Part I: Facing the Issues
Do you feel the need to work somewhere else? Like home, perhaps? You love your job (or maybe just need it), yet you’re tired of the commute, the cubicle surroundings, and the office politics. Or, perhaps you’ve recently accepted the duty of caring for a family member that needs constant attention. Whatever your reasons, you’ve decided you want to ask your boss to let you work from home.
Before waltzing into her office and asking, “Do you mind if I stop coming to the office everyday, and just stay home?”, do some preparation. Consider what she might think and how you should counter any objections she’ll have.
Avoid the me, me, me
When contemplating how to approach your boss, avoid giving him reasons that are advantageous to just you. For example, avoid using reasons like, “I want to be near my kids”; or, “I want to save on gas”. While your boss might even identify with you, he still doesn’t care! What he’s most concerned about is his business. He will worry about how your absence could affect his bottom line. So it’s the issues he cares about that you’ll need to focus on when putting the idea of telecommuting in front of him.
What does he care about? To figure that out, you’ll need to think like a boss. What apprehensions would you have if an employee asked to work from home? Research shows that there are five key concerns of employers:
- Privacy and Safety issues
- Co-worker issues
- Communication issues
- Job function issues
Privacy and Safety
With some jobs there are serious privacy issues. Medical billing or nursing telephone triage work, for example, both involve HIPPA. (“Acronym that stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a US law designed to provide privacy standards to protect patients' medical records and other health information provided to health plans, doctors, hospitals and other health care providers.” Source: www.medterms.com . ) Paralegals, too, handle confidential information—information that is required by the Attorney-Client Privilege* law to remain confidential. (* “A legal concept that protects communications between a client and his or her attorney and keeps those communications confidential.” Source: www.wikipedia.com )
Safety can be a concern if you are going to bring potentially unsafe machinery or chemicals home. (Such as an industrial sewing machine or trade liquids.) Who will be held accountable for injuries that could occur to you or your family? Will your boss want to take the risk of letting you use these items unsupervised? Who will be responsible for providing safety precautions or interventions, such as a fire extinguisher or perhaps a first aid kit?
Adult or not, jealously can rear its ugly head if only one person is allowed to work from the comfort of their home. After all, no one likes to pay high gas prices, wrestle with traffic, or leave their home early in the morning. Even someone who thrives in an office environment would probably at least like to have the option to stay at home. Not only will your employer have to quiet down any acting out from their resentment, but you’ll also need to be watchful that you don’t end up being “inadvertently” sabotaged by someone in the future.
When someone makes a transition from working onsite to working at home, everyone else in the group is also affected. Jealousy put aside, your co-workers will now have to adjust to not having you around if they need you. Inevitably, there will be times when they’ll end up filling in for you, even though technically you would be doing your same job from home.
E-mail, IMs (Instant Messengers), online chats, telephones and fax machines are all great communication tools, but are they as effective as face to face communication? It depends. A plus side is that communication in some of these forms can be kept and reviewed at a later time. In general we also tend to take more time with what we say, and to articulate better when we use some of these methods to communicate.
However, the disadvantage of virtual communication is that you can’t see people as they talk. Facial expressions and body language speak volumes. Also, not everyone is a good typist or written communicator. Words can easily be misconstrued. Lastly, e-mail can get lost or filtered, resulting in no communication at all. As a result, these hi-tech tools could cause mis-communication instead of improved communication.
Job Function Issues
Being disciplined to work at home is great. But it’s not enough. Will you be able to carry out your regular job functions from home? Obviously, a computer is necessary. And a fax, telephone, and printer are, too. What about software? Can you network with people who work onsite? Do you have a reserved telephone line just for work to prevent your family from answering business calls? In other words, will you be able to work just as resourcefully as you did at the office? There should be little difference between your home and work offices. The minute you notify your boss that Kinko’s ate your document, you know you’re not equipped to function properly as well as you should.
Employers or supervisors are people; and, like anyone else, they have fears and control issues. Therefore, their management styles will differ. Some employers need to feel in control. They need to physically watch their staff to make sure they are actually doing their jobs and that they are being done to their liking. What's more, there are supervisors who cannot fathom work being done properly unless they have a hand in the process. It might be difficult to persuade this type of manager that his presence isn’t required.
Other supervisors aren’t so controlling, but they are hesitant about whether work can really be done from home. What they need are examples of work that could easily have been accomplished from home. They might also need a reminder that you are capable, and that they don’t have a need to walk you through your job
Before approaching your supervisor with the suggestion of telecommuting, or working from home, take time to review these issues. They’ll want answers and you must provide them. As you go over these issues, develop a written plan for your manager so that she’ll be able to grasp them after your meeting with her.
Read Part II
- Pamela La Gioia
Pamela La Gioia is a telecommuting expert who researches telecommuting opportunities for her website members at www.teleworkrecruiting.com.
© Pamela La Gioia