As H1N1 sweeps across the nation and vaccines are in short supply, Congress is considering legislation requiring companies with more than 15 employees to give everyone at least seven paid sick days a year. President Obama has endorsed this bill, but even if it does pass, it will be too late for the current flu season.
Meanwhile, 39% of private-sector employees don’t get paid sick leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They’re likely to drag themselves to work no matter how rotten they feel—and spread the flu to everyone around them.
Why This News Matters to You
Not that we like the flu, but there’s a great opportunity here if you’ve ever wanted to work from home. Employers are more likely to say yes to such a suggestion now than any time in recent years. After all, you’re not likely to catch flu from the person at the next desk if you aren’t at your desk in the first place.
If you want to sell your boss on working at home, the secret to success lies in the planning. Follow these steps to get a yes from your boss:
Create Your Own Benchmarks
Whether they admit it or not, most bosses manage by line of sight—they know you’re working hard if they can see you at your desk tapping away. Sadly, this is the reason most say no to telecommuting. If they can’t see you, they can’t tell whether you’re working.
Overcome line-of-sight thinking by breaking down your job into tasks and telling your manager exactly when you’ll get each of them done. That way, it will be easy to tell if you’re working hard or not.
Set a Check-In Schedule
Tell your manager that you will call, email, or message at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. every working day. The first message or call is to say what you’ll be working on that day. The second is to report on what you’ve gotten done, and ask if there’s anything new you need to know. In between these two calls, your boss and any of your co-workers are encouraged to call you on your cell phone for any reason. (And if your phone does ring during work hours, answer it no matter what.)
Volunteer for Scut Work
All workplaces have shared tasks that no one wants to do, such as answering a general phone line. Your boss (and co-workers) may fear that if you work at home you won’t share in unwanted tasks. So volunteer for a job, such as writing a report or creating a quarterly spreadsheet you know no one wants to write. They’ll see that you’re still a team player, even when working from home.
Set a See-How-It’s-Going Date
Your boss may fear that if your work at home goes badly, it’ll be hard to get you back in the office. Allay that fear by setting a date, after flu season is over, when you and your boss will review how your work-at-home experiment is going. Make it clear that if either of you is unhappy with the arrangement, you plan to go right back to the way things were before.
Telecommuting isn’t for everyone, and it doesn’t fit every job. But if you want to give it a try, there’s never been a better time. Hit your boss now with a detailed, well-thought-out proposal. You may find yourself reading the next issue of LearnVest in your fuzzy slippers, sitting at your home computer.
Minda is vice president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and co-author with Bill Pfleging of The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Don’t Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive.