Going Virtual

Just think of it! Sipping a frosty drink while sitting in a lounge chair on the beach – and on your lap sits a computer with an aircard. Your “virtual office”.

When I first starting dreaming about working from home full time, visions of a clean house, on-demand gourmet lunches, and selling my car clouded most of my reasoning.

While the benefits of going virtual are obvious, how to get your boss to see those benefits can often be less-obvious.

But the truth is, this move does have to benefit your company or boss in some way for them to agree to let you work remotely. So before you ask for a meeting with your superior, sit down and compose a request by answering the following questions:

1. First and most importantly, will working from home actually help you do your job?

Unless you’ve done something to personally insult yours, bosses make decisions based on job performance and productivity.

If your job description involves the physical supervision of employees in their cubes or work spaces, you probably need to consider a career change rather than going virtual. If, however, your position requires a high level of creativity and focus and you spend most of your day alone, bring that up.

Working in a loud, booming office environment can make it hard to concentrate, and sometimes even to get things done. Emphasize that working virtually will allow you more control over your environment and allow you to focus on providing high quality work. What’s not to like about that?

2. Does your company’s communication structure support going virtual?

Does your company already include several virtual folks. Are meetings held on Skype or GoTo Meeting conference calls, or do you spend the day with your eyes glued on the Microsoft Outlook home screen.

This is an ideal situation for going virtual, but perhaps it is not your situation. If you can be patient, take the long-term guerilla approach by slowly suggesting best practices and different technologies that can build toward a more virtual business structure six to 12 months down the line.

3. Do you have comfortable and relaxed communication habits with your supervisors and teammates?

Maybe you use Skype and are well-liked on your team… but could you shoot a text to someone who does graphics or pick up the phone and call your editor without extreme awkwardness?

The state of your current team interaction can either be a hindrance (Uhh…why are you calling me?) or a blessing (Hey, what up?). Strong relationships that will encourage cooperation and teamwork regardless of where you work is what makes a team shine, virtual or not.

If this does not describe your current situation, put your time and effort into building those kinds of relationships rather than crafting the perfect thesis on working virtually. Because without this vital piece, your transition probably won’t be smooth anyhow.

4. Have you proven yourself to be a resourceful, passionate and dedicated employee?

Here’s a wake up call: if you’re new to the company (six months or less), you’re wasting your breath with this request and possibly harming your reputation.

Working virtually is about trust. If your boss, HR or the CEO doesn’t trust you without hesitation to work the hours you say you have worked (and even sometimes, honestly, if your boss/HR/CEO doesn’t like you), virtual will never happen for you. Work on being likeable and give it time.

5. Do you have a dedicated professional working space at home?

Make sure you let your boss know how you’re going to do your work. Speak up about your reliable internet, scanner, printer and dedicated phone line. If you have a full-on home office, all the better.

The goal here is to give your employer the picture of an idyllic, calm and controlled workspace that just happens to be in your house instead of in a cube.

6. Finally, don’t make demands.

You’re asking a big, fat favor. You’re asking for a gift, for trust and for someone to help you make your life easier. The last thing your proposal needs is a tone of entitlement.

Give your boss every reason to say yes by suggesting it as a suggestion. Offer your reasoning, ask for permission, and ask for it to happen on a trial basis.

Try a closing line like this on your written request:

If you would allow me to try this schedule on a trial basis with room for feedback and flexibility to attend important meetings and events at the office, I feel that this venue would enable me to reach my best potential at this company.

A little groveling with a lot of logic and reasoning will pass on the perfect tone.