Now it’s time to think through the nuts and bolts, including when you’ll be at home and how you’ll stay in touch with your manager and coworkers. Then, you’ll turn these ideas into a written proposal that you will present to your employer. There’s a sample proposal later in the chapter.
The format of your written proposal should reflect the style and tone of an internal company memo. For example, if your manager likes to see documents in outline form with lots of bullet points and subheadings, then use those elements. The goal is to make your telework proposal look like an internal business communication, not a personal request. It may seem odd to communicate this formally with your manager. But it sends an important message: that you’ve thought through the issues, put effort into your proposal, and are willing to work on a teleworking arrangement in a businesslike manner.
Here are the issues every telework proposal should address.
For help with your proposal. If you’d prefer to start with a generic proposal that you can customize, WorkOptions.com sells a template. It’s $29.95 at www.workoptions.com.
- An executive summary. Begin with a paragraph briefly summarizing your proposal. Don’t force your employer to read through the entire proposal just to get the gist.
- A suggested trial period. Even if your ultimate goal is to work from home long term, you’re more likely to get a green light if you ask to begin with a trial period of three months or so. If it proves successful, you’ll be able to continue teleworking. If not, you’ll make adjustments and start another trial, or return to the office and resume working the way you did before.
- Business reasons for telework. Tell your employer why working from home will help the company. (See Chapter 3 for help on explaining the benefits of teleworking.)
- Statistics and case studies supporting your request. From the research you’ve done, choose a few targeted statistics that are relevant to your situation. Just a few will do—don’t clutter your proposal with too many facts
- Your performance record. Remind your employer what a diligent and reliable worker you’ve been. Pull out copies of your past performance reviews and quote the best bits. You want your employer to feel that letting you
telework is a safe bet, not a gamble.
- Your at-home days. List the days of the week you plan to work from home. Let your employer know whether this schedule will remain the same each week, or whether you’ll adjust it based on your and your employer’s needs.
Start small. Your employer is more likely to give you the goahead if it’s just for one or two days each week. Later, after you’ve established a successful record of teleworking, you can bring up the possibility of more work-at-home days. For many people, it’s more realistic to stay home just a couple of days per week anyway.
Be strategic about the days you ask to work from home, taking your employer’s needs into account. Monday, for example, tends to be a bad day to work from home. Also avoid days with regularly scheduled conferences or team meetings. Fridays, by contrast, are often good days to work from home, because many people leave early to get a head start on the weekend. Or maybe it makes more sense to be flexible about which days you work from home, based on what’s happening at the office that week.
If you plan to work from home more than one day a week, you’ll need to decide whether to schedule your telework days back-to-back or stagger them. A staggered schedule (for example, working from home on Tuesdays and Thursdays) lets you check in at the office more frequently and stay in the loop with your coworkers. But back-to-back
telework days (for example, working from home on Thursdays and Fridays) will give you greater continuity, both on your projects and in communications with others in the office. Different structures work better for different jobs.
Whatever you ask for, make it clear that you’re flexible and willing to come in to the office for critical meetings or at especially busy times.
- Your at-home work hours. If possible, keep your current work schedule even on the days you telework, at least at the beginning. For example, if you usually work from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., clocking those same hours when you work from home will make it easier for your supervisor and your coworkers to adjust, especially if they work the same hours.
But maybe you’d prefer to start your day earlier and end in time to pick up your children from school or volunteer somewhere. Or maybe you’d like to divide your workday into two sessions, so that you have the middle of your day all to yourself. The freedom to set your own hours is the reason why many people wish to telework in the first place.
As a compromise, try to plan a stretch of working time during regular business hours, to make it easier for people to reach you. And be sure to plan your schedule around your key job responsibilities. For example, if your job requires
you to communicate extensively with customers in Europe, then you obviously couldn’t start work at noon, when they’ve already gone home for the day.
