The number of U.S. workers who work remotely in some capacity continues to rise. Gallup’s latest State of the American Workplace report found that not only did the number of employees working remotely increase by four percentage points from 2012 to 2016 (39% to 43%), those who work remotely spent more time doing so. In 2012, 24% of remote-working employees spent 80% or more of their time working remotely. That figure increased to 31% in 2016.
Gallup analysts point out that changes in communications and collaboration technology, as well as in employee attitudes and expectations, are driving transformation in the workplace. Their recommendation: Business leaders must determine how they can enable people to work successfully from locations besides the office.
Unfortunately, there are still quite a few skeptics among managers and leaders who believe that workers need to be onsite in the same location for collaboration to take place, and that face-to-face is the only effective way to communicate (or those who fear losing control of their staff). If this sounds like your manager, don’t lose faith. Even adamant opponents often come around once faced with undeniable evidence that working remotely cuts costs and boosts productivity.
The following are a few ideas to help you sell remote work to your manager.
Offer Solid Research to Back Up Your Pitch to Work Remotely
Remote work studies like the Gallup report cite impressive gains in employee happiness and engagement. But let’s face it — most business leaders are more concerned with outcomes that will impact the bottom line. Collect data that points to benefits to the company, your manager and your team. Don’t focus on your own preferences or desire for better work-life balance. Step into your boss’ shoes to figure out the WIIFM (what’s in it for me?). What is the most compelling argument for management? Focus on financial benefits, such as increased productivity and cost-savings for the company.
Here are two studies with the type of data that may bolster your pitch:
- A nine-month study conducted by Stanford University professor Nicholas Bloom of call center workers at a Chinese travel agency found that home-working led to a 13% performance increase and a savings of $1,900 per employee for the study timeframe.
- A Remote Collaborate Worker Study of 353 U.S. employees found that, of the 39% who worked remotely at least a few times per month, 77% reported greater productivity while working off site with 30% accomplishing more in less time and 24% accomplishing more in the same amount of time. Twenty-three percent said that they were willing to work longer hours than they normally would on site to accomplish more; and over half (52%) said they were less willing to take time off when working remotely, even when sick.
Prove That You Know Your Tech
Educate yourself on the technology that you’ll be using in your home office. Learn as much as you can about your hardware, include your laptop, modem/router, tablets, phone system, printer, etc.; and software (VPN, email, shared calendars, collaboration tools, and all of the programs that you team uses).
Glitches and problems with software or hardware are common and should not be an excuse for not meeting obligations. You should be able to troubleshoot minor issues on your own, or have backup plans to work around them. Claiming that “my Internet was down,” or “my computer crashed” has become the “dog ate my homework” excuse for remote workers. While it is sometimes legitimate, too often it’s a tactic relied upon by poor performers to justify missed deadlines.
Propose an Onsite Test Run
If your manager still doubts your ability to work remotely, suggest an onsite trial. This can help to ease his or her fears. Some large organizations with remote-work programs use onsite labs to prep employees to work at home. While working in the lab, employees are isolated from the rest of the company. They must set up their own equipment using external Internet connections (not connected to the corporate network), and work in a solitary space for several weeks. This ensures that workers are comfortable managing their own equipment. It also gives them a taste of what it’s like to work alone.
You don’t have to ask your company to create a lab for you. Find a space where you can work isolated from your team and manager. Look for an underused conference room or a workspace in a different department. This will allow you to test how communications and collaboration will work between you and your boss, team and colleagues.
Start Small: Work from Home on a Part-Time Basis
Going from 100% onsite to 100% remote is probably too much to expect if your manager remains unconvinced. Instead, ask to work from home one or two days per week to start. On the days that you work remotely, track your productivity. Keep detailed notes about what you worked on and how much progress you made.
To build a solid case, present your manager with the facts and performance results that show a positive impact. Be sure to set yourself up for success with effective scheduling and time management when you work remotely.
A part-time remote work trial also will ensure that you can hold onto your workspace at the office. This gives you an exit strategy if you decide that working from home isn’t right for you and you want to return to the office. But if all goes well, talk with your manager about increasing the days that you’re working from home.
Make Remote Work Part of Your Annual Raise Negotiation
If all else fails, consider whether the perks of working from home outweigh an annual cost-of-living pay increase. If so, ask to work remotely in lieu of a pay raise, or offer to take a lower increase along with the option to work from home.
This is particularly effective if you’re a high-performer in a smaller company whose budget is stretched thin. Management will recognize the win-win opportunity — they keep you on staff, happier and more productive, and they’ve lowered their overhead costs. Some companies have found the real estate savings to be so compelling, they quickly start sending more employees home to work.
Keep in mind that people tend to resist change so be patient and don’t give up. It may take months (or years) from your first pitch to work from home until your boss warms to the idea. In the meantime, keep building your remote-work capabilities. Learn how to manage and troubleshoot your technology and tools, and develop a reputation for being a reliable self-starter on assignments and projects. Set up effective remote tools and processes now for collaborating and communicating within your team so that you’ll be ready when the time comes.