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Getting Approval To Telecommute

Telecommuting provides many benefits to employers and dozens of studies show that existing and potential employees want the option to telecommute. Why aren't more managers opting to offer telecommuting?

Though increasing numbers of managers view telecommuting as a legitimate and effective work option, many do not. The result is that millions of workers with imminently telecommute-ready jobs are simply not permitted to telecommute. In many cases, the refusal is justified - telecommuting is not for everyone or for every job. But for many managers, telecommuting represents major change, and they can only absorb so much change - even when it's for the better.

Making the Case for Telecommuting
Unless you already know that your boss is predisposed to letting you telecommute, one the best ways to start a dialogue that could result in the approval for you to telecommute is to submit a well-written proposal. In your proposal, take a business-case approach, looking at things from your boss's perspective. Address 'what's-in-it-for-the-company' issues, as well as any concerns or objections your boss might have.

Here are some common objections and ways to address them:

Your work is not suited to telecommuting
Show your boss which of your job functions (tasks) can easily and practically be performed offsite. Specify how you can meet each job requirement as well as your boss's performance expectations without continual face-to-face contact or access to office-based equipment and materials.

I'm not sure you have what it takes
Not everyone is suited to telecommuting, so prove that you are. Good candidates have an above-average understanding of their jobs, a history of solid performance and tend to be self-motivated, well organized, and require little direct supervision. For more information, see the section, "Could you telecommute?".

How will I know you are working?
Some managers still equate 'close supervision' with 'good supervision.' Despite solid evidence of increased productivity, they fear telecommuters will goof off. Convince your boss that a well-thought-out telecommuting arrangement stands an excellent chance of success.

It will hurt the team
Few teams require continual face-to-face interaction. Most team members must do some of their work alone. Teams can sometimes work together without physically being together by changing their mode of interaction...for example, by fax, phone, email, online meetings etc. Suggest days when you would be in the office.

We don't have a telecommuting program
Someone once said that telecommuting 'sneaks silently in the back door' because one or more managers had the vision, flexibility and courage to try it. While telecommuting programs can maximize benefits and reduce risks, they often start with just one telecommuter on a trial basis. Demonstrate to your boss that you are a good bet for telecommuting. If you can, show your boss some successful informal telecommuting situations with portable tasks similar to yours.

Telecommuting is too costly
Do a bit of homework and show your boss how telecommuting can reduce costs. Relate the savings from increased productivity, expanded recruitment and increased retention capabilities, possible overhead reductions, reduced absenteeism, etc. For more specific information, visit the section on cost vs. benefits of telecommuting.

I can't spare you offsite for 3 days a week
Demonstrate how being offsite will not hurt your work performance in any way. Suggest a trial period to help your boss assess your telecommuting experience. If necessary, start small by asking your boss to approve one or two days a week.

You won't be there when I need you
Show that you can be reached at any time by phone, fax, e-mail, etc. Offer to call in at specified times, or to come in at any time for any work-related office emergency.

Everyone will want to do it
Tell your boss you understand that telecommuting is not a perk or a right, but a managerial work option. Suggest that choosing who gets to telecommute can, and should, be based on such factors as operational feasibility, personal attributes and job suitability.

You don't have the right set up
Telecommuting is even less palatable to reluctant bosses if prospective telecommuters present them with a long list of requirements. Unless your company routinely provides telecommuting equipment, you stand a better chance if you already have the right equipment, furniture, home-office and family situation for a successful telecommuting experience.

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