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How to Make Your Case For Telecommuting

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in Your Office Coach

Question: “Our department head refuses to allow telecommuting. He will not accept that people can work productively at home even though other department heads occasionally permit it. My commute is an hour each way, so eliminating drive time one or two days a week would greatly improve my quality of life. My immediate supervisor favors the idea, but she knows the department head won’t approve it, and if he does it for me, he’ll have to do it for everyone. I would like to offer myself as a telecommuting test case. How should I present the idea?” — Tired of Driving

Marie's Answer:  Many managers are wary of telecommuting. Their views of this increasingly common practice usually feature pajama-clad employees surfing the net or lounging in front of the TV. But other bosses have found that working from home can actually improve productivity.Much depends upon how the organization implements it. Before making your proposal, consider how these criteria apply to your situation:

* Successful telecommuting requires clearly measurable results. Before relinquishing on-site supervision, managers need to agree with employees on what will be accomplished during “at-home” days.

* Telecommuting suits some jobs better than others. Work requiring quiet concentration often benefits from fewer distractions. But jobs involving interpersonal interaction may suffer when face-to-face contact is reduced.

* Before granting work-from-home privileges, management should develop a clear telecommuting policy. Employees need to understand how approval decisions will be made.

* Managers also must consider the fairness factor. Telecommuting will not be a morale booster if employees perceive that favoritism influences approvals.

* To strengthen your case, present some telecommuting success stories from other departments.  But remember that feelings sometimes carry more weight than facts. If your department head has a strong emotional belief that working at home means goofing off, he may never be swayed by rational arguments.

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