So You Wanna Work From Home? You Can Convince Your Boss

Sure, this is a topic we’ve explored before from multiple dimensions (see “Yet Another Reason to Build a Case for Telecommuting” and “Challenging Telework Myths“). But here’s your chance to get advice for building a case for telecommuting directly from Chuck Wilsker, the president and CIO of The Telework Coalition, who has probably heard more excuses from managers and executives for not allowing workers to do their jobs from home than any other person alive. The Coalition’s mission is, “enabling and supporting virtual, mobile and distributed work through research education, technology and legislation.”

Lay out the reason you want to work from home. Wilsker suggests something along these lines: “I’ve been an employee for three years. I get top reviews. You tell me how important I am to the company. I need a little work-life balance. My kid plays soccer. Even if I leave the office at 4 o’ clock, I can’t guarantee I’ll be home for that game at 6. I’d really like to telecommute.”


Address the equipment issue. If your manager says, “We don’t have the equipment,” you respond: “You’ve given me a laptop already,” said Wilsker. “We have the technology in place. We have a lot of people who travel. Does it matter if the work is done from a hotel room or a home?”

Address your manager’s security concerns. “If you’re dealing with medical records or you have to comply with regulations, make sure you address that,” said Wilsker. That may mean learning how from others in the company who are already doing mobile work.

Consider the business continuity angle. “Ask your boss — especially if you live in the north where you have snow — ‘How many days have you had to close operations because of weather?'” said Wilsker. “‘How much did that cost the business?'”

If your manager hedges, make it easier to agree by reducing the commitment. “Say, ‘I’d like to try it for a 90-day trial. I’d like to do it one or two days a week. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll know then.'”

Put together an agreement. Include “what you’re going to do, when you’re going to be available, what hours you’ll be working, who’s responsible for what.” Assure your manager that your work computer will not become your home computer. Your kid won’t be running CDs from school on it.

Don’t use the “T” word. “Don’t talk about telework or telecommuting,” said Wilsker. He suggests using the terms “distributed worker” or “virtual worker.”

Point out that virtual work will cut down on presenteeism. “It’s like absenteeism — you feel like shit, but you still go into work,” explained Wilsker. “People are coughing and you have these people coming in sick, which can make other people sick.”

Supply statistics. “Show your boss how virtual work will help the bottom line, build morale, bolster recruiting and retention, provide life balance.” The numbers are out there for all of those things, said Wilsker. You’ll find plenty of additional artillery on the Telework Coalition web site.

What objections have you heard that aren’t already on the list?

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