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Summary:

Teleworking has been gaining traction for years and now more than 2.44 million people spend at least part of their work week at home. But recently some major employers have been pulling telecommuters back into the office. The goal of any would-be teleworker is to show your boss how working from home will benefit him and the company. If you’re having trouble getting your point across, here are some possible reasons he wants you in the office.

By Justin Draeger

Teleworking has been gaining traction for years and now more than 2.44 million people spend at least part of their work week at home.

But recently some major employers have been pulling telecommuters back into the office. The goal of any would-be teleworker is to show your boss how working from home will benefit him and the company.

If you’re having trouble getting your point across, here are some possible reasons he wants you in the office.

He Doesn’t Know What It Means

Don’t make the mistake of proposing telecommuting to a manager who has no real idea what teleworking is or how it works. Just because they can navigate around in Microsoft Outlook and can operate a blackberry doesn’t make managers tech savvy. Even at the risk of insulting their intelligence, it helps to provide a clear definition of what you’re asking for.

Of course that means figuring out what you want before you broach the subject. Do you want to work from home once a week, a few times a week, or full-time? Good negotiators know their end-points (what they want) and their breaking points (their bottom line).

In fact, avoid using the word “telecommute.” Even though I do it full-time, I almost always use the word telework, because it focuses on work, not my commute or lack thereof. It might be better to not use the words telecommute or telework at all, and instead just say in plain and simple terms exactly what you want.

For example:

“I get so bogged down here at the office that I end up working nights and weekends away from the office. I believe my productivity would increase if I could work from home for two days a week. I’ll still be readily accessible by phone, IM, and email during those times. Do you have any concerns with allowing me to work from home two days a week for the next three months?”

He Thinks You’re Getting Preferential Treatment

Some managers buy into the idea that everyone should be treated equally. It’s egalitarianism management and it stinks. Managers who buy into this concept care more about what their employees think about them than productivity or effectiveness.

I could give you a pep talk about changing corporate culture and management styles, but I won’t bother. Instead of wasting time trying to change management styles, it’s better to work within their framework. That means getting the approval of your coworkers and team members first, the people who will be most affected by your departure, before going to your manager. If teleworking will put additional burdens on your coworkers, they’ll let you know.

Approaching your coworkers first will also require you to take a realistic look at whether your job is a good fit for the teleworking. A production manager at an assembly plant has very little chance of telecommuting if 90 percent of his job duties require him to be on-site.

Approaching egalitarian managers with your coworkers full support tells them there’s no need to fear unpopularity or repercussions from the masses and that it’s okay to give you the green light.

He’s Old School

Many managers prefer “seeing” how hard you’re working. That includes a lot of managing by walking around, which is pretty ineffective management. Good managers know that managing by results is better for the company, employees, and ultimately themselves.

If your manager doesn’t focus on results, it’s up to you to help him start. Start reporting simple management numbers that focus on your productivity. Productivity numbers don’t just show how much you’ve completed, but shows how quickly or efficiently you tackled them. That generally means including a time component to your statistics such as tasks competed per hour, income generated per day, or product per week.

When it comes time to propose teleworking, you’ll already have management measures in place for him to ensure that you’re working hard.

He Just Loves Your Pretty Face

Some managers could forget all about you if you’re not in the office. If your manager fits this description you’ll need to retrain him or her to show that even if you’re not in the office, you’re still accessible. These managers are also less likely to allow you to work from home even on a trial basis.

For those employees, I suggest finding a reason to work from home, even if that means using a vacation day, to show just how accessible you can be. Send emails, make phone calls, or ping your coworkers and manager with instant messages. Do whatever it takes to show your boss that he’s not missing much by you not being right there with him. Most importantly, be more productive outside of the office than inside!

He Doesn’t Trust You

Stop now. You’re in trouble. If your boss doesn’t trust you then forget it. Whether the mistrust is warranted or not is unimportant because you can’t make someone trust you. Without trust you’re left with two options: build or rebuild the trust that is missing or go work somewhere else. The latter is usually easier.

Justin Draeger has been teleworking full-time since March 2008.

  1. Good overview of manager resistance to telecommuting. I wanted to add to the idea that managers say it won’t be fair. Its a silly excuse considering most people don’t get paid the same or have the same benefits even when doing the same job. Raises, extra time off and other perks are earned. Telecommuting can be a perk as well.

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  2. You’re forgetting the most Darwinian of reasons. If the organization comes to the conclusion that an employee can be productive WITHOUT a manager hovering over them – then that organization might just get rid of the manager(s). Gasp. Having employees work from within the corporate hive is job security for the manager. We live in a world with state of the art tech and prehistoric organizational structures (for the most part – at least in much of the US). People typically act in their own best interest. It’s not in a manager’s best interest in most command and control org settings to let you demonstrate your effectiveness independently. sad but far, far too often true. Most companies resemble the US Post Office far more than Microsoft, Google, or Apple.

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  3. I almost forgot. There’s one more reason: cowardice. Many managers are simply too afraid to do anything they’re not 1000% certain their higher-ups will approve of. Any action that will require an explanation will be avoided to the extent that manager fears upper-level mgt.

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  4. I think the fear is that you’ll get over on them and start moonlighting. I can’t blame them though. I would totally moonlight if I worked for someone else. I mean if you can work for someone else from home, why couldn’t you just start a business and do the same thing and make a lot more money?

    The way to rectify this is for the manager to be insanely focused on productivity and results. If an employee is delivering consistent quality, I say let ‘em work on the beach if they want to.

    Raza Imam
    http://SoftwareSweatshop.com

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  5. Not everyone wants to be self-employed. Being an employee for the right company, for the right pay, with the right perks (e.g. teleworking) isn’t a bad life!

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  6. I think it’s also true that when a boss doesn’t want you out of his sight it’s often because he or she is insecure. After all, if you perform BETTER when the boss is not around, what does that say about the boss’s usefulness? It’s often a delicate balancing act…keeping a boss’s ego stroked while gaining some independence for yourself. That’s why it helps to have a co-worker be ready to sound the alarm if the boss is feeling extra insecure (like the boss’s boss is on the warpath)…that’s when you put in more face time at the office to make sure the boss feels secure again.
    Anita Bruzzese
    http://www.45things.com

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  7. [...] you convince a doubtful manager to let you work from home? Tell us your secrets in the comments. Why Your Boss Doesn’t Want You to Telework [Web Worker [...]

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  8. Because he knows you have young children at home. It is a rare employee that can effectively telework when young children are around. The temptation to become a baby sitter is too large. So far I’ve never encountered anyone who can handle kids being present without it impacting their work.

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  9. [...] you convince a doubtful manager to let you work from home? Tell us your secrets in the comments. Why Your Boss Doesn’t Want You to Telework [Web Worker [...]

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  10. I teleworked 3 days a week for 6 years while working for a large non-profit in DC. It was the ONLY reason I stayed there for 6 years.

    Non-salary based compensation is the wave of the future. Companies can’t afford to pay us more so they have to find ways to keep talent.

    So look around yourself; if you are the ‘talent’ then suggest once a week telework at your next performance evaluation. A trial program that works tends to become defacto working environment.

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