where you are in the company, not to mention your retirement plan and benefits. What can you do? Convince your employer to let you work from home, of course! Here’s how to make your case.

It’s all About the Boss

You might have the best boss in the world, but telling her how much you will benefit from working at home won’t get her excited. Your pitch has to be based on how the employer will benefit. If you mention what you get out of the deal you should do so only in the context of making your employer’s benefits more evident.

For example, you might be happier, but that’s not a direct benefit to your employer, so don’t emphasize it. Instead, print out a research report on home workers and highlight the part that says, “Of the 62 percent of organizations that do offer telecommuting, almost half (46 percent) said the program has a high impact on employee retention.” Yes, that better retention rate is because employees are happy, but the important point you’re emphasizing is that plenty of other companies are letting employees work at home and they’re avoiding hiring and training expenses as a result.

It’s all about the boss and what’s in it for him and the company. So what else can you do to convince your employer?

Tell Your Boss About the Cost Savings

According to a Reuters.com article, 41 percent of health insurer Aetna’s 35,000 employees don’t have a desk in the company’s offices. They work from home full time, and a couple thousand more Aetna employees work some days at home. Okay, that’s interesting, but here’s the part you’ll want to print out and highlight for your employer:

Through telecommuting, the company has cut 2.7 million square feet of office space at $29 a square foot, for about $78 million in cost savings a year including utilities, housekeeping, mail service and document shredding.

If you work for a small employer who won’t see any reduction in costs right away, remind the boss that the company might grow. If your work-from-home experiment is a success the boss can move more workers to home-based work stations. That will reduce the need for the company to rent additional office space as their business grows.

Tell Him About Productivity Gains

It can’t hurt to suggest that you work well in your home office, due to the silence and lack of interruptions. But your boss might want more than your promises, so give him the research that’s been done. For example, the London School of Economics and Political Science found that home workers are “happier and more productive.”

According to the Reuters.com report Aetna says their at-home workers are highly productive. And their teleworkers include nurses, physicians, customer service representatives, claims processors, network managers, lawyers, underwriters, and others.

The largest recent experiment in working from home involved 16,000 employees of a Chinese travel agency. Stanford says:

The firm improved total factor productivity by between 20 percent to 30 percent and saved about $2,000 per year per employee working at home. About two third of this improvement came from the reduction in office space and the rest from improved employee performance and reduced turnover.

Tell Him About Other Benefits

You can tell your boss about other benefits selectively as is appropriate. For example, less commuting and less office space make home-based jobs better for the environment. Less absenteeism was reported in the Chinese study. It’s easier to work at home when you’re sick or there is a blizzard after all. There are also fewer worries about office interruptions (including fewer office romances, but you might not want to say that since it suggests you might engage in these).

Make It Easy for the Boss

Finally, when you have your case prepared, and charts printed out (really, why not make it a solid case?), have a couple possible options for the boss. If he hesitates to let you try working at home full time ask if you can prove the concept to him with two days per week at home, and then revisit the idea of a more permanent arrangement.

Also, be clear on how it will work, or at least how it can work. Will you use your own computer or do you need the employer to provide one? Will you use a remote login system to work on the company computers? If so, get familiar with them before talking to the boss.

Essentially you want to anticipate every possible objection and have an answer or solution ready. Make it easy for the boss and she might just let you stay home next week.

Your Thoughts: Will you ask your employer to let you work from home?

Flicker Photo by Bill Lim