It’s 7:30 in the morning, and I’m looking at miles of brake lights ahead of me on the Mass Pike. Driving into the city (or even the inner suburbs) once in a while during rush hour is annoying, but it’s not the end of the world. Driving in five days a week is soul crushing, and it’s definitely not a perk of working for someone else. The average Boston area commute is 29 minutes each way. I can do a lot in an hour if I’m not sitting in my car or on the train.
There are more benefits to getting out of going to the office every day than just saving commuting time. While it’s definitely more convenient to be in the same space as your coworkers when you need to collaborate, most of us (especially if our company has bought into the open office trend) get less done at our desks at work than we do on our couches, in our home offices or in coffee shops. When you need to do focused work, the office is not the place to be.
Despite abundant research that shows that working from home makes us both happier and more productive, many organizations are still firmly stuck in a “bums in seats” management philosophy.
If I can’t see them, how do I know they are working?
This is the complaint of the manager who has no way of measuring productivity except by looking to see whether a cubicle is occupied. This mindset is as out of date as the 70’s leisure suit, but it is still surprisingly prevalent in today’s working world. You may not be in a position to change that world, but you can (and should) advocate for yourself. Here’s what you need to do if you want to cut a remote work deal with your boss.
Do your research
Look around your own organization and find examples of how this has worked successfully already. If not, look at other similar companies. Make sure you know what tools you’ll need to be productive, and be sure that you’re comfortable and confident using technology to communicate.
Create a proposal
Going to your boss and/or to HR to pitch a work-from-home arrangement means making the case that there is just as much in it for them as there is for you. If you can propose a structure that makes sense (in the office two days every week, available on Skype or other video chat when you are at home, a process for keeping track of work products and deliverables, etc.) you are more likely to get a big “yes.”
Include a pilot
As part of your proposal, suggest that you try this arrangement for a month or two, and then sit down with your manager to adjust and adapt based on how things are going. A shorter-term trial with a chance for feedback gives you the opportunity to show how productive you will be and for your manager to get used to the idea that you won’t disappear.
Once you’ve got the go-ahead for the pilot, you need to make sure you are over-communicating during that pilot phase. Don’t miss a deadline, don’t skip a meeting, don’t give anyone the opportunity to blame something on the fact that you are not in the office every day.
Working from home is still work. But, by avoiding the time wasted through commuting, the dry cleaning bills, the miles on your car, or the cost of a commuter rail pass, working from home is a huge time and money saver. It’s almost like asking for a raise, and it’s also surprisingly productive. Without the distractions of people popping into your space to chit chat, you will probably find that you’re doing more work in less time than ever before. That doesn’t mean the office is a terrible place. It can be very useful for team meetings and collaboration. But, for most of us, going into the office every day is not only not necessary, it’s not a good use of your valuable time.
So, go make your case, and you might find they are more open to the idea than you expect!