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Thinking about telecommuting but not sure how to discuss the topic with your boss? A reader recently contacted me and asked for advice. Here is our discussion with suggestions on how to handle the topic with your manager.

How should I bring up the topic of telecommuting with my manager?

First, find out how your manager feels about telecommuting so you can build a solid case for why you believe it will work for you in your specific situation. After you build your business case, be sure to consider all sides of the situation and review those points with your boss so they will see you also understand the situation from their viewpoint.

What justification should I give my manager for my reasons to telecommute?

The reasons for wanting to telecommute are usually different for each person. Focus on the benefits you believe telecommuting will provide, which could include increased productivity due to less interruptions, or minimizing commuting time and associated expenses. Telecommuting most commonly works well for positions that require little direct interaction with other employees and managers such as telesales jobs, accounting, and IT programmers. Think about how easy or difficult your job might be without direct contact with others.

Also keep in mind some of the disadvantages your manager will want to discuss, such as concerns about lack of direct contact with you, how to ensure your performance continues at peak productivity levels and that you won't be distracted by children or your spouse while working, and potential expenses associated with providing the supplies you will need for your home office.

Many managers don't like telecommuting because they worry they will lose control of what needs to be managed. The employee needs to validate their concerns and demonstrate how they can ensure they will remain productive (if not increase productivity) and how they will be easily available to their manager and other employees in case something urgent should arise. Think through all possible disadvantages and your recommendations on how to avoid these issues.

What do you think will be my manager's reaction to my request?

Your manager may be receptive to the idea of telecommuting or might need some time to think it through. If you want your manager to say yes, you must consider several factors.

You need to demonstrate to your manager that you have the available space for a home office (a room with a door you can close), desk, telephone line, high-speed Internet connection, printer, laptop computer from work, cellphone, etc.).

You must also demonstrate you have the ability to work in a home environment conducive to being productive. You cannot easily get work done if you're watching young children at the same time. You must make the case that you can be highly productive.

Consider how telecommuting will affect you emotionally. There won't be hallway chats with other employees, lunch in the cafeteria with co-workers, or direct interaction during department meetings. Not all employees can handle the decrease in face-to-face activity or are able to actively manage their time when not in an office environment.

Determine your game plan for staying connected to those in the office, and especially to your manager. Think through these steps, such as coming into the office to work one day every week or every two weeks, establishing regular review meetings or telephone calls with your manager to update them on progress of your work, etc.

In summary

– Take the time to understand how your manager feels about telecommuting in general.

– Conduct research to determine if any other employees telecommute and how they went about getting it approved – learn from their experience.

– Build a solid case for why telecommuting will work and include the specific details on how you will ensure it will work.

– Use only professionally-linked reasons for why you want to telecommute.

– Ensure you address all sides of the telecommuting situation, including the hot points of your boss.

– Recommend a trial period to ensure your manager (and you) are comfortable with the arrangement.