This article is geared to the “knowledge worker,” (i.e., a professional who commutes to work daily only to use a computer and a phone to do his or her job), who has the personal liberty to leave their home for a month.
Here’s a twist on telecommuting: work your current job remotely–really remotely–from the salubrious setting of your choice.
Am I suggesting you take your laptop computer with you on vacation? No, definitely not that! In fact, I encourage you to plan a six-week sabbatical and leave your laptop at home.
Is this a plan for “extreme telecommuting,” moving to and doing your job remotely from Thailand or Tuscany? While some are going that route, it’s not practical or even desirable for most people.
What I am suggesting is that you change your work venue temporarily, say, for four weeks.
Why would you relocate for a month to continue working your current job?
Practically speaking, time and money issues are keeping you working full-time where you are, yet there may be another place where you’d rather be for more than a too-short week or two of vacation. Go ahead; name that place. You have lots of company. For example:
- the no-kids couple from LA who want to spend July at their cabin in Montana
- the travel-loving single whose sister is a soldier stationed in Germany
- the boomer couple in DC who want to spend March at their condo in Florida
- the professional from overseas who wants to spend time with family “back home”
- the divorced non-custodial parent in Pennsylvania whose kids are in Oregon
- the restless and adventurous single who wants to be immersed in French culture
- the “empty-nest” parent from Iowa, whose grandkids are living on a military base in Hawaii, who wants to be with them from Thanksgiving through Christmas
Knowledge workers no longer need to be tethered to their current job location.
Imagine you had to take several weeks of FMLA leave to be with your elderly parent in a faraway state during his or her hip replacement surgery, rehab and recuperation.
Beyond your ability to access your office computer from your parent’s home to do some work, how would you and your employer manage the other aspects of your job? There’s no perfect solution, but there’s usually a work-it-out solution. Think in those terms.
Sounds lovely, you say? But how is it possible? I’ve outlined 5 steps, below. It’s a progression of steps over six months. Why not start today?
Step-by-Step to Management Approval of Your Month Away
STEP 1: Change your thinking about how your job gets done.
Begin to recognize that you can work from anywhere. This may be a new idea for you so the biggest obstacles are probably in your mind. (We’ll deal with your manager separately.)
Most telecommuters work remotely one to three days a week. While not widespread, there are employees who work full time from home. Your intended gig is working full time from (a temporary, faraway) home for only a season.
STEP 2: Propose and secure a telecommuting arrangement trial of at least three months.
First, redesign your job into telecommuting. Don’t be put off if there are some job tasks that you can’t imagine being done from thousands of miles away. We’ll get to that further down.
Set up remote access to your work computer through your employer’s network, file sharing or using remote access software.
Over a period of weeks, work an hour or so on a few job tasks in the evening or a Saturday from home. Don’t make it a habit; your goal is to prove to yourself-and eventually your manager-that you can perform your job well from home.
After you’ve proven to yourself it can be done, present a proposal to your manager to work from home two or three days of each five-day workweek.
Assuming approval of your request (most long-term, trusted employees get the green light for at least a trial period), you’ll move to Step 3.
STEP 3: Nudge telecommuting from home up to the next level.
After three months of telecommuting two or three days a week, request to work four days a week from home.
STEP 4: Arrange an in-person meeting with your manager to assess your telecommuting arrangement.
Your mission is to gauge your manager’s true comfort and confidence level about your work set-up.
With six months or more of solid telecommuting experience, you will have likely improved your output. Most remote workers see double-digit productivity increases; with fewer interruptions and no socializing, what’s to do but work?
This foundation, paired with your positioning as a reliable, well-performing employee your manager doesn’t want to lose (right?), sets you up to get approval of your request.
Yet, you need to get a clearer view of the situation from your manager’s perspective. Is your he or she blown away at your productivity output (at which time you can reinforce the value of remote work and how it adds to your job satisfaction and achievements)?
Or is your manager suggesting that four days a week working away from the office is excessive?
What else? Listen carefully (especially between the lines). Do a subtle probe of the attitude environment so you can figure your next move.
STEP 5: Request your seasonal remote work arrangement.
Based on the outcome of Step 4, you’ll know (or sense) if and when it’s a wise move to go forward with your request.
Let’s say you have a good vibe about it and you’re planning to ask. Make your request at least two months before your anticipated start date; given approval, you’ll need the time to make travel and accommodation arrangements. Ask for six weeks of long-distance telecommuting so you have room to negotiate for fewer.
If you meet little resistance and you really only want three to four weeks, confirm your travel arrangements first, then immediately alert your manager to the adjusted dates.
Fine-Tune Step 2
Looking back at Step 2, are there job tasks that can not be performed from a remote location? Let’s tackle that issue by considering the possibilities.
Could those particular job tasks:
- be skipped during the weeks that you’re away from the office?
- be deferred until your return?
- be delegated?
- be done in a collaborative way via telework tools?
- be given work-around treatment?
If you’ve set up a job sharing arrangement, Step Two has fewer obstacles.
Make it Happen
Is this an unusual arrangement? Yes.
Is it really possible? Yes, if you follow the steps above over a sufficient chunk of time, you may be surprised at the flexible work lifestyle you can craft for yourself that has hints of a retirement vibe.
Your thorough preparation paves the way to a successful outcome. Are you ready to get started?