Companies & Industries

Telecommuting: Getting Bosses on Board


If you want managers to buy in, let them know how your proposal will solve their problems, not yours. And be ready to answer any objections

Dear Liz,

The price of gas being so high, I've been pitching my boss on allowing me to work from home one day a week. Several of us in my office have the same issue (long commutes in heavy traffic, made worse by rising gas prices) and would benefit from the opportunity to skip one trip to and from our employer's campus each week. I see that the State of Utah has just moved its employees to a four-day workweek to reduce gas consumption. Any suggestions for us would-be telecommuters as we approach our boss to propose a telecommuting plan?

Thanks,

Micaela

Dear Micaela,

Here are some pointers on getting approval for your telecommuting scheme. In your letter to me you mention three arguments in favor of your proposal:

1) Gas is expensive.

2) A long commute in heavy traffic is trying.

3) The State of Utah allows its state workers to stay home one day per week.

You have some work to do, because two out of three of your current points (No. 1 and 2) merely point out your own inconvenience, and your boss may view your third point as irrelevant to your company's situation. In any sell-the-boss-on-a-new-idea scenario, our biggest task is to show how the decision to accept our proposal is in the company's best interest, not just our own.

This is the same whether we're arguing for a salary bump ("I can hardly pay my rent" is unimpressive, but "I've saved the company $400,000 this year" may carry the day) or asking for any kind of accommodation or new arrangement.

Luckily, there are lots of telecommuting resources online that will make it easy for you to compile stats in favor of your plan. I would start at www.telework.gov, a Web site managed by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and the General Services Administration. Another good resource is the World Environmental Organization's Web site, which includes a list of the top telecommuting-related sites, at http://www.world.org/weo/telecommuting. As you put together your proposal, make sure to emphasize:

How telecommuting will help the company (by keeping far-flung employees in the company who might otherwise have to seek new jobs closer to home; by allowing telecommuting employees an average gas-related cost savings of $X per week, effectively raising their disposable incomes by $Y per year and thereby reducing attrition; or in some other way).

How the telecommuting employees will ensure that their work is completed when they're not in the office five days per week.

How telecommuting employees will communicate with other employees, customers, and vendors.

What IT expenditures, if any, the company will incur in enabling telecommuting.

How a telecommuting pilot could be rolled out in the company in a way that's fair to all parties involved.

You are smart to shoot for one telecommuting day per week as a starting point, but be sure to consider how a flurry of telecommuting requests could be fairly evaluated, how emergencies could be dealt with (especially the kind of emergency that requires an employees to be on site on a day when they'd planned to work from home), and how items such as long-distance charges, IT security, and regular meetings could be handled once a portion of your workforce moves to a partial telecommuting schedule.

Best of luck!

Yours,

Liz

Liz Ryan is an expert on the new-millennium workplace and a former Fortune 500 HR executive.

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