By Lydia Dishman
A huge corner office was once the universal sign for making it to the top of the corporate heap. But according to Alan Blume, author of Your Virtual Success, today more people measure their success by being office-less.
Yet, while the number of U.S. telecommuters ranges from between 2.8 million (those listing their home as the primary place of work, not including the self-employed) and 44.4 million (including anyone works at home at least once a year), Blume points out that over 50 million people have jobs that could be done remotely or have businesses which can be home-based.
“Even large companies are recognizing that having a virtual business means enormous financial savings, lower turnover, improved productivity and no costly overhead,” says Blume. So why aren’t more people working in their PJs?
Do You Have a “Pajama Job?”
You don’t need to assemble crafts or take surveys in order to work from home but you need to know if your job is suited to being done off-site. Workers who can access networks, files, or databases remotely are good telecommuting candidates. For instance, IT and computer systems analysts who design and maintain business networks can tackle their workload via virtual desktops and virtual private networks but they must have a speedy internet connection in place at home. Paralegals, medical transcriptionists, or insurance claims processors are all able to work remotely with reliable computer access. Many companies will also outsource sales and public relations efforts as those jobs require more time spent with clients than in the office.
Are You Prepared to Answer the Tough Questions?
Many would-be telecommuters think that once they can work in their bunny slippers they’ll be more productive than ever. The key is to convince the boss. Bruce A. Hurwitz, Ph.D., president and CEO of Hurwitz Staffing says there are three ways to ensure you’ll get permission to telecommute:
1. Establish yourself as a reliable and trusted employee. Linda Pophal, author of Managing Off-Site Staff says, “The biggest barrier to telecommuting is trust but, in reality, it’s no different than managing employees who work in branch offices or other remote locations - even internationally.”
2. Show the company it will cost them nothing. Pophal agrees. The focus needs to be on deliverables or measurable results and on the business. Don’t talk about how it will benefit you.
3. Show the manager how they’ll get a full day’s work from you because commuting time becomes actual work time. Communicate, says Pophal. Supervisors expect employees working from home will be as accessible as they are in the office.
Hurwitz suggest keeping an accurate log of your productivity. “There is always the danger that other employees will complain. The log gives the employer the evidence to justify their decision.”
If you’re still stuck on how to make the right approach, Michelle Goodman, author of the Anti 9-to-5 Guide recommends downloading a telecommuting proposal template, such as the one available at (http://www.workoptions.com/).
If at First You Don’t Succeed…
Goodman says don’t give up. “Ask what conditions would need to be met in order to work from home, and then work to meet them,” she recommends. You could also try to negotiate a short trial period or less frequent time off-site.
“Ask whether your boss would be open to revisiting the topic several months down the line,” suggests Goodman, and while you wait look around for evidence of that telecommuting benefits other companies in your industry. Still getting the "no way” vibe? Goodman says, “It may be time to start poking around for a new position.”