How to Propose Virtual Work

By Tara Powers

If you’re in a traditional 8–5 job and you’ve decided to pursue virtual work, you can start with your current employer and put together a proposal for your boss and teammates that highlights the benefits of working virtually and addresses all of their probable concerns. Be prepared to answer tough questions and work through issues to convince your boss and your colleagues that you working virtually will be a good move for the company and your team.

These sections identify how you prepare a proposal to working virtually including what benefits to include and what concerns to address.

Prepare your proposal

If you want to make any change to your work schedule, create a formal proposal that addresses the key issues — benefits and challenges — of the change. The figure shows an example of a proposal for your boss and company.

 

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A sample virtual work option proposal.

When putting your proposal together, consider the following:

  • Talk to HR to find out if your company is currently offering virtual work in any other positions that can help garner support for your proposal.
  • Interview managers and employees with established virtual work situations and find out what’s working and what’s a challenge. Inquire what measures are in place to determine success. Include these company insights in your proposal.
  • Research if competitor organizations are using virtual teams, to what extent, and what the results are.
  • How can you align your request to work remotely with company values and vision? For example, if your company values innovation, flexibility, and agility, then they align well with your request to work remotely.
  • Assemble your past performance reviews that highlight strengths that can help you be successful in a virtual work situation. For example, self-starter, goal oriented, focused, flexible, great communication skills, takes initiative, works without supervision.
  • If virtual work is new to your team or company, start with a request of working from home one to two days a week.
  • If you’re going for a full-time virtual arrangement, present a detailed communication and engagement plan for your manager and team.
  • Propose a pilot of the new working arrangement for six months with suggested success measures to determine whether it’s working. Measures can include
    • Productivity levels
    • Financial targets
    • Deliverable dates
    • Communication effectiveness with team members, customers, and vendors
    • Participation and engagement levels
    • Improved health, sleep, and overall job satisfaction
  • Consider what software, equipment, or other expenditures the company will need to make to set up your remote office.

Focus on the benefits

After clearly stating your request, focus on how virtual work will benefit the company. Reinforce your commitment to the company and your value to the team, and then state your beliefs regarding how working remotely can help you be more productive and produce high quality work. Use the following key points to outline your proposal:

  1. Lay out reasons why working virtually is important to you.
    They may be financial, health, family, and so on.
  2. Include any research that shows virtual workers are more productive and happier and stay with their employer longer.
  3. If appropriate, discuss how working virtually will improve your ability to connect with your global customers or team members.
  4. Track and analyze weekly how much time and money you waste by attending unnecessary office meetings.
    Highlight how much it costs you and the company.
  5. For one week, keep a journal of the number of distractions that keep you from doing actual work.
    Estimate the amount of focused work time that you’ll have in a virtual work situation.
  6. Share with your employer that cost savings attributed to remote work is an average of $11,000 per half-time telecommuter according to Global Workplace Analytics.
  7. Pick and choose from the vast amount of research data available that proves the positive impact and additional cost savings of virtual work for companies, employees, and teams.
    Possible key points to include are the following:
  • Positive business impacts:
    • Better utilization of office space
    • Faster response times to team members and customers
    • Reduced carbon footprint
    • Reduced expenses (parking, office snacks, coffee, meals)
    • Improved company reputation in the industry
    • Reduced turnover costs
  • Positive team impacts:
    • Increased engagement and productivity levels
    • Increased talent pool
    • Key employees retained
    • Happy employees
  • Positive employee impacts:
    • Lower stress levels
    • Improved work-life balance and relationships
    • Enhanced creativity and innovation
    • Eleven days gained per year by not commuting
    • Reduced expenses (gas, maintenance, clothing, food) estimated at $2,700 annually if working virtually part time

Address key concerns

Don’t shy away from addressing common key concerns in your proposal. Create an opportunity to have an honest conversation about them to continue to build the case for virtual work. Both managers and team members who aren’t currently working virtually have some common concerns you’ll want to address. Here are some common concerns and how to respond to them:

  • You’ll be sitting around eating bonbons all day instead of working.
    Outline expectations to discuss and agree on with your manager and team on what needs approval such as availability, response time, and flexibility during the workday.
  • You’ll miss deadlines because you can’t be self-directed.
    For each project, priority, or important task, deadlines will be agreed upon, written down, and measured.
  • You won’t hold yourself accountable when your manager isn’t looking over your shoulder. Outline a plan for how you can keep track of deliverables, manage your time, and accomplish goals.
  • We won’t get your full participation and engagement when you aren’t in the office.
    Provide ideas for collaborating virtually and how you’ll stay connected to the team. Clarify when you’ll meet with each team member in the office during the week. If you’re virtual full time, propose a plan for staying connected. Here are some ideas:

    • Plan virtual one-on-one meetings with each team member monthly and with your boss weekly to check in on a personal level.
    • Recommend that you’ll visit the office in person for several days each quarter.
    • Address concerns about cohesiveness and engagement and how you’re going to make the extra effort to stay engaged and connected to your team members.
    • Outline ideas for what’s possible if a work emergency occurs and your team needs you in the office.
  • It won’t be fair to other team members. After you prove virtual work is a successful way to work, you’re creating opportunities for others to follow in your footsteps. It becomes a cultural shift for the company and will offer several positive benefits and significant cost savings. Plan to communicate and address jealousy, envy, or anger from your teammates and figure out how to support them in presenting their own proposal for remote work if appropriate.
  • Communication will suffer. Develop and share a plan for collecting frequent feedback from your manager and team. Having a feedback process is the most effective and proactive way to continually improve your working relationships when you’re remote. Ask these feedback questions to your team members and manager:
    • Is your virtual work arrangement working?
    • What are your challenges and frustrations when I’m not in the office? How can I do a better job addressing them?
    • Am I communicating with you enough? Where can I provide you with more information?
    • Do you feel like our relationship is strong? Is there anything else I could do to build trust with you?

In your proposal, be sure to address these concerns and reiterate that you’re willing to discuss and add other concerns after talking with your manager and team. Without their support, setting up a successful virtual working arrangement will be difficult at best, and you may soon be looking for another job.