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Working from home is becoming more and more common. If my work lends itself to remoteness, what's a good way to ask management to work from home from time to time?

Or is this not a reasonable thing to expect?

I don't necessarily want to work remotely on a recurring basis (e.g. every Monday) but answers addressing that situation are also welcome.

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It's certainly a reasonable thing to request. Remember a lot of companies aren't reasonable, though. So don't get your hopes up too high. –  DA. Jan 23 '13 at 15:31

5 Answers 5

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Frame it in a way that would benefit the company.

If your current work environment is loud, annoying, with too many distractions, etc, then consider telling your boss (truthfully) that you could work more productively from home one or two days per week.

You might also mention that your lack of commute on those days would also give you some extra time to work.

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I would actually leave out the "I can work more if I don't have to commute" portion, as this implies a promise that, "I will produce more if I don't commute." This may or may not be true, and has nothing to do with your job (since everyone has the same expectations regardless of their commute length). Otherwise, really good advice. Be prepared to be proactive about reporting your productivity - many managers (especially if they've never managed remote team members before) will not know how much work you're getting done without being able to converse with you face-to-face. –  jefflunt Apr 11 '12 at 0:19

Start with, "hey, boss. Tomorrow, I need to get X, Y, And Z done. If I'm here, the distractions of the office will probably limit me to X and Y, but if you let me work from home, I bet I could get Z done too." Repeat often enough to gain your boss's trust, then see about making it a regular thing.

Have verifiable, set targets, identify an obstacle in the workplace, and have a record of meeting the targets at home, and you'll be on your way to working in your pajamas.

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Great strategy - both in phrasing it in terms of particular things you and your boss want to get done, and in starting out on a casual one-day basis before trying to have a conversation about allowing it in the long term, even only rarely. –  weronika Apr 11 '12 at 3:20

Be prepared to give some tangible benefits and also reassurance that the work is getting done. If you show that you are willing to be flexible in the requirements of the "work from home" structure and you are fine with it, then your manager will be more indifferent to your work environment.

For example, you may need to work in a new reporting structure to show that work is getting done, and provide metrics that your work output is either equivalent or improved by you working at home. If there is extra overhead for you to work from home you will most likely need to show that there is a increased benefit to productivity in this venture.

From my personal experience, I was required to spend an extra 10 minutes every day preparing a report on my tasks completed for that day - something that was not expected while working in the office. This was a auditing policy.

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Do a demo. By this, I mean demonstrate that you can get work done from home before asking. This may require some unpaid work time on your part, but if this is what you really want, the rewards should be worth it. This also has the benefit of giving you a chance to be sure you like working from home and can be productive there before you go through the effort of asking, setting up a plan, and so forth.

As for doing this demo: Some day when you have to stay home otherwise, go ahead and work while at home. This could be a day when you're dealing with a sick family member, an appliance delivery, utility repairs, severe weather, etc. Alternatively, you could just work on a day you would normally be off work (weekend, holiday).

After having an experimental work from home day, if you still want, you can now go to the boss and say "I accomplished this (<- whatever tasks) while home and found that I could be just as/more productive (<- pick which ever is appropriate) due to being more relaxed/having fewer distractions/more time available/whatever (<- pick as many as apply). If you don't mind, I'd like to work from home more often. Would you mind if I started doing that with whatever (<- desired starting) frequency?"

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Look into why more people at your company don't do it. Your job may be the only one conducive to working remotely, but there may be some other hurdles. Many people don't want to work from home because of distractions or the loss of face to face time in meetings, so don't be afraid to be the first. As others have suggested, do a test run.

  1. Technical Infrastructure - can you get connected to the resources you need when remote? Will the people you work with be able to use chat and conference calling? Make sure you don't rely on paper files (You won't get a copy at the meeting, so make sure they email it to you in advance.).
  2. Management - some managers just won't feel like you're working if you are not at your desk for prescribed amounts of time. Do you have flexible office hours? That could be a start. The more your supervisor understands what you actually do, the better. Your boss may not be willing to get permission from higher-ups to let you do this because then everyone will want to do it (Anarchy).
  3. Office Politics - will the other people who don't have positions that allow them to work remotely complain? This is hard to over-come and will take a little bit of a sales pitch. Maybe you have to work off-hours or a longer day. Are you on call to trouble-shoot. Some people's workloads are driven by different phases like quarter end for finance or holiday seasons or weather related. Not all jobs are the same.

I'm in my third position working from home. I've always started working in the office for a couple of years and then from home. I've been fortunate in this area, but I'd like to think I've proven I can handle it as well.

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