Q [Moms]: “I would love to shift my office work to a remote-home base so I can find better work/life balance while my kids are still little. How can propose this to my company? Is there any downside or thing I need to consider before making the shift?”
A: Remote and alternative work arrangements have gained significant popularity recently. Some companies have adopted a virtual model, working with remote employees all over the nation or the world. Rapidly advancing technology and virtual workspaces enable anyone with a phone, laptop, or iPad to work from almost anywhere. Despite all of the technical advances, some employers remain cautious about allowing employees to work remotely.
The most important factor before asking your company to create an alternative or flexible working arrangement is preparation. First, you need to prepare your proposal specifically, professionally, and in writing. Think about your ideal situation, but also think about how it will impact your employer and other employees. If you foresee any obstacles, then have solutions ready.
Consider asking for slightly less than your ideal at first so your company can adjust to a new arrangement slowly. For example, consider asking to start off working remotely 1-2 days per week rather than 5 days per week. Be prepared to be flexible about which day or days you will be in the office. While a set schedule may work best for some employers, other employers may appreciate willingness to alternate remote working days as needed.
Your proposal should include reasons why working remotely will benefit the company, not just how it will benefit you. Many employers may be concerned that remote employees are less committed, are spending less time working, or are not focused on important company issues. Some employers may also have logistical concerns including access to company files, using company equipment offsite, and protecting company information and trade secrets. If you have solutions in mind such as a dedicated remote workspace, specific hours you will be on-call, pre-scheduled weekly calls, or other ideas, then share those with your employer upfront. You may also need to research technology required to make remote work possible, such as remote online workspaces, files-sharing, and document encryption technology, including the cost of the technology if your company does not already use it.
Be prepared for your company to take some time to consider your proposal. They will likely not decide immediately. Be prepared for your employer to ask you to revise your initial proposal. Be prepared with a plan in the event that your employer rejects your proposal, but don’t lose hope or give up. Ask if you can discuss the issue again in 6 months.
Once you are working remotely, you should consider how you plan to remain on-task if you are surrounded by possible distractions. Some people are more productive when working from home because there are fewer people wandering the halls talking, and there may be fewer “office distractions.” Others find it difficult to work from home because there is always household work to do. Create a dedicated, uncluttered workspace to minimize distractions. If you have young children, be sure you have childcare for them during your work hours. Some employers and fellow employees may view a remote employee differently, so be prepared to take steps to remind them that you are dedicated. If you are responsive to emails and phone calls, and you show your employer that you are productive during your remote working hours, a flexible working arrangement can be extremely successful and rewarding.
Laurie Rowen and Erin Giglia co-founded Montage Legal Group in 2009. Montage Legal is a network of freelance attorneys with impressive credentials from top law schools and training in prestigious firms, who work remotely for law firms seeking hourly legal assistance. www.montagelegal.com