How Many Days Working from Home Should You Request?

If you’re excited about the prospect of telecommuting, you may have blissful visions of working from home five days a week, with occasional trips into the office for meetings.

Or maybe your notion is to propose telecommuting five days a week, leaving you room to negotiate fewer days if the full-time, work-from-home pitch is rejected.

Wise strategies? Or career peril?

(Note: For this discussion, we are not addressing independent sales reps, telecommuters who live very far from the main office, e.g., out-of-state, and certain self-employed individuals. Most of these workers operate out of a home office on a full-time basis.)

Telecommuting: Who’s Doing What and Why

First, consider the norm. Most employed telecommuters work from home one to three days a week and go to the office the remaining days. The reasons may be many and varied, but here are two common ones.

1. Face time: Right or wrong, “face time” still has measurable impact on how you and your work are perceived.

Without enough visibility, access, and concurrent involvement, you will undoubtedly miss out on information and opportunities that maintain and advance your career.

“Out of sight/out of mind” is real, so regular weekly “appearances” are still important.

Most managers, however willing they are to allow their employees to telecommute, still want face-to-face communication on a regular basis. It provides them with a degree of needed comfort and control.

Bottom-line: Your manager is likely to be more agreeable to your telecommuting proposal if you suggest one or two days a week working from home to start. (To allow room to negotiate, propose two or three days a week so you can negotiate to one or two days.)

2. Isolation: This is a common experience among telecommuters.

Even if you have a dreadful commute to the office or work very well independently, working from home alone five days a week, week in and week out, is very isolating.

Camaraderie and professional interaction are necessary energizers in the actual work output and the workday of most people.

Bottom-line: Going into the office two or three days a week makes a measurable difference in keeping telecommuters feeling connected.

Telecommuting Proposal Strategy Tip

Propose one, two, or at the most, three telecommuting days. One day is a safe start, especially if your manager is apprehensive; it makes for a good trial.

Oh—and don’t suggest Mondays.

PS: Here’s a quick case study from one of my customers.

A year ago, I used your method to secure a one day telework arrangement, which at the time was a first for this department.  Last month, I submitted a new proposal to extend that arrangement to two days and just heard that it’s been granted effective immediately (with the potential to add a third day in three months).

My manager specifically mentioned how he appreciated the formal proposal; it demonstrated to him that I had fully thought through what I was asking. Thank you—you made this so easy! Kacie Harkins, Product Development Manager, The Chickering Group, An Aetna Company, Cambridge, MA

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