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I am planning to ask my employer if I could switch to a full time telecommute setup.

I have been reading about how to do this and most people focus on how your productivity will improve and things along those lines.

One thing that I am sure will come up, that I'm not really prepared to rebut is:

"Some of the value I add to the company is being in the office to assist users and be hands-on if need be"

The amount of value I add in this way is subjective. I would say it is very rare that being in the office is useful. However I feel like from my employers point of view, its important even if it is relevant only 1% of the time.

How should I handle this aspect of my job when discussing the opportunity of working 100% remote?

I am a web developer in a company that is distributed around the world. Providing support to users is a responsibility of mine.

I work on a team of 10 people, and we are a little scattered. 5 (and my boss) in Japan, 1 in Germany, 4 here in Texas. So the idea of remote collaboration is already in place. But everyone is still in an office somewhere.

I want this arrangement because I will be moving out of state soon. i.e. Unable to come in to the office unless its a planned trip. If they refused my request I would have to resign my position.

My company doesn't do much telecommuting that I know of. We have offices all around the world so they have a lot of the stuff in place to connect the offices. Global LAN, VC, etc.

  • Are you sure it "adds value"? Usually, these kinds of distractions actually cost value, because you are much more valuable doing your actual job instead of giving hands on support. – Erik Nov 22 '16 at 16:09
  • @Erik I'm not sure it adds value, but I feel like my boss does. That's why I'm looking for advice to address his concerns (should it come up) – user60639 Nov 22 '16 at 16:10
  • What will you do if your boss says no? Will you stay where you are or will you quit your job? – brhans Nov 22 '16 at 16:22
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    If you are moving out of state and that requires telecommuting then that is the question you need to pose. Even if you pose it as I am considering moving out of state. Being able to share screens and even take control remote support is very effective. – paparazzo Nov 22 '16 at 16:26
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    Moving out of physical commuting range is a separate negotiation from working at home within commuting range. Your manager loses a lot of flexibility to call a face-to-face meeting at short notice or to cancel the work-at-home arrangement. – Patricia Shanahan Nov 22 '16 at 16:35
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I would talk about the technological ways that support can still be handled remotely. Our IT support is handled by people in another state. We communicate by phone and email and a formal ticketing system. If they need access to my computer, there are software packages that allow you to get control of someone else's computer in a network.

All of our web programmers are located remotely from our users, some even in other countries. They use similar techniques.

The main thing is to be aware that when you are remote, the burden of the extra steps to make sure communication is happening is on you. If you want to get permission, you need to show your boss how you intend to make sure communication is happening and how you intend to ensure that users can still get good customer service. The more strongly you show that you have a good plan in place, the more likely they are to be accommodating of your request.

Further it might be to your advantage to work on this one bit at a time. You might have better luck asking for two days a week remote (until you move) so you can prove that users won't be negatively impacted.

Since you are talking about moving to another state, your biggest argument is that you have valuable system knowledge that the company doesn't want to lose. I know we gained some of our first full-time remote workers this way. Their spouses moved and we found them too valuable to want to lose. We would not have given this opportunity to poor or even acceptable performers. So you will want to emphasize what you bring to the table that would be difficult to replace. Point out that you are moving in any event and that the risk to making you remote is low because they will lose you if they cannot accommodate. So they can let you work remote on a trial basis and if is doesn't work out, they are no worse off than if you had quit.

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    You're last paragraph is exactly how I'm thinking. Unrelated to this question, but historically they have struggled to find developer for this team so I was hoping to sell "This is a good trial and if it works out, hiring remote workers will be beneficial going forward" – user60639 Nov 22 '16 at 16:25
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This feels like it might be out of scope, but I'll share my thoughts:

Compile a report of all the tasks you've assisted users with in the past month, for example, and outline how you could have done so from home on each occasion.

Point out the urgency levels of the various incidents (hopefully quite low / not urgent), and propose an agreement that if anything serious occurs you could be in the office within an hour or two, or, if that's not possible, propose a protocol as to how you might walk a fellow employee through troubleshooting the issue.

At the end of the day, however, your boss will either be open minded about it, or not. In my experience either he'll be OK with it, and willing to try it, or you will be categorically rejected, no matter how solid your arguments.

  • Good points. Except I won't be able to make it the office. I added that to the question for clarity – user60639 Nov 22 '16 at 16:15
  • @user60639 - I'll leave it in for the benefit of others, however you may be out of luck in your particular situation. I mean .. the point of a support employee is to be on hand and support your users. If he has to hire contract workers, or another part time employee, then he's losing $$$. Added another suggestion to my answer though. – AndreiROM Nov 22 '16 at 16:19
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I think AndreiROM is on the right track, but there are some additional things you can do.

I recommend a trial period. Start by tracking support situations. Hopefully, you have some history, so you can create a baseline of support while you're in the office. Then make an attempt to work on them from your desk and track those. This will give your employer some idea of how much you being in the office makes a difference.

Another thing I would do, and always recommend, is to follow-up a support call with an email. You want them find out of your solution is working and whether or not they had a problem with fixing this from your desk instead of in person. In other words, are you doing a good job. If you're successful, it also gives some anecdotal support on how others perceive your remote support.

When negotiation this with your boss, make it part of a trial period. They want to make sure they're not painted in a corner if this doesn't work. They may assume you'll become disgruntled if they give you what they see as a privilege that they may have to take away.

Be careful what you ask for. This could be an invitation for people to think you're on call 24/7. You're going to have to set hours. Part of my ability to have flexible hours is to manage the support time. During some periods, I may not be working, but will quickly address a support call. If I don't get too many of them, I'll block off time during off hours when I know I can work on a project when I won't get interrupted. I may even turn email off.

You have to work all this out with your boss, so he trusts you're not making it more difficult for him to do his job. Having to address a lot of complaints about your remote situation is probably something he doesn't want to have to deal with.

I've switched to a full-time remote working situation in 3 of my last 5 jobs. I'm in year 4 of working remotely in my current job.

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"Some of the value I add to the company is being in the office to assist users and be hands-on if need be"

Have you thought about asking your boss about his potential concerns?

Reasons that they might prefer you in the office:

  1. Collaboration is better and more effective.
  2. Communication channels in person are richer than email, chat and videophone.
  3. They can keep a better eye on you.

But those are just speculations. Why not just ask?

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