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A Pitch for Telecommuting

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: I would like to telecommute at least a couple days a week, but I don’t think my manager is keen on the idea. Can you help me make my case?

A: Start by reviewing your employee handbook to see whether your organization has a policy on telecommuting. If so, it should help you put together a plan to convince your manager that telecommuting will work for you and your position.

For example, the policy may say that to be eligible for telecommuting, you have to have worked at your organization for at least a year and have earned a performance rating of “meets expectations.” The policy may also outline which positions are eligible for telecommuting and which are not.

If your organization doesn’t have a formal policy, do a little internal networking to learn who currently telecommutes in your office, if anyone. If you are the first to bring this issue up, you’re a pioneer who can help the organization move toward a more flexible workplace. Consider working with your HR department to research how telecommuting works in other organizations. The HR team may see your request as their test case for an organization-wide policy, and they may be willing to help you craft your pitch to your manager.

Think about the issue from your boss’s perspective. What do you think his or her objections will be, and how will you respond? Do you work well independently? Does your job require you to attend daily meetings or to work with teams in other departments? How much direction do you get from your manager on a daily basis? Do you have the space and equipment at home to work productively, or will you be asking your organization to supply anything? If you have children at home, will you have adequate child care?

Think about the issue from your boss’s perspective. What do you think his or her objections will be, and how will you respond?

When you’re ready, schedule a meeting with your manager and make your pitch. Suggest a six-month trial to see if it works for both of you. Some managers fear losing control if they can’t see their people every day, so be sure to let your manager know that you will be available when needed for onsite meetings and will stay in touch via email and phone on your telecommuting days. Explain that you know your productivity will increase on those days because you will not have commuting time and will have fewer interruptions.

If the answer is no, assure your manager that you are still committed to the organization, and continue to do a great job. Try again in a few months.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].

Employee Policies