You’re a professional. A smart “knowledge worker” who could do your job from anywhere.
Yet you’re frustrated because you’re driving to a desk that’s miles and miles and too-many-minutes away from home, only to use a computer and a phone to get most of your job done.
Time wasted. Gas burned. Stress brewed in rush-hour traffic. And to think you could bypass all that and be more productive working from home.
So why aren’t you?
Despite the growing trend in remote work arrangements, there are likely three main barriers to telecommuting keeping you stuck in traffic.
It’s time to break through those barriers so you can be among those who enjoy a two-minute commute.
Barriers to Telecommuting: It’s Not the Technology
We’re way past that barrier. It’s mainly a management issue. It’s employers and managers who have not yet embraced telecommuting as a business strategy.
Telecommuting, telework, remote work, virtual office, mobile office—whatever you call it, there are still far too many supervisors who only know a “face-time” management style. Even though working remotely benefits both employer and employee in several well-documented ways.
In a perfect world, you’d have an enlightened employer that embraces flexible work arrangements as a business strategy, promotes a flexible work culture, and provides management-by-results training.
But your employer isn’t there yet, right? Here are the barriers to telecommuting that are likely holding you back and how to break through them.
Barrier 1: There’s No Policy for Telecommuting Where You Work
No surprise here. While progress is being made in many companies, your employer, like millions of others, has been slow to embrace telecommuting in a formal way.
How to Break Through It: Don’t wait for your employer to catch on; devise your own “policy” now.
If you’ve worked for the same manager for at least one year (which builds the trust factor), take the initiative and present your request to telecommute using a professionally-crafted proposal.
Thousands of employees have negotiated a one-on-one telecommuting deal with their respective managers, without benefit of a policy. You can, too. Use this quick assessment exercise to gauge your chances of getting your manager’s approval to work from home.
Barrier 2. Your Manager Puts a Premium on “Face Time” and Wants You in the Office Every Day
How to Break Through It: Here are a couple of tactics that can change your manager’s mind.
First, make it very clear that your request is not to work from home every day.
Most employed telecommuters work from home one, two or maybe three days a week and go to the office the remaining days. You’ll propose the same. Plus you can stay very “visible” to your manager and coworkers using the phone, email, IM, web chat and texting, just as you do now.
A second tactic—and probably more crucial to getting your boss’ approval—is to stress the trial period for your telecommuting arrangement. A trial period is three to six months long.
Your manager may not like the perception of losing control (“How do I know you’re working?”), yet wants to be reasonable in giving your request to telecommute a fair chance. Knowing that she can change her mind allows you to move forward instead of having the door shut on the proposal altogether.
The trial period gives you time to prove the arrangement is, in fact, workable and highly productive.
Barrier 3. You’re Afraid to Broach the Subject of Telecommuting
In other words, you’re afraid to ask, or afraid of a “no” if you do ask.
Fear of asking is less of an issue among men, but it’s been a common thread I’ve observed among otherwise very accomplished professional career women.
These are women who are confident and capable in their work, yet they convey that asking for a flexible work arrangement for themselves is something they shouldn’t do, or something they don’t deserve, or something that might have very negative consequences, usually along the lines of threatening the professional relationship they have with their manager.
But guess what? It’s not true. The real problem is women’s perception of these things.
According to the authors of Women Don’t Ask, as a “result of powerful social influences,” women have an “impaired sense of entitlement” and they often “assume that they are stuck with their circumstances.” So they refrain from asking for what they want. Sound familiar?
How to Break Through It: Among the ways to build confidence to ask for telecommuting, rehearsing your proposal presentation is a research-backed tactic for overcoming nervousness to negotiate.
Questions: Which of these three barriers to telecommuting ring true for you? Which action will you take to move closer to your goal of working from home?
For more extensive advice and case studies of people who broke the barriers, read How to Convince Your Boss to Let You Work from Home.