As more and more companies are encouraging their employees to work from home in attempt to minimise the spread of the coronavirus, you might have had a reflection about the way we work.
There’s no way denying it - it is nice to swap out the long drive in traffic for a 30-second walk down the stairs to your living room. In these challenging times that people and businesses are facing right now, wouldn’t it be worth considering to turn this wave of homeworking into a more lasting shift?
Here are 6 steps to prepare for discussing with your boss in order to make frequent working from home part of your new routine.
There are two potential scenarios you could encounter. Either your company will already be equipped to allow employees this option, or you will be the first to do so and potentially set a new precedent for others. Both scenarios come with their own challenges, especially when setting up new technology or tools. To make things easier, we’ve come up with some steps to help you achieve your goal.
1. Quantify working from home
Think about how much time you’d like to spend working from home.
- Do you want to work at home in the morning and come to the office later, thus avoiding traffic, or to work from home for full days?
- Would you like to work from home on different days each week, or fix a schedule?
- Would you simply like the flexibility to work from home from time to time, eg. when awaiting a delivery or appointment?
Decide what would work best for you and build your argument around this.
2. Analyse the benefits
Working from home could also benefit your employer in several ways.
According to 85% of employers in Belgium, working from home has had a positive impact on employee retention. This fact could persuade your boss to make it a possibility for all employees.
There are also benefits in terms of productivity. 86% of employees allowed to work from home say they are at their most productive at home, with 36% claiming that they get more work done there than in the office in the same amount of time. To achieve this, it is of course vital to make sure you create a good work environment where you won’t be disturbed.
Simply turning up to work does not automatically lead to productivity, however when working from home, the time you spend working is not so important as long as you get your work done. Further, working from home can boost workplace morale and thus reduce unplanned absences and sick leave. 62% of employees state that they carry on working from home when they might have called in sick otherwise.
Time is valuable, and many employees spend an hour or more commuting to work. This time could instead be spent working, an idea your boss would appreciate. Commuting can also be stressful, and research has shown that people who commute 32 kilometres or further are more inclined to suffer from depression and anxiety and have a higher blood sugar level, so the health benefits are clear.
Finally, costs need to be considered. 60% of employers claim that, since allowing staff to work from home, they have made significant savings; these can mainly be seen in real estate, energy and fuel.
3. Understand your manager
Some managers may dislike the idea of allowing staff to work from home. For some, a sense of hierarchy is essential and not being able to be in control over what employees are doing may make them feel as though they have lost power and authority. It’s therefore important to phrase your request in a sensitive way.
For others, trust is an issue; this is especially true for older managers perhaps less used to technology and the flexibility it allows. They will often prefer for staff to be physically present in the office where they can see what they are doing.
Even if your manager matches one of these descriptions, there are still solutions to be found.
4. Analyse challenges and prepare solutions
It’s likely that your manager may have considered some potential problems with working from home. Make your own list, along with suggested solutions for each.
In terms of planning, your manager might be concerned about how efficient you will be. There are various pieces of software and other tools such as Jura which enable you to plan work a couple of weeks in advance, and results can then be assessed based on this. Scrum can be a helpful tool to ensure staff are productive and efficient. There are even certain free options!
Structure is crucial. To achieve this, you could offer to email your boss every morning when working from home, listing what you did the previous day, what you plan to do today and any issues you encountered. That way, you are being honest and transparent with your boss so they know exactly what is going on.
To guarantee productivity, technology is also essential. You might need to look into getting a work laptop or phone if you don’t already have one, or maybe suggest using Slack or Google Hangouts to communicate. It’s vital that you have a strong internet connection at home, and a secure network to protect your communications.
5. Consider a dry run
To help persuade your manager that working from home can function well, suggest a trial period. Practise working using the tools you’d have at home, but while still in the office. Set a deadline to assess whether the trial was successful or not and whether any changes need to be made.
6. Plan the meeting
The first step to a successful meeting is planning your pitch and gathering facts. These will help convince your boss that your argument is solid. Then, set a date for the meeting. Practise your pitch with friends and family, or even in the mirror. That way, you’ll feel less nervous on the day.
When the meeting arrives, try to avoid any confrontation and remain factual, not emotional, so your arguments are clear. Remember to be polite too: you’re not automatically entitled to work from home, so don’t assume you are. Then, all that’s left to do is wait for their decision, which may not be instant. Agree on a timeframe, and if you haven’t heard back, follow up with your boss.
What if all fails?
It’s clear that working from home offers benefits to both employees and employers. Despite this, not everyone agrees, so you may not get the answer you’re hoping for. In case this happens, make sure you consider other options. It could be the perfect time to start a new career!