One year into motherhood, I was struggling. I divulged my grievances to a therapist and described how hard it was to be a sleepless mother, to run to catch the bus in the morning, and to work full-time. She responded casually, as if it were the easiest thing in the world, “Why don’t you work from home?” I told her my group didn’t have work-from-home privileges and that she couldn’t possibly understand my work barriers. To which she said, again very matter-of-factly, “Have you even asked?”
Her lack of empathy did not strike me as good therapy (I never saw her again, damn Kaiser therapists), but she did give me the courage to ask about the possibility of telecommuting.
Here are the steps I took to successfully ask to work from home.
Conduct due diligence.
I started with Human Resources who told me that the decision is at the manager’s discretion. I started to interview other group managers to find out what their policy was (almost all allowed flex time). I spoke to mothers with young children at my company and discovered that across the board, they worked from home at least two days a week. Obviously the more senior the hiring managers and mothers, the better your case will be. Through internet research, I found what I considered to be my ace in the hole: the Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance which gives San Francisco employees with care responsibilities the right to request a flexible work arrangement.
List the benefits to your employer.
- Elimination of commute.
- More time to be productive and effective.
- Less distraction from loud or social colleagues.
- Reduction in overhead office expense.
- Reduced tension in the work place due to balance between work and personal time.
- Higher engagement.
- Loyalty and retention.
- Fewer sick days.
Identify and address potential concerns.
I addressed my manager’s concerns before he had a chance to bring them up.
- Busy work periods or when face-time was crucial: Of course I would come into the office.
- Colleagues jumping on the bandwagon and requesting flexible schedules: I could point to the Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance whereas others could not.
- Suggest a trial run as a last resort.
Formulate the plan.
Be specific on what you are requesting (i.e., flexible hours, working from home, working part-time, compressed work week, etc.) and how you will have a seamless transition.
Practice the conversation.
I ran my talking points through two HR representatives and hired a career coach to grill me for an hour as if she were my boss. After which, I felt completely confident and prepared.
Here’s the thing. Proving yourself should be done well in advance of the request. I’m a dedicated, high performer. I’m the first to volunteer to work late at night or on weekends. I respond to all communications quickly, whether it’s during the work day or even on weekends.
Has anyone had to request work from home privileges before? How did it go?