How to ask your boss for a work-from-home arrangement

7 simple steps for negotiating with your boss.

For many professionals, working from home sounds like a dream.

No commute. No dressing up. Money saved. Stress reduced.

But only 4.4 percent of people work from home full time, and just 37 percent of Americans work from home occasionally.

How do you make it happen? How can you request a work-from-home arrangement with your current employer in a way that gets them to say, “Yes?”

I interviewed Brie Reynolds, online content director at FlexJobs, a website that helps people find legitimate at-home job opportunities, to find out the best approach to pitching an at-home work arrangement to a current employer. She recommends following these steps, and offers advice on what to do if your boss says, “No.”

Focus on exactly what you want

Working from home means different things to different people, so before you approach your boss, think about your ideal arrangement, says Reynolds. Do you want to work from home 100 percent of the time, two days per week, or four days per month? What does your ideal scenario look like, and how far are you willing to compromise?

Once you’ve got that figured out, it’ll be much easier to actually ask for permission.

Also, find out if your human resources department has any specific policies about working from home (most don’t, though 64 percent of companies have an informal, unwritten policy, and 67 percent of managers offer flexible work options at their own discretion).

Either way, find out who’s already working from home in your company and how they landed such an arrangement.

Put together a proposal

Asking to work from home isn’t something you should do casually as you pass your boss in the hallway. Instead, create a formal proposal that outlines the key details of your request. Reynolds recommends it include the following:

  • The type of work-from-home arrangement you are requesting
  • The benefits for the company and for your productivity
  • Plans for how you’ll communicate and get work done at home: communication tools, frequency of communication, the type of work you can do from home, how you’ll keep your boss informed

Once you have this completed, ask your boss for a meeting.

Make the benefits to the company obvious

“It’s easy for your boss to see how working from home benefits you,” says Reynolds. “You’ll save on commuting time and costs; have more time for your family, hobbies, or health; reduce your stress levels; and perhaps, all of the above!”

There’s no need to discuss all your personal reasons for wanting to work from home. Instead, focus on explaining how this arrangement will benefit the company as a whole, and your boss in particular.

Will you be able to focus better, which will allow you to complete work faster or with more accuracy? Will you better be able to manage your health, which will lead to fewer absences?

Frame your request in a way that shows the value of this arrangement to your employer.

Be prepared to overcome their concerns

Some managers have fears about what working from home means for their teams. They may be worried that, if they can’t see you in the office working, you might not actually be working. Reynolds recommends preparing to answer questions about underlying issues like trust, communication, responsibility, productivity, and transparency.

And what if they say no?

There is always the chance that your boss will not approve your first request. In this case, Reynolds recommends suggesting a trial run — a chance to show your boss how trustworthy and productive you can be when you work from home.

“Try to get as long a trial as you can,” says Reynolds. “Two to three months is ideal, because it really gives you a chance to shine, and it’s enough time for your boss to get comfortable with the idea of you working from home.”

An alternative option for combatting a less-than-enthusiastic response to your work-from-home proposal is to thank your boss for their time, and then look for any opportunity you can to demonstrate your readiness to work from home.

Bad weather keeping you from the office? Work from home! Need the plumber to come? Work from home! Urgent issue arises over the weekend? Work from home!

During each and every opportunity, showcase your communication skills and ability to get work done productively from home. This experience will add to your case the next time you approach your boss. And yes, says Reynolds, if at first you don’t succeed in getting to work from home, try, try again.

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