Take The Work Home

Heila Herring was happy to land a job that offered a great salary, good benefits, and the opportunity to telework — perform duties from outside of the office.

“Teleworking has provided me job flexibility to be a productive employee without sacrificing my job satisfaction or everyday sanity with a horrendous two-hour commute,” says Herring, marketing manager for Chicago-based Health Concepts.

“There is a trend toward making jobs more mobile and permitting employees to have remote access to work from home,” says Jane Anderson, director of Midwest Institute of Telecommuting, a nonprofit consultancy that assists employers and employees with designing telework programs. An International Telework Association survey found that the number of teleworking employees grew from 41.3 million in 2003 to 44.4 million in 2005 and projects that number to climb to 51 million by 2008.

Anderson says that while the opportunity to work from home is growing, getting your boss to consent may take effort. She recommends that prospective employees consider the following:

Are you a good candidate? The Washington-based Employment Policy Foundation reports that 65% of current jobs are amenable to telework. But even with such numbers, Gil Gordon, president of Gil Gordon & Associates, a firm that consults employers on this work trend, suggests that employees thinking about teleworking ask themselves two questions: Is my job right for teleworking? Would I make a good teleworker?”

“How well an employee works in the office is a strong indicator of how the employee will work at home,” Gordon offers. He describes successful teleworkers as self-starters with strong work ethic, discipline, and the ability to work well without supervision.

Long-term planning is required. Anderson recommends employees start preparing to telework three to six months prior to formally asking for a flexible work schedule. She suggests regularly sharing a detailed log of current work projects and accomplishments with your boss. “Employees should take this time to prove — to the boss and co-workers — that they are accountable for achieving work goals and able to work well away from the office.”

Make a strong and credible case. “A written proposal is key to winning a boss’ approval to telework,” says June Langhoff, telework consultant and author of The Telecommuter’s Advisor (Aegis, 2000, $14.95). “Focus on the advantages that telecommuting offers the employer, including increased employee productivity, reduced absenteeism and reduced costs associated with office space and equipment.”

Provide statistics and trends. Gather examples from within the company as well as from other companies of successful teleworking arrangements. Langhoff says the proposal should also outline reasons for wanting to telework, length of time (how many days per week or month), specific tasks performed away from the office, required monitoring or checking in, and cost of necessary equipment.