1. It’s All in How You Bring It Up
You can’t sell your boss on an idea like telecommuting just by mentioning in passing that you’d like to try it out. You have to bring it up as a serious topic, worthy of your supervisor’s serious consideration. That can mean scheduling a specific time to sit down and talk through the pros and cons: while you can try to pitch your idea in the hallway, it’s worthwhile to actually have a time where your boss is giving you his or her full attention. You need to prepare for that sit-down meeting, as well. Do some research and prove that you’ve already considered both the good and the bad of telecommuting. It’s easier to sell telecommuting if you can say up front what the drawbacks are — and why they won’t affect your productivity.
2. Talk About the Money
When it comes to a business decision, it’s all about the money. If your boss is convinced that it’s more cost effective to keep you in the office, that is where you are staying. That means you need to be able to speak knowledgeably about the expenses associated with telecommuting. Are you going to need any new equipment (or software) in order to work at home? Where are you going to save money for the company by not being in the office. If you need to, write down the financial pros and cons. I’ve heard of one or two people offering to take a salary cut in exchange for working for home: the argument behind that line of thought is that if you save money on your daily commute, work wardrobe and so forth is that you can afford to work for less. It’s not necessarily the best choice — but if an employer is already looking for ways to give you a pay cut or cut your hours, such an idea can at least give you a little bargaining power.
3. Look at Your Productivity
A big concern for many employers is that they can’t visually confirm that a telecommuter is doing the work he or she is getting paid for. And depending on just what your job is, that sort of visual confirmation may be the only way a supervisor feels that he or she can be sure of your productivity. You’re going to need to reassure your boss about your ability to work in your home environment — and you may even need to come up with some kind of metric to show just how much you’ve done in a day. Even if it’s as simple as shooting your boss an email when you sit down to work in the morning, and another when you finish up for the day, a little reassurance can go a long way.
4. Consider Compromises — Ahead of Time
Your discussion with your boss about telecommuting can turn into a negotiation very quickly. When you go in, you should already have an idea of what compromises you would be comfortable with. Would you be interested in telecommuting only part time, and coming into the office on certain days for meetings and so forth? Are you willing and able to use your own computer for your work? Think through what you absolutely need for telecommuting to be a personal success — and what you’re willing to give up in order to get your boss on board. You can even negotiate a date to revisit the requirements for your telecommuting: if, for instance, your employer wants to do a trial run and see how productive you really are at home, set a specific day to sit down and talk about the results.
5. Set Up Communications
In many companies, face time is considered an absolute necessity for little things like promotions. It is possible to make up for face time through careful communication — and of course, good communications are also necessary to make sure that you’re kept in the loop on any projects you’re working on. Choose your communications methods carefully, however: you may be excited about the latest document-sharing tool online, but how much of a learning curve is there for everyone else who will have to adapt to this new technology? Instead, try to stick as closely to what you use for in-office communications as possible. Whether you rely on email or a good, old-fashioned phone call, stick with the technology the higher-ups are comfortable using — and that don’t require any additional costs.
While not every employer can be won over to the benefits of telecommuting — and not every job is a great fit for working form home — talking through the pros and cons of getting out of the office can make for a relatively simple negotiation. If you can go in with a solid knowledge of the pros and cons of your particular telecommuting situation, as well as some consideration on how to handle the relevant issues, you’ll be ahead of the game in convincing your employer to let you try it out.