5 ways to sell your boss on telecommuting

Telecommute to work

Telecommuting: the word brings up perhaps overly romanticized visions of working in your pajamas with blissfully long coffee breaks between projects.

While the reality may be decidedly less glamorous, working from home certainly has its perks. No more rush hour commute, complete with gridlock. No more frantically searching for a 7 a.m. babysitter for young children.

If you want to join the ranks of the more than 3.1 million employees who worked primarily at home in 2011, according to The Telework Research Network (teleworkresearchnetwork.com), you need to know how to approach your boss with a work-from-home proposal. Here are five tactics to incorporate into your pitch.

1. Use peer pressure

To start, let your employer know they will be in good company. Some of the largest and most recognizable employers have embraced the idea of telecommuting.

A 2012 list published by Fortune magazine found 85 of the 100 "best companies to work for" offer some employees the opportunity to work at home at least 20 percent of the time. The employers with the largest percentages of workers who are regular telecommuters are these firms:

  • Cisco: 90 percent
  • Accenture: 81 percent
  • Teach for America: 80 percent
  • Intel: 80 percent
  • Pricewaterhouse Coopers: 70 percent

In addition, a 2010 survey by the Society for Human Resources Management (shrm.org) found 44 percent of employers allow telecommuting arrangements on an ad hoc basis while 34 percent allow employees to work from home on a part-time basis. Finally, 17 percent have full-time telecommuters.

2. Forego the next raise

How much is it worth to stay at home?

According to The Telework Research Network, working from home could save employees $2,000-$7,000 per year in transportation and work-related costs. Telecommuting may also save additional money if you are able to forego after-school care for children or deduct home office expenses from your taxes.

When you take the savings in consideration, it may make sense to offer to skip the annual raise or take a reduced increase in exchange for the opportunity to work from home.

3. Make a case for more productivity

Of course, telecommuting doesn't just benefit you. It can also reap dividends for your employer. The Telework Research Network calculates a typical business could save $11,000 per employee per year by allowing telecommuting.

What's more, working from home can result in more efficient and productive employees. Cisco -- which now has 90 percent of its workforce telecommuting on regular basis -- studied the issue extensively in 2009. Their findings discovered 75 percent of employees said the timeliness of their work improved when telecommuting, and 67 percent said the overall quality of their work improved.

If your boss is worried about your ability to communicate with the office from home, the Cisco study offers some reassuring data. The company found 83 percent of its telecommuters said their ability to communicate and collaborate with co-workers was the same or better than it had been when they worked onsite.

4. Show you can get the job done

While some jobs don't lend themselves well to telecommuting, The Telework Research Network estimates 50 percent of the workforce could work from home at least part-time and still get the job done.

When you sit down with your boss to discuss telecommuting, it is best to walk into the meeting with a concrete plan. Depending on your job, be sure you can answer the following questions:

  • Do you have the appropriate technology and equipment at home to do your job properly?
  • How often will you check in with the office?
  • When you need to come into the office, where will you work?
  • How will you communicate with co-workers?

5. Be an indispensable employee

Of course, the best way to convince your boss to let you work from home is to be a fabulous employee in the first place.

If you tend to linger at the water cooler each day or return from lunch 30 minutes late on a regular basis, your boss will probably (and rightly) be skeptical of your ability to work effectively on your own.

However, if you are the type of employee bosses love, your chances of being able to work at home go up considerably. After all, your employer won't want to lose a valued employee, and telecommuting can lead to increased job satisfaction. A 2010 study from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee found employees who telecommute most days of the week are more satisfied with their jobs than those who work in an office.

Working from home doesn't have to be an unattainable dream. It starts with a realistic plan of how you will keep up on your job duties and ends with a win-win situation benefiting both you and your employer.