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.
“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.