The number of companies allowing work-from-home and remote work is soaring in the United States. And it’s part of a world-wide trend that offers increasing mobility and flexibility to workers.
That’s the finding of a global workplace study conducted by Condeco, a space-utilization software company. Surveying 750 business leaders in six countries, the study found that 41% of all businesses allow remote work; and some 60% support flexible schedules, where workers can determine their own hours.
In the U.S., remote work is even more common. Roughly 43% of companies say they allow their employees to telecommute at least part of the time. Over the course of the next year, more than four in 10 U.S.-based respondents said they expect to add more remote jobs.
Trends driving remote work
There are several reasons for the rise in remote work. Technological advances, including faster internet speeds and an abundance of free communication tools, make it simpler for corporate teams to “meet” in cyberspace. At the same time, rents are rising, making office space more dear. Meanwhile, employees are increasingly asking for more flexiblility, including the ability to work from home, to manage the dueling responsibilities of work and family.
Given that the U.S. labor force is near full employment, employers are listening, says Martin Brooker, executive vice president at Condeco.
“Employers are working harder to get talent,” he says. “If ever there was a perfect time to negotiate– not just for pay, but for working conditions– it’s now.”
But how do you get that conversation started?
How to negotiate
Ilyce Glink, founder and CEO of BestMoneyMoves.com, has experience as both a remote worker and an employer. She says it’s important to approach your boss with a clear case of how telecommuting will help both you and the company.
“Make the employer understand that you’re capable of staying in touch, meeting the same deadlines, and doing excellent work,” she says.
If you don’t get an immediate “yes” when you ask to work from home, propose a test, such as telecommuting a few times a month, she suggests. When you establish that your work gets done no matter where you are, your employer is more likely to approve a permanent arrangement.
“Our employees were asking to work from home. So we started with one day a month, then two,” says Glink. “Then we jumped to every Friday. Now, if someone is traveling and they want to work from there, we say go ahead. Just get your assignments done.”
However, as anyone who has ever worked from home can tell you, remote work isn’t a bed of roses. Friends and family sometimes misunderstand and think you can take off whenever you want. If you succumb to the temptation, you could get fired — or, at least, pulled back into the office. Indeed, Miranda Marquit, a long-time telecommuter, suggests a five-step plan to prepare yourself for working from home, including finding a back-up office for when things — like your internet connection — go on the fritz.
When you’re working from home, you also need to have top-notch equipment and a back-up plan, Glink says. There’s no tech-support team at your disposal to fix your computer, nor a raft of unused machines to borrow if yours fails. The same holds true for your phone and internet connections. If they fail, you’ve still got to find a way to get the job done.
Glink says she bought the best technology available when she started working from home and always had a contingency plan. Whether it was working at Starbucks or switching to a mobile device or a laptop, she didn’t let a technological glitch get in the way of her deadlines.
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“People who work remotely need to work harder to make sure that they are not forgotten,” says Brooker. “You need to be good at making sure whomever you report to knows what you’re doing.”
Working from home can also be personally isolating.
“We find that younger workers want to come to the office,” says Brooker. “They want to talk about last night’s game and interact with their peers. When you’re single, going into an office is a good way to meet people.”
Lastly, some professions simply don’t lend themselves to remote work. If your job requires making, processing or selling physical products, there’s no way to do that without being present. So, if remote work is a goal, you’ll need to carefully consider your career options.
That said, there are hundreds of remote jobs to choose from and more crop up every year as technology gets better, cheaper and faster. If your employer doesn’t offer any options to work from home and it’s quitting over, job-search site Indeed.com has a “remote job” search engine that will show you the possibilities.
There are also a plethora of remote positions on SideHusl.com. Most of the better writing jobs, for instance, can be done from anywhere. Virtual assisting, which can pay as much as $100 an hour, is virtual. Technical support and consulting jobs are also usually done from home. There’s even an accounting firm that does all of it’s work — including client meetings — via teleconferencing.