How To Convince Your Boss To Let You Work Remote
So you want to work remote. Before you can, however, you’ve got to convince your boss that it’s a good idea.
This can be a challenge. Maybe your boss wants everyone in the office. Maybe no one at your company’s ever worked remote. Maybe you’re not much for communicating, and you don’t want to fall out of touch with your coworkers.
Lucky for you, those are all manageable problems. Luckier yet, there are benefits to remote work that answer, and actually outweigh, the above questions.
The Benefits of Remote Work
It’s tempting to see remote work as the opposite of being in the office. A better way to view it is, same work, different place. Many office jobs are increasingly digital, particularly those you can do as a digital nomad. The difference between the digital task you’re doing isn’t that different whether you’re at home or high-rise.
If you've got a manager who insists on the office-vs-remote dichotomy, however, the statistics are thankfully on your side.
For instance, a study in the Harvard Business Review found that remote workers took 13.5% more calls than their office-bound colleagues. The change of scenery, or even the comforts of home, are apparently good for productivity. It’s easy to imagine this is the case, furthermore, if your work is rote or routine: different settings can enliven everyday work.
According to psychologist Marvin Zuckerman, the human brain is hardwired to seek out novelty. When you find a new place to work, you’re satisfying a deep, human need, and a part of your brain. And a satisfied brain is more likely to produce good work.
But remote working is even better for the bottom line. Remote workers “quit at half the rate of people in the office,” the HBR study goes on to say. So, remote workers are more likely to stick with the company. Whether the decision to allow remote work directly inspires loyalty, the overall result of remote work is employees who stick around longer.
On top of de facto loyalty, there’s also the fact that fewer people quitting means less work for HR. It also means that a supervisor who allows remote work will spend fewer lunch breaks sweating over the resumes of new candidates.
How to Keep in Touch
“Out of sight, out of mind” is a cliche for a reason. And one inevitable challenge of remote work is the fact that you’re seen less. You run the risk of missing out on the indirect information you get around the watercooler, or at lunch, or on the elevator. You also run the risk of being left out of the community that holds a team together.
Last but not least? You run the risk— especially at home— of slacking off a bit.
Fortunately, Slack (or something similar) is the name of the solution, as well as the problem. A messaging app like Slack, Jostle, Workzone, or, of course, Google Hangouts— is a great way to keep in touch. With a messaging app, you’ve got the same sort of easy access to your supervisor and teammates that you’d have in person.
Actually, there are ways messaging apps outdo in-person interactions. Talking to someone in-person breaks their train of thought. Especially for a busy manager, a few casual questions or asides can become a major break in their workflow. Messaging apps allow your respondent more control. It’s not considered bad etiquette to leave a little time between receiving a message, and responding. Doing the same out loud, however, would be more than a little awkward.
While messaging apps allow the other party the freedom to respond at any time, it might help to keep yourself to a set schedule. William Faulkner famously said, “I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at a quarter past nine.” The same could be a good idea for you.
Keeping a schedule is the anchor of remote work. While the human brain benefits from novelty, particularly in the form of new settings, too much of it can hurt. If you’re overstimulated, you’ll find yourself distracted, rather than refreshed. That’s why you need to keep your time straight if the spaces around you are changing.
A routine can help your relationship with your supervisor, as well. If your manager is having trouble allowing you the remote option, checking in on a routine fashion may put them at ease. Picking times to check in, whether by messenger or email, gives your manager some of that control they may not want to give up. In the off chance that they forget to relay some important information to you, it’ll also keep you out of trouble when you’re the one checking in.
Also keep in mind that video conferencing is a great way to manage meetings abroad. Skype, Google Hangouts, and Gotomeeting are all programs that let multiple people show their faces without having to be in front of someone. Plan to look into one of these programs before you suggest your plan to work remote.
One final way to ease into remote work is to do it gradually. If you want to work remote full-time, and your boss is willing to let you, go into it gently. It’ll probably benefit you, as well, by giving you the chance to observe the ways your work style changes (if at all) in a different location.
Help Your Manager Realize Remote Work is a Selling Point
Another benefit of working remote? It makes you a trailblazer. Work flexibility is an increasingly tempting draw for potential employees, particularly among millennials. Whether it’s the desire to still work while satisfying their travel bug, or the need for flexibility to take care of their kids, remote work is a perk that appeals to a range of candidates. All it takes is one person—hopefully you—for a boss to mention it in an interview.
If your boss is hesitant about this, however, there are plenty of statistics that support how popular remote work has become.
For instance, talk about the perceived benefits of remote working. In Surepayroll’s “State of Work Productivity Report,” they found that 65% of workers said they’d be more productive if they were allowed to work remote (this would be a good time, also, to remind them of that 13.5% fact mentioned above). Beyond the expected productivity boost is the clear morale boost: if workers think they’ll be this more productive, think what that implies for their workplace happiness.
A study from PGi found even more evidence to support the value of remote work. For one, 82% of people said remote work decreased their stress. Those surveyed also noticed improvements in morale, with 80% feeling better about their jobs when they could do them from a different place. 70% of workers said they were more productive when they worked from home. Most interestingly, 69% of those surveyed said offering remote work had reduced absenteeism. While that may initially sound odd, it’s ultimately the best argument for remote work there is: give your employees some freedom, and they'll be willing to do more for you.
How to actually make it happen
To get that freedom, however, you’ll need to ask for it first. And asking for a big change in your work patterns is something you should plan, and execute, carefully. For one, the opportunity for remote work could help you be more productive. Two, if you show your boss you’ve researched this decision, they’re more likely to believe you want to work remote for productivity’s sake, and not just as an excuse to slack off.
Here are two sample email templates you can use in crafting your request-for-remote-work email to send to your boss, if you're looking to expand your remote work time.
Sample remote work request email 1:
Wanted to apologize for coming in under the weather last week. Hope nobody got sick, but I didn't want to miss out on finishing up that project. When I get going on a project, disrupting the momentum by even a day can really throw me off.
On that note, however, I was wondering if I could start working remote on days when I'm feeling under the weather. It serves the double purpose of letting me keep up the pace on whatever I'm doing, while also definitely avoiding the possibility anyone else might get sick.
Sample remote work request email 2:
Thanks again for the opportunity you've already given me to work remote. It's really beefed up my productivity on those days I have at home. Being in quiet, familiar surroundings makes ideation easier, and also makes it easier to maintain a solid pace of work.
I'm writing to ask if I could extend my remote work days to three a week. I think this would help me get even more done. There's often a change (however slight) in rhythm between my in-office days, and my remote work days. Working remote for three days a week would allow me to further maintain my productivity momentum.
I know allowing for this could be an imposition on the team schedule, and I'm happy to use whatever video conferencing software, or messaging software, is necessary for this plan to work. I'm even happy to research a few if you think that would be helpful!
Thanks for the remote work opportunities you've already given me, and I hope you'll be open to this one, too!
You may want to include some of the statistics mentioned in the post above, or even look up a few yourself, to support your case. If you can demonstrate the ways remote work can be a path to greater performance, you’ll not only be helping your case, You’ll be setting a precedent for other workers who could benefit from remote work, as well.