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Want to work from home? Here's how to get your boss on board
Technology has done amazing things for the world. One of which is the ease of communication and streamlining of processes that our connected world has provided businesses and employees.
So long as you have an internet connection and a computer, tablet or smartphone, it doesn’t matter where you choose to call your office; the job can still be done.
Working remotely has its perks. There is no lengthy commute to work, you can save on transport costs, and if you choose to, you can sit at your desk in your pajamas and no one will ever know. It also has a number of benefits for workers with family obligations, like school pickup, that fall within the regular 9 to 5 workday.
However, for most companies, allowing employees to regularly work from home or anywhere else can take some convincing. Even companies like Google and Yahoo in the US, who are consistently seen as innovators in the workplace, say that teleworking slows productivity, is detrimental to work quality and creativity, and deductive to the collaborative culture they are trying to build within their organisation.
Here in Australia researchers don’t agree. A Melbourne University study found that people who work from home start earlier and work up to three hours longer, whilst having higher productivity rates and feeling more energized and less stressed.
The Michael Page 2015/2016 Salary & Employment Outlook found work/life balance to be a key consideration for Australian employees post-GFC, and companies are increasingly using work/life balance incentives as an alternative to cash-based remuneration to differentiate themselves when trying to attract and retain good staff. In the survey, 47% of respondents said they already had work from home options in place, and 51% stated that this was a key aspect of their attraction and retention strategies.
But working remotely isn’t all smooth sailing. If you request to work remotely, there are some key considerations to cover off first to ensure trust, accountability and clear expectations for both the organisation and the employee:
'Server not responding’
We all know how unreliable technology can be, especially when we need it most; but when things start to malfunction at home, there is no calling up your IT department to have someone check why your computer is crashing and whether all your files are lost. Make sure you have a back-up for when equipment fails, keep all your passwords and logins handy, and speak with IT about security issues, especially if you're connecting to your company networks remotely or via a personal device.
Feeling disconnected, physically
Many employees regard their workmates as the best part of the job, so working alone can be, well, lonely. To avoid getting left out of the loop, plan with your manager how you'll communicate with the team, how regularly you'll check in and how you can use platforms like Dropbox, Sqwiggle or your company intranet to create a virtual workroom. If possible, try to have some regular face-to-face time with your team - like coming in to the office for the monthly meeting - to help maintain your connection with your colleagues.
The autonomy that comes with working remotely can be liberating, but without the structured work environment to keep you on your toes, productivity can drop substantially. Try to remember that regardless of your environment, the job is still the same, so try to work in a space that maintains privacy and allows you to function at optimum efficiency.
By sticking to these basic ‘house rules’, working from home needn’t be a culture or productivity killer and companies can benefit from it too.
If your company is reluctant to allow employees to work remotely, you will need to make a solid business case. Outline for the business why a remote working arrangement is the best option for you, how responsibilities will be managed and success measured, and the technical arrangements that will be required. Be prepared to negotiate the terms of the arrangement and make compromises to find a solution that suits both parties. If the business is still unsure, suggest a trial period first and commit to a set of KPIs and regular check-ins, using email, conference calls, and face-to-face meetings.
Most importantly, know your worth and use this as leverage. If a company truly values you, (and you make a good enough business case) working from home can be a great retention strategy and incentive to improve employee morale.
Want more tips? Be sure to check out these alternative styles of working that can help you achieve better work/life balance.
If you're requesting a remote working arrangement - especially from an employer where such arrangements are not standard - it's important to have a plan to show how you'll remain productive and in touch with your manager and colleagues:
- Explain why remote working is the best option for your current situation and how it will impact your role and responsibilities
- Cover all your technology bases and have a back-up plan in case your technology fails
- Agree with your manager how you'll communicate with the team and when you'll come in to the office
- Outline how you will ensure productivity and how your output will be measured