Telecommuting has become a valued perk in many companies, especially among younger employees. “Millennials and others in the workforce don’t want to do the traditional ‘9 to 5’, butt-in-your-seat careers,” said Rachael Sarson-Smith, CPA, corporate staff accountant at White Lodging Services in Illinois. Telecommuting can bring you greater freedom and flexibility—but the prospect of asking your manager if you can work from home can be daunting.
If you’re interested in telecommuting for yourself, or want to recommend that your employer adopt the practice, it’s best to go in with a clear plan. The process of developing a telecommuting plan starts with a “candid conversation with your manager,” said Donna Salter, senior manager of young member initiatives at the AICPA. The formula for this conversation? Lay out the strengths and challenges that come with telecommuting, and demonstrate how you plan to manage these considerations to continue working effectively. Try these strategies:
Make the business case. Demonstrate how telecommuting can benefit both you and your employer. As Salter pointed out, “While offering employee telecommuting programs doesn’t work for every organization, being able to work from home not only increases productivity, but reduces the stress of daily commuting.” By implementing telecommuting as an option, companies are “[producing] happy employees who get their job done,” Sarson-Smith said. Telecommuting may also save your employer money. Do some research into how and why to help make your case (try this article, for starters).
Acknowledge potential drawbacks to telecommuting, and suggest a plan for overcoming them. “A key component of making telecommuting work is setting clear expectations of how the change will occur and how you will address the challenges that come with it to ease the anxiety of upper-level management,” said Natasha Schamberger, associate director of firm services at AICPA. “Really outline what the benefits could be, what the challenges might be, and be proactive and prepared to outline a solution to these challenges.”
Give some thought to the potential disadvantages of telecommuting. For starters, transitioning to telecommuting can reduce the frequency of face-to-face interactions in the workplace. Interacting with and building rapport with colleagues is an essential step for any successful employee, and eliminating these interactions can present quite the challenge to establishing a harmonious, teamwork-oriented workplace. Managers can also be hesitant to agree to implement telecommuting out of fear that work won’t get done or that they won’t be able to supervise it properly.
Suggest ways your company can overcome these drawbacks. For instance, video feeds and video conferencing can help employees who are working from home stay connected to the office. As a manager, Schamberger sets up bi-weekly video conferences with her team members. “While it does not replace in-person communication, full-team meetings via video conferencing makes the transition to telecommuting easy,” Schamberger said. On top of using video technology to cement teamwork and enhance team management, employees should be willing to still hold in-person meetings for the sake of getting face-to-face time. After all, personal connections have been, and still are, crucial components of a successful working environment.
Have a backup plan. Is management afraid that the work will not get done? The key here is to establish clear expectations with management on why telecommuting will benefit your work, which metrics will be used to measure the work that is being done, and how a solid communication channel will be established. If management still seems reluctant, there are alternative courses of action. Try suggesting that employees can only do it one day a week to start, or that the opportunity can be limited to those employees with a certain tenure or who have met certain performance metrics.
Telecommuting is becoming increasingly common in today’s workplace landscape and it is definitely something that deserves attention. So develop your argument, lay out the pros and cons of implementation, and take your case for telecommuting to management today.
Justin Wolz is a communications intern at the AICPA’s Durham, N.C., office. To comment on this story, please contact Chris Baysden, senior editor of Newsletters at the AICPA.
The Edge e-newsletter, is dedicated to providing tips and tools of interest to young professionals, including articles on building career resiliency, networking for success, and de-prioritizing the immediate to focus on the important. Watch for it in your inbox. Subscribe at http://spr.ly/EDGENL.