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Working From Home: The Telecommuting Issue

High-speed internet access and email have increased opportunities for employees to benefit from working from home. With the development of wireless access, it is possible to work from anywhere, including a home office, coffee shops, libraries, and bookstores. Consequently, companies are increasingly allowing employees to work remotely (or telecommute).  

Working from home opportunities, also referred to as telecommuting or teleworking, defines a work structure in which a worker can complete job tasks, either on a full-time or part-time basis, from a location outside of the company's office. That said, some employers may specifically not allow telecommuting or opt to change their telecommuting policy with little noice. While a few jobs may hire an employee with the intent to allow telecommuting, most employees will have to request this arrangement.

The Benefits of Working from Home

The opportunity to work from home often benefits employees and employers. A worker benefits from:

  • Reduced commute time
  • Improved life-work balance
  • Reduction of stress
  • Flexible hours
  • Saves money

Studies have found that telecommuting benefits employers by:

  • Increasing employee productivity
  • Saving money on the cost of office space and energy consumption
  • Protecting the environment from global warming and energy usage
  • Lower turnover of employees
  • Less sick and personal leave taken by employees

Can You Work From Home?

Before deciding whether to ask an employer to consider a telecommuting arrangement, consider whether it is possible to perform the job outside of the office. It is important to assess the following:

  • Are you self-disciplined? To be productive when working from home it is necessary to manage time well by prioritizing tasks and avoiding distractions.
  • Do you have office space? It is important to have a separate home office space dedicated to performing the job.
  • Do you have the appropriate equipment and technology? Most work from home opportunities will require a computer and Internet access.
  • Will you miss socializing with others? An individual that finds it difficult to work alone all day may prefer working in an office with coworkers.
  • Can you work independently? Determine how much of your job can be accomplished without the assistance of coworkers.
  • Will you need to come into the office to perform some job functions? Some jobs may require you to come into the office for meetings or to complete certain tasks.

How to Sell the Plan to Your Boss

If working from home is a good option, it may be necessary to sell the idea to the employer if the company does not have a teleworking policy in place. The most effective way to convince an employer to agree to this arrangement is by preparing written documentation about the benefits of telecommuting and by giving an oral presentation of the proposal. A telecommuting proposal should include:

  • Facts that relay the benefits of providing workers with opportunities to work from home. Instead of informing the employer about how telecommuting will benefit you, cite statistics, case studies, and the results of research conducted about telecommuting in the employer's industry.
  • Information about your home office setup. Provide the employer with photos or a diagram of the workspace. Inform the employer about equipment already in the home office and the equipment that the employer will need to provide.
  • An accountability plan. Many employers doubt the ability of workers to be productive at home. To alleviate fears, offer to keep track of the work performed each day or week and offer to participate in weekly progress meetings.
  • A communication plan. In the proposal, explain how the employer can reach you. Provide the employer with email addresses, phone numbers, and instant messaging information. Also, suggest a time and method for checking in with the employer each day, as well as a proposed time in which you will reply to business communications from your employer.
  • A schedule: Start out with a proposal for telecommuting one or two days a week. When working from home, provide the employer with a schedule of the planned workday.
  • A trial period: Offer to telecommute on a trial basis so it is possible to gage how well the arrangement works. While in the experimental stage, agree to participate in evaluation meetings and ensure the employer that a final decision to eliminate the arrangement will not result in resentment.

In many cases, a carefully crafted proposal and oral presentation will at least lead to a trial telecommuting arrangement.

Next Steps
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