I’ll start by telling you that I’ve always been career focused. And I love what I do. I always have. But as they often do, things became more complicated when my children were born. Don’t get me wrong. I still enjoyed my job and financially, quitting was not an option. But the commute and time away from my kids began to wear on me. There was always this nagging feeling in the back of my mind: could there be a better way?
My “aha” moment
I woke up that morning to find my newborn was not himself. I took his temperature. He was running a fever of 104 degrees! My thoughts went immediately to how I was going to help him get well again. A trip to the pediatrician would probably be necessary along with plenty of fluids and cuddles. Ever a responsible employee, I made the call to let my office know I would not be in that day and why. To my surprise, the person on the other end of the line told me in an all-too professional manner that they really needed me there.
They needed me there? My son needed me at home and that’s where I was determined to stay that day. I couldn’t believe that I was expected to care more about my office duties than my baby’s health. It was insane and I knew at that moment, enough was enough.
I did not go into the office that day and made a promise to myself: I would find a way out of the grind that was making me choose between my job and my child.
I certainly had the will to take control of my schedule, but I had to find a way. And that was going to take a plan.
My Transition Plan
- Read blogs and online forums. Believe it or not, one of the first things I did was look for outside encouragement. I knew that I wasn’t the only one who wanted the type of life I was going after. So, I looked for real life stories everywhere I could. I read every blog and forum I could find. I looked for reasons why people quit their jobs. I studied their successes and their failures. And I cataloged their tips for future use.
- Wrote down all of my options. Next, I started to realistically weigh my options. Working remotely would require no trips to the office. Telecommuting could mean working part of the week in the office and the rest from home. Benefits could be included in either of these scenarios. Or I could choose to become an independent contractor with complete control of my schedule and rates, but with no benefits. I wrote it all down in what I like to call my Work From Home Comparison Chart to nail down what I needed to make this work for me.
- Health insurance was not a major concern for me because I was going to be on my husband’s insurance.
- I discovered I could take a small pay cut if it matched how much I was spending on gas commuting. After all, I was driving an hour each way each day!
- Set a date. I wrote down a target date by which I wanted to be working from home. Something about seeing it black and white made it real—something that I had to do. Now, I had 9 months to get out of the cubicle
- Made the time. I dedicated 1 hour a day to executing my plan. I figured that 1 hour a day was not too much to commit if I was serious about this.
My transition strategy became clear in my mind and I began to work out the details in order to achieve my goals. My main objectives were to convince my current employer that telecommuting would be in both our best interests and to save three months’ worth of expenses.
My goal was to pull this all off and keep a steady income, but I still needed a little extra cushion because I didn’t know what to expect. I utilized a budget in excel to track my monthly expenses. Here’s what it took for me to save:
- I canceled Christmas—ok, partially canceled. My son was still a baby, so I could get away with buying him just a few things that year. I spoke with my family and explained that I would not be buying any presents. The result was 12% of my goal!
- I stopped all new purchases. If I thought about buying something I didn’t really need, I put that money into a savings pot. Career freedom was certainly more important than a new purse. Here was another 29% of my goal
- I became a part-time online instructor. This really worked for me because I could make extra cash and I did not have to be online at a particular time. That took care of the remaining 59% of my goal.
Remote Employee Proposal Strategy—AKA convince my employer to let me telecommute.
- Compiled proof of my value to the company. I worked well independently. I had successfully worked from home while on maternity leave. I had plenty of performance reviews with glowing feedback on my work. It was clear I was an asset and if I left, it would take some time and money for the company to replace me. I had what I needed to gently remind them.
- Leveraged existing systems in place. I got ready to leverage the fact my employer already had telecommuting options. There was no official telecommuting program, but there were people in my office who took advantage of flexible work options, such as working a few days from home or flextime scheduling for specific events. This meant that there were already systems in place for effectively communicating and accessing the network remotely.
- Focused on the benefit to the employer (not me). I outlined concrete reasons why me working at home would be good for my employer. Showing him the savings was my top priority—evidence that would be hard to ignore. Office space and health insurance would make the biggest impact. I also knew that I could seriously increase my productivity and reduce my out of work days if I didn’t have to worry about getting to the office. And of course, the company would retain me (and others too) as employees if our needs were met.
- Anticipated Objections. I knew I needed to anticipate objections my employer might have. I thought of every objection possible. I wrote them down and came up with answers. For example, I knew he might say, “If I let you do it I’d have to let everyone work from home.” My response would be to explain that not everyone is paid the same or have the same perks, so telecommuting would be no different.
- Presented a professional proposal. I developed a professional proposal. Yes, it was a written document with graphs and charts. I know it sounds formal, but my proposal showed exactly how much thought I’d put thought into my plan, demonstrated my dedication/seriousness and offered something tangible for my employer to review. My proposal included:
- Specific information on my value to the company, including ways I had saved the company money, improved processes, etc. In truth, I wanted my boss to fear me leaving.
- Supporting details on how my working at home would benefit the boss.
- An outline of my work-at-home plan. Here, I listed the days and times I planned to hold office hours, my duties and how I would stay in touch.
Sealing the Deal
After 3 months of research, proposal writing and stressing out, it was time to close the deal. After all, you will never get what you want if you don’t ask for it. I requested a meeting via email at which I used my proposal to highlight my points. Being prepared gave me so much confidence. I was ready to answer any questions. My boss did not make the decision right then. We agreed to revisit my request in 1 month. Even though I didn’t have a “yes” yet, I was so glad he hadn’t laughed me out the room. I considered it one step closer to a win.
At one month, my manager was still not comfortable with the idea. It was time to suggest a trial run. I began working remotely every Friday for 1 month to see how it would go. I figured when he saw how great it was he would be less hesitant.
After my trial—which went great by the way– I just knew my boss was going to say yes. To my surprise, he STILL needed more time to decide. Now, I was faced with a challenge and would need to make a calculated decision. It would be tough and risky, but here’s what I had learned:
- I was an excellent asset to the company. Pulling up my accomplishments and performance reviews gave me a major confidence boost. It reminded me of my value—here and anywhere else I might wind up.
- My boss did not want to lose me or he would have simply told me no from the start—even if he wasn’t totally ready to let me work remotely.
- Telecommuting, even on a trial basis worked, actually worked! And it increased my desire to make this work full time.
So, after much thought, I decided to put in my 30-day notice. It was a VERY calculated risk, but it felt right. I told myself I had saved three months of income for a reason. If my boss still said no, I could take the next three months to find a telecommute job. And with all my homework done, I knew this was something I could actually do if need be.
Exactly three days before my last day, I got what I wanted. I would be able to keep my job and work from home 100% of the time.
My path will certainly differ from many others who wish to work from home and I am not suggesting that my way is the only way. Each of us must determine the amount of risk that is worth taking to accomplish a goal. This depends on individual circumstances, of course.
But I do strongly believe that there is always a way to make things better. Ask yourself: How do you want your career to look? You family life? And then imagine the freedom to make it happen. Let your answers guide and inspire you. And don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way from those who have done it. For me, it continues to be amazing. And for you it can too.
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