Your employer may have some concerns about letting you work from home. The best way to deal with these objections is by addressing them directly. In fact, you might enlist a friend to play the part of your objecting manager beforehand, so that you can get comfortable with rehearsing what you’re going to say.
“You won’t be able to get your job done from home.”
The whole idea of working from home might strike your employer as farfetched, particularly if no one in your company has ever done it before. Your employer might be nervous about everything from how you’ll stay in touch to whether you will have basic technology like Internet and fax capability in your home office.
Fortunately, you’ve already thought through these nuts-and-bolts details. Now you’ll just need to clue your manager in on their finer points—patiently, of course. What seems obvious to you now after thinking your plan through may take your employer some time to get comfortable with.
“You won’t be here when we need you.”
Your employer may worry that you won’t be as available when you begin working at home, especially if you plan to do
some work outside of regular business hours. To allay these concerns, highlight your strategy for remaining connected to your workplace.
Your employer might also be concerned that you’ll miss important office events, like on-site client meetings. What happens if a critical presentation is scheduled for one of your telework days? Again, this is something you’ll have already thought about. Assure your employer that you’ll come in to the office or go to a client’s whenever necessary.
“How will we know you’re working?”
Supervision issues can make or break a request to work from home. Many managers are uncomfortable with the idea of monitoring an employee who works off-site. Before your employer even voices this concern, lay out the portion of your plan explaining how you’ll account for your work and your time at home.
Special software can help. Products like Symantec’s PCAnywhere can let your employer have access to your home computer and see exactly what you’re doing in real time. Talk to a computer specialist to learn more about these options. If that sounds like an invasion of privacy, don’t forget that your employer already had the right to view your work-related emails.
“We’ve never done this before.”
Your employer may object for the simple reason that the company has no telework program in place. You can point to the growing prevalence of telework around the country and the globe, and encourage your employer to be as flexible and innovative as its competition. Using the statistics and examples you’ve already collected from companies similar
to your own, show that working from home is an effective way of doing business in the modern world. Remind your employer that you’re proposing only a short-term test period.
“Everyone else will want to work at home, too.”
Ah, the old “slippery slope” argument. Your employer may worry that it will soon be flooded with telework requests from other employees. One answer is to emphasize that not all of the company’s jobs are teleworkable ones. And working at home simply doesn’t appeal to everyone. Plenty of people like having a job because it gets them out of
the house and in the company of others. (Single people are statistically less likely to telework, maybe because the house just gets too quiet after a while or the office provides a portion of their social life.)
“Your absence will hurt team-building and morale.”
If you work as part of a team, your employer may be concerned that your coworkers will lose the value of your brainstorming and other in-person contributions. Point to the tangible steps your proposal outlines ensuring that you’ll pull your weight on team projects and stay connected to your coworkers.
Another (somewhat risky) approach is to suggest that your team members have a say in whether or not you should be allowed to work at home. You could suggest that your team members have a voice in deciding, after the trial period, whether or not your teleworking is a success. You can promise to return to the office full time if the majority of your team members feel that working off-site is inconveniencing them or hurting the quality of the team’s work product.
“Telework is going to cost the company money.”
Your employer might be nervous that the company will have to spend cash out of pocket to enable you to work from home. While your employer might one day happily reimburse you for the costs of equipment, Internet access, and other home office necessities, make clear that for now, you’re not requesting this. Explain that you’ll be solely responsible for all costs over and above what other employees need for their daily work, at least during your trial period.
Among U.S. workers who could feasibly telecommute, fewer than 50% would choose to do so for more than two days a week, and 14% have no interest in telecommuting. (Source: National Technology Readiness Survey (NTRS), 2005/2006.)
But also remind your employer that your absence may save the company money, particularly if you’re giving
up your office space completely. Providing office space for the average worker is said to cost an average of
$10,000 per year . And even if you don’t give up your office, you won’t be there to consume electricity or
energy from a space heater—and let’s not forget that delicious office coffee!
Another money concern for your employer could be potential liability for work-related injuries that occur in your home. Fortunately, the trend so far has been that the employer’s workers’ compensation insurer will cover you as long as you can prove that your injuries happened as a result of your work. This means that if while working at home, you develop a repetitive strain injury, dislocate your shoulder tripping over your office chair, or get eyestrain reading the fine print on company documents, you should be covered. The coverage might (depending on your state’s laws) include payment for lost work hours, coverage of medical treatment and other therapy, and vocational rehabilitation.
Tips for avoiding repetitive stress injuries for people working on computers:
- Use adjustable furniture to create a workstation that helps maintain a neutral body position.
- Place your monitor straight in front of you at eye level so you don’t tilt your head up or down.
- Adjust your chair so your feet touch the ground and your back is well-supported.
- Arrange your keyboard and chair so you don’t have to bend your wrists.
- Take frequent short breaks, drink plenty of water, and don’t sit for more than two to three hours at a stretch.
Still, it’s worth asking your employer to double check its workers’ comp coverage to make sure employees are covered for workrelated injuries that take place at home. If the policy doesn’t extend this far, your employer might be willing to change its coverage, particularly if other employees plan to telework. Whatever you do, don’t give up any rights you
have to insurance coverage when negotiating your work at home deal. This is particularly important because your own medical insurance won’t necessarily cover you for an injury at home if the injury is workrelated. Instead, reassure your employer about the measures you’ll take to prevent injuries at home.
Check in with your homeowners’ insurance company, too. Most homeowners’ policies don’t cover damage to property or injuries that occur in connection with the business use of a home. You might want to pay for a rider to your policy to cover your business equipment and business-related injuries to clients or colleagues who visit you in your home.