- Make sure the timing of you asking to work from home makes sense.
- Research whether your office already has a working from home policy. This knowledge will help you when you approach your manager.
- Deciding where your home base will be is an important element.
- Make a compelling case to your employer that you can work effectively from home. Show, don't tell.
We have put together this post so both employees that want to work from home and managers who are looking at frameworks for having their staff work remotely can have access to everything that is necessary for a working from home agreement. This will be a document agreed upon by both sides, outlining both side’s commitments for remote working. Feel free to jump right to our downloadable Working From Home Agreement template or keep reading for some details on what makes up the agreement and how to prepare for writing one.
Deciding to make teleworking official with your employer
First, you need to decide whether you are the type of person that wants to work from home. This doesn’t mean you need to be 100% remote, but you should figure out for yourself whether this is the time to make it official with your employer. A few things to keep in mind.
Is the time right to request to work from home?
Make sure the time is right. Do your managers have some time to consider your request? Would it actually make sense for you to be working from home right now? Each job is different, but you want to make sure you are asking during a good window of time. Perhaps it is during a pandemic when most are already working from home. You’d just be making it official. But perhaps if there is a lot of hands-on physical work and in-person meetings scheduled for the immediate future, this would not be the best time.
Prove that you are able to work from home
Whether you like it or not, a lot of employers are still a bit wary of the idea of a distributed working from home workforce. The absolute best thing you can do to make the case to your manager is to actually prove that you are capable of remaining productive and useful while working from home. Truth be told, not everyone is cut out for a work from home lifestyle. So consider working from home a few days per week to prove to your boss that you can do the work from a distance.
This is also about timing. Slowly build-up trust with your manager and check in with them regularly to show that you can effectively communicate progress on key projects. Set up systems for accountability that would be easily done in a remote work situation