You want all the remote work benefits that everyone and their mother has written (and comic’d) about: the time saved from not commuting, the freedom to adjust your schedule, the ability to work from wherever you’re most productive. But your company doesn’t have a generous remote work policy, and you’d rather stay where you are than strike out on your own or switch companies.
It’s up to you to champion a remote work program.
Step One: Build Your Remote Work Proposal
First, you need to define the scope of your proposal. If your company currently isn’t remote-work-friendly, you’re probably unlikely to convince them to take their business 100% remote. (Though if you want to shoot for that, Toggl’s Out of Office guide, which walks you through every step of establishing a successful remote culture for an all-remote company, should become your Bible.)
Let’s say your goal is to have your boss sign off on you being able to work remotely at least part time, which could be a few days a week or a few weeks a month.
Your proposal should follow the below structure (more or less). In this example, a customer service team lead uses succinct, fact-based arguments to support their position:
1) Explain your current responsibilities, how much of your job they take up, and how they are fulfilled now.
o Responding to customer questions and issues (60%): I respond to social media, email, and phone inquiries from company accounts.
o Training new service reps (25%): I audit new customer service representatives as they respond to customers and give them feedback so they can improve.
o Improving team protocol and processes (15%): I lead a weekly stepback with the team to go over problems, figure out what went wrong, and brainstorm how we can improve our systems. I then write up our findings for my manager to sign off on and ensure they are implemented.
2) Explain what effects, if any, working remotely would have on how you fulfill your responsibilities
o Responding to customer questions and issues: working remotely would have no effect on this responsibility set; I could do this with my work laptop and cell phone from home.
o Training new service reps: this could be done remotely; I’d dial into (but be muted for) customer calls and could monitor email responses from home. I’d do my check-ins with new reps over video calls.
o Improving team protocol and processes: I think this meeting would be more successful in-person, so I’ll make sure it happens on a day I’m working from the office, not remotely.
3) Address any changes in logistics, workflow, or communication that would need to happen to accommodate your remote work
o I would like to move the team meeting from Friday to Thursday, since I plan on working remotely on Fridays and want to be able to lead that meeting from the office.
o I’d need the team to download video conferencing software. I’d suggest we start with a program like Zoom, whose free version will support our small team’s needs, and use the cameras on our work laptops at first. If we have issues with sound or video quality, we may need to invest in better hardware.
4) Define the terms of a test period—how long will it last, what metrics will you use to measure your success, and what stakeholders will need to sign off on making it a permanent arrangement?
o I propose a four-week test period, where I work remotely a max of two days per week.
o We’ll look at the number of client responses I handle, my client satisfaction grade, and my team’s qualitative feedback to measure success, and compare them to my scores on those metrics from when I worked entirely in-office to see if there’s a difference.
o My manager and her manager will need to sign off before my arrangement can become permanent and/or we can allow other members of the team to also work from home two days a week.
Step Two: Present Your Proposal
Once you’ve written up your proposal, set a meeting to discuss it with your employer. If you’re not used to leading meetings, practice your public speaking skills ahead of time so your presentation goes as smoothly as possible. (Not included in that very helpful list is my favorite public speaking hack—holding an opened paperclip in your hand to focus any nervous energy on. Yes, I learned that from Maid in Manhattan. J-Lo rom-coms have been surprisingly impactful on my career.)
As you make your request, make sure you’re framing it in terms of value not just for you but for your employer, too. Talk about how your increased energy will make you more engaged with clients or how the time you save by not commuting will let you start the work day earlier.
If your company’s competitors or peers have remote work programs, highlight them in your presentation, and suggest that starting one at your company could help attract and retain talent.
Step Three: Set Up a Test Program
If your proposal is approved and you’re ready to enter a trial phase, make sure you include all relevant departments and people in your final planning, including members of your company’s IT, security, and legal teams.
Some good questions to ask:
- Do you need new technology, like a laptop or headset, to work from home, and can your IT department help you get that? Will your in-office team members need new hardware or software to collaborate with you, like video cameras or paid video chat programs?
- Are there any security concerns with you working from an open network? Will you need to use a VPN to access your work computer and do you have that all set up?
- Are there any confidentiality concerns with your work and how will your remote workspace address them?
Then figure out what your personal setup and schedule will look like. Will you work from home? From a café? From a coworking space? What will your online hours be, and is your team in sync with that? Will you try to fit in a workout during lunch or see your kids when they get home from school? Remote work allows greater flexibility—how will you take advantage of it?
Step Four: Conduct the Experiment
As you start working remotely, be extra communicative. Video chat your teammates to debrief after a client call, send “I’m signing off!” messages when you’re done for the day, and flag issues with as much notice as possible. Track your hours on Toggl so your supervisor knows exactly where you’re spending your time, which can help avoid the micromanagement common when someone starts working remotely for the first time.
Reflect as you go on what works and what doesn’t. Assuming your trial goes well and your managers are willing to expand remote work opportunities to the rest of the team, you’ll be the person best equipped to design a remote work policy for your company, and your notes on routines, processes, and issues will be invaluable.
Step Five: Expand and Enjoy
If your trial went well, congrats on joining the 43% of Americans who work remotely in some capacity! Keep working out the kinks of your company’s remote program, both for you and for all the employees who will come after you. And feel free to giggle at these work-from-home comics now that you’re part of the “in” crowd.