WORKING REMOTELY

When negotiating a work-from-home arrangement, you may want to discuss how much more productive you will be in that environment.

DEAR READERS: More and more employees want to work from home these days, but many companies remain leery of allowing employees to work remotely. How can someone who wants to work from home -- at least part of the time -- convince their boss to let them give it a try?

According to data from biz/tech consulting firm West Monroe Partners, of the employees surveyed whose companies allow them to work remotely (51 percent), the overwhelming majority (91 percent) said they feel productive when doing so.

While that fact alone isn't going to convince a wavering, it is something you might mention when negotiating a work-from-home arrangement.

"While you may have personal reasons for wanting to work from home -- being able to drop off or pick up your kids from school, having a more comfortable work environment, saving money on commuting costs -- what matters to your employer is your job performance," says Brie Reynolds, a senior career specialist at Boulder, Colo.-based FlexJobs. "The key to convincing your boss to allow you to work remotely at least part of the time is to treat your request like a business proposal."

Reynolds suggests taking three steps to begin the process of getting the green light:

1. Start focusing right away on your relationship with your boss and co-workers. "Strive to create a really good working relationship with these people and to cultivate your reputation as a dependable, capable part of the team," she says. "If you're not seen this way in the office, a manager won't be able to trust you to work on your own at home."

2. Ask for a meeting to discuss working remotely. This is the time to present your proposal, which Reynolds stresses should have been thoroughly researched and practiced ahead of time. "Focus on how working remotely will benefit your job performance and the team," she advises. "Maybe you'd be better able to focus on some key projects, or start your day refreshed and ready to go instead of dragging after a tough commute. Maybe you'd be able to start your work day earlier or end it later to be available to clients who need those hours. Whatever benefits you think working remotely would give your company, talk about those!"

3. If you don't get a "yes" right away, ask for a trial run to demonstrate how it would work. "Be sure to focus on communicating proactively with your boss and teammates during the trial, and make sure your performance during this time is outstanding so your boss will see how beneficial working remotely can be," Reynolds says.

Other tips from career experts:

--Be as specific as possible when requesting a work-from-home arrangement, says Tim Toterhi, founder of Plotline Leadership and author of "The HR Guide to Getting and Crushing Your Dream Job." He asks, "Do you need to work at home full time, two days a week, or adopt a flexible schedule that allows for core office hours for meeting and more flexibility at the bookends of the day?"

--Measure the output of what work you can get done in a day, during a week, during a month. "Approach your boss with these numbers and explain how you will improve them by working from home X amount of time," says Shea Drake, a content strategist with Business.org who works from home one day every other week. "One of the keys to getting your boss on board is to give them an advantage of you doing so. If you're doing the same amount of work, there's no advantage for them. But if you can improve on something (because you're not having meetings or distractions) then there's a reason for them to let you work from home."

--Explain how accessible you'll be. Technology like Slack and Skype make it easier than ever to be available throughout the day. "Part of the concern is that if your boss can't see you they can't really know for sure what you're actually doing," Drake says. "If you can help lessen that concern with over communication and tracking, you're more likely to get that time to remote work."

You also can find a wealth of information about negotiating a more flexible work schedule from 1 Million for Work Flexibility at www.workflexibility.org.

(Kathleen Furore is a Chicago-based writer and editor who has covered personal finance and other business-related topics for a variety of trade and consumer publications. You can email her your career questions at kfurore@yahoo.com.)

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