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8 Ways to Convince Your Boss to Let You Work from Home

With the Northeast blanketed in yet another crippling winter storm, and much of the South brought to a standstill by an arctic chill that is preventing snow and ice from melting, now seems like a perfect time to negotiate a telecommuting deal with your boss. Not just to keep you productive when bad weather hits, but because it makes good business sense 365 days a year, for both you and your boss. Here are eight ways to make your case for telecommuting:

  1. You will get more work done. In a 2009 study of its telecommuting workforce, Cisco Systems determined that 60 percent of the "saved" time from not having to commute was recycled back into work (40 percent went to personal time). To be sure, Cisco has plenty of reason to root for telecommuting given its product line, but does your boss seriously think you will take advantage of telecommuting? Come on. In the current economic environment, with 15 million unemployed Americans, this isn't about wanting an inroad into becoming a slacker. Throw this factoid out: Since it began to promote telecommuting among its more than 5,000 employees, the U.S. Patent office reports a 10 percent pickup in productivity.
  2. You will be happier...and a happier you focuses better. A new study that compares telecommuters to office-bound workers found that telecommuters like their job more. Kathryn Fonner, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who co-authored the study, confirmed what you know all too well: the office is a cesspool of politics, distractions, and a never-ending flow of meetings that keep you from actually working. "Our findings emphasize the advantages of restricted face-to-face interaction," says Fonner. Amen.
  3. It (almost) makes up for the lousy raise. The average pay raise in 2011 is expected to be an anemic 3 percent. Telecommuting can help here by saving you some money. If you drive to work -- and especially if it's a lengthy commute -- start by pointing out that gas prices are up 10 percent over the past year. Needless to say, your salary isn't. Moreover, if you can work out an agreement to work from home one or two days a week, that is going to extend the life of your car, potentially saving you some serious cash. (You might also want to check back with your insurance agent; if your annual mileage drops enough you could qualify for a lower car insurance premium.) There's also the added savings from just heading to the kitchen fridge for lunch, rather than the typical restaurant meal when you're working at the office and find yourself desperately needing to get out of the office for a break.
  4. It builds loyalty. If you are truly a valued employee, your boss doesn't want to lose you, period. No matter how many potential hires there are out there to replace you, it takes time and money to bring new people aboard, and there's no guarantee your replacement will be as good as you. You don't want to make this point as a threat, but spin it as a way to keep you feeling great about your job. And hey, if you are interested in making a move to a new job in 2011, there's a decent chance you can make telecommuting part of your job negotiations. A 2009 survey by employment placement firm Robert Half International found that one-third of employers recognize that telecommuting is a main draw for new hires.
  5. It's good for the environment. If you have a tree-hugger of a boss, try the CO2 argument. In its survey, Cisco estimated that by telecommuting the firm reduced its greenhouse emissions carbon footprint by more than 47,000 metric tons.
  6. It can lower health care costs. Now that we are in the heart of the 2011 flu season, the less you're in the office, or taking public transportation, the less opportunity for you to pick up and spread germs. That not only adds to work productivity, it potentially means you will need to head to the doctor less, and that's going to help keep health insurance costs down. And if you've got an especially long commute of at least an hour or so a day, you might also want to reference a recent Gallup poll that found road warriors reported a lower sense of well-being than those without long commutes to work.
  7. It can reduce operating costs. If your employer develops a company-wide telecommuting mandate, it can reduce how much physical office space is needed. According to an article in Workforce Management, the U.S. Patent Office, which has been promoting telecommuting for more than a decade, has been able to trim its real estate costs by more than $11 million. Surely that's a bottom-line gain the corporate folks will be eager to explore.
  8. Even the sclerotic federal government is getting on board. Lost amid the flurry of late-December legislation was the fact that President Obama signed into law the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 that mandates all federal managers give more than lip service to promoting telecommuting among eligible employees. Among the bill's provisions is to allow and encourage eligible workers to telecommute at least once a week. This isn't some feel-good move; it's a money saver. The Office of Personnel Management estimated that December 2009 snowstorms cost the federal government taxpayers $71 million a day in lost productivity, and the administration is eyeing potential savings from reducing the federal government's need for office space.

How to Make Your Case

Okay, so those are your talking points. Hopefully your boss -- and your boss' boss -- are quick to jump on the telecommuting bandwagon. But if you get pushback, calmly discuss what the hang-ups are. Typically it is going to be some version of "If I can't see you, how can I trust you are working?" The obvious workaround is to pitch this as on trial basis and agree to, in writing, key milestones you will both use to measure your productivity and impact on the entire office. Then it's up to you to deliver.

If the objection is "If I do this for you, everyone will want to telecommute" try to help your boss see that as an amazing opportunity to move the business forward. Sure, it will take some time to develop a cohesive telecommuting policy, and there may be kinks that need to be worked out, but as the eight reasons listed above show, telecommuting is in fact good business, all around.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user EvelynGiggles

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