To get started telecommuting, the first place you’ll want to look is at your current job. Sure, there are companies that hire telecommuters directly, but those jobs tend to be in very specific areas, like home call centers. Most companies that allow telecommuting reserve this perk for existing employees.
To begin the process of turning your current position into a telecommuting job, you'll need to develop a telecommuting proposal for your supervisor.
But before you begin writing, follow these steps:
Find out everything you can about your company’s telecommuting and/or flexible work policy. Go to the human resources area on the company’s website. Look for public information on these policies. Also check your employee handbook. Search the company’s job postings to see if any of the jobs it is recruiting for are “work-at-home.” Do an Internet search for news about your company and telecommuting. Is it one of these top telecommute friendly companies? (If so, lucky you!)
Once you’ve gathered as much information as you can from public sources, start discreetly asking your colleagues if they know anyone who telecommutes. Talk to telecommuters and find out how they got started at your company. Consider what you know about how your direct supervisor feels about telecommuting.
Before you bring a telecommuting proposal to your employer, spend some time reflecting on not only how this arrangement would work but why you want to telecommute.
What do you want from this arrangement? Why do you want it? Ask yourself these 9 questions about working at home.
And then honestly consider some even harder questions: What kind of relationship do you have with your boss? Your colleagues? How are you viewed in the office? Will you coworkers be supportive of this?
Your supervisor will not only consider how a telecommuting arrangement will affect you but will also think about your colleagues. Do not assume that your coworkers will be willing to pick up the slack for you.
Put Yourself in Your Boss's Shoes
Now look at the answers to these questions from your employer’s point of view. If your honest answer to why you want to telecommute is because you’d like to sleep in later, that’s not likely to hold much weight with your boss.
And so, while it’s important for you to personally reflect on your own reasons for why you want to telecommute, you must frame your telecommute proposal through the lens of how telecommuting benefits your employer.
Of course, your own personal satisfaction with the arrangement might make you a happier, more productive employee, but that will, in many cases, not be a good enough reason on its own. Think about more tangible benefits for your employer: Will you free up more office space? Will you be available to work more or different hours (though be careful what you promise)? Will you be available to work during weather emergencies?
Draft the Details
Once you’ve done the reflection and research, it’s time to put together your telecommuting proposal.
These are some of the questions you’ll want to address.
How many days per week would you telecommute? If this is to be a full-time telecommuting arrangement, what would necessitate your presence in the office? If this is part-time telecommuting, when would you be in the office? If this is a long-distance arrangement, who would pay for travel?
Would the arrangement begin on a trial basis? If so, what are the criteria for success or failure of the arrangement and how long is the trial period? Who will be evaluating the arrangement? How would things change if this were to become permanent? For instance, would you increase the number of days you work from home?
What type of work would you do at home, and what would you do in the office? Which duties do you propose to perform at home? Are there some duties that can only be carried out at the business?
Are there some duties which are more practical to complete at home?
How will you communicate with your home office? Can you dial in to conference calls or participate in meetings by teleconferencing? Will you be able log into the company’s network? Having a plan for the technical details is absolutely essential as you prepare a telecommuting proposal.
What will you do for child care? Parents with children at home will need to address child care. If you work at home in your own business or as an independent contractor, you might be able to get by without child care. However, if you are being paid for your time by your employer, you cannot watch your child and work simultaneously. Be sure your boss knows that you understand this and that you will have the right amount of child care in place.
If the Answer is No...
Start back at the beginning with more research and, most especially, reflection. What were your supervisor's reason for turning down your proposal? Think about ways to overcome those objections. If your boss left the door open for you to resubmit your proposal, do that but make changes. You may need to scale back the number of days you work at home or offer to do it on an occasional or trial basis.
However, if the door was firmly closed on telecommuting, it may be time to dust off your resume and start looking at this directory of work-at-home companies.