Whatever schedule you choose, of course you’ll have to work the same total number of hours. Eight hours at the office
means eight hours at home, period. Otherwise, you can’t justify keeping the same salary and benefits.
- What you will work on during your telework days. State which assignments you plan to work on during the days you work from home and how you’ll plan ahead and separate these from the tasks you’ll handle at the office.
- A description of your home office. Provide as much detail as possible about your home office infrastructure: your available space, desk setup, communications technology, and more. Describe any measures you’ll take to prevent injuries at home.
- Who will pay for materials and equipment you’ll need. If you’re starting with a part-time three-month trial period, you probably won’t want to ask your employer to pay for anything other than basic supplies and any expenses it already pays for, like dues to professional societies. Your proposal will be a harder sell if it’s going to cost your company money up front. On the other hand, if you’ve agreed to a full-time telework deal, your employer might be willing to help cover some of the costs of setting up your home office.
If you’re asking your employer to cover some costs other than basic supplies, you could provide a cost-benefit analysis demonstrating that these expenses will more than pay off in the long run. A good resource is JALA International, Inc., a research organization that offers a free (but fairly involved) telework cost-benefit analysis tool on its website. Go to www.jala.com; click “services”; then click “Home-based Teleworking CBA .”
- How you’ll stay in touch from home. The more reachable you are, the more comfortable your employer will be with your proposal. So provide an analysis of how much communication and collaboration your job requires, and how you’ll keep it up from home. Include communication with your manager, coworkers, and perhaps customers or clients. In many cases, it will be obvious: the telephone for long conversations and email for the rest, including for sending and receiving documents and other important data. Some teleworkers schedule “virtual cups of coffee” with their managers or colleagues, just to catch up.
You’ll also need to decide how your manager and colleagues will reach you when you’re not in your home office. Will you carry a pager or a cell phone? Could you use a BlackBerry to check your email remotely?
No need to chain yourself to your home office desk. You’ll probably want to take breaks in your telework days, whether to drive a family member to a doctor appointment or to clear your mind with a little yard work. It’s smart to create a system for letting the people back at the office know when you’ve stepped away from your desk for longer than a bathroom break. Perhaps you could send a quick email or instant message to your team, or forward your calls to your cell phone. If you’ve got a personal digital assistant (PDA), you can check email no matter where you are.
- How you’ll account for your work and time. When you work in an office setting, it’s relatively easy for your manager to see how hard you’re working. But when you make the switch to working at home, your manager can’t pop by your cubicle to check on your progress or see you staying late to meet a big deadline. You may have to come up with other ways of proving yourself. The easiest one is usually to prepare a daily or weekly report for
your employer, showing your activities, accomplishments, and progress on various projects. Another option is to keep time logs, so your manager can see exactly how you’re spending your at-home hours. You might even want to send drafts of works in progress before turning in a completed assignment. Having a strategy for keeping your manager in the loop will help put everyone at ease and ensure that you get the credit you deserve for the work you do at home.
Of course, if your success is measured by some set criterion, such as the number or dollar amount of sales you make, then the task of proving yourself becomes easier. Simply explain to your manager that you’ll live up to the same standards as other employees.
- How you’ll handle team projects. If you regularly work on group projects, you’ll need to think through the mechanics of doing your share of the work from home without burdening others or slowing them down. For example, you might be able to separate out your part of the project and handle all or part of it from home. The details will depend on your ingenuity and the type of work that you do. And again, you’ll need to stress that you can come into the office on unscheduled days for last-minute crunches.
- How you’ll maintain the security and confidentiality of your work. Depending on your field, your employer may worry that working from home will compromise confidential data. List the protective steps you plan to take regarding client lists, trade secrets, and other important information. This might, for example, include buying locked file cabinets or new antivirus or spyware software.
- How your salary and benefits will be affected. As long as you’re working the same number of hours and fulfilling the same responsibilities, there should be no change in your compensation. Spell this out up front.