The Way We Work
October 9, 2013 by Julia Camenisch

Digital marketing pro Ryan Gibson had just been offered the perfect job with Asia Rooms, a travel company.

But there was a catch, and it was a big one: he’d have to either relocate from his home in Leeds, England to the island nation of Singapore or commute 90 miles (round-trip) to Manchester. “Location-wise, it was obviously a problem,” Gibson admitted.

Instead of turning down the offer, Gibson tried a different approach. “I explained to the hiring manager that Singapore wasn’t an option…and Manchester was a long commute each way from my home.”

He then pitched a different idea: to work remotely for the company and not move (or commute) anywhere.

Popping the question

Telecommuting has been proven to improve productivity. But when remote work is uncharted territory for an organization, managers are often reluctant to make the leap from more traditional arrangements. Asking “cold turkey” isn’t likely to get you far.

Understanding that “conversations about these types of things never work out the way you planned,” Gibson started his process by putting together a detailed remote work proposal. “This document is something you can go through together and discuss. It also allows your manager to digest what you’ve said and think about it.”

In a post he penned for his blog, Generation Y, Gibson listed several key elements to include in a proposal:

  • Explain that you have a suitable workplace in your home or in a co-working center.
  • Share any financial pressures, such as commute costs, that are motivating you to make this request.
  • List the ways remote work will make you more productive.

It’s also useful to share case studies and statistics that show how other companies have benefited from implementing remote work strategies. (Editor’s note: We have plenty of examples in our Future of Work weekly roundups, so you have no excuse not to!) Few managers want to bear the burden of being the test case, and find it reassuring that there are proven policies for running a successful remote work program.

Why is all this preparation important? Gibson explains that a manager needs to see that the move to remote work is ultimately going to benefit the business, not just the employee.

Taking a test drive

Once your proposal is ready, Gibson says, outline a test-drive plan. Plans on paper aren’t necessarily going to convince a manager. Instead, real-world outcomes are the proof of the proverbial pudding.

“Propose a remote work trial of one or two days a week, lasting a month,” advised Gibson. “Then assess how it went at the end of the time.” To convince a manager, hopeful remotees must focus on being as efficient and responsive as possible during the trial period.

For Gibson, the benefits for the company were obvious: working from home freed him up to better collaborate with the Asia Rooms team in Singapore. “[It] enabled me to tweak my work hours to match the demands of the business. By starting work at 6:15 a.m., I have nearly half my day with the team in Singapore, and then have the rest of the day to work on delivering my business objectives.”

Your reputation precedes you

For some managers, allowing employees to go off-site can be unsettling. Fears that those employees will slack off or cease to be good team players are issues that need to be addressed. That’s why the value of a good reputation in the workplace can’t be overstated.

Ryan Gibson: "Prove your worth and then prove it again. Become a likable, integral part of the team and somebody who doesn’t require micromanagement."

Gibson says that the best antidote for managerial worries is to have an excellent track record that leaves no doubts as to your work ethic. “Prove your worth and then prove it again. Become a likable, integral part of the team and somebody who doesn’t require micromanagement.”

In Gibson’s case, the hiring manager at Asia Rooms was already familiar with his productivity and work ethic. “We had previously worked with one another, so he knew my qualities. He knew I had produced at my previous job, that I hadn’t had a sick day in the past four years of employment and that I’d always been available when needed.”

Because he trusted Gibson and saw the value in a remote work setup, the hiring manager brought Gibson on to work from home, requiring only occasional visits to their Manchester office to “show face.” And as time went on, even those visits were dropped and he became 100 percent home-based.

The benefits of working remotely have been obvious, both for him and his employer. “It’s made me a better employee, and ultimately, a happier person.” For Gibson, making that initial request to work remotely was one of the smartest moves he could have made.

If you’re ready to work remotely and forgo the commute, take a line from Gibson’s story: if you want it, you’ve gotta ask for it.

Have you made a successful pitch to work remotely? Share your story and advice in the comments section.

Julia Camenisch

Contributing Author

Julia Camenisch is a freelance technology and business journalist. She also works as an editor and copywriter for a wide range of clients, including national magazines, small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Julia brings to oDesk a passion for empowering small businesses through the innovative use of technology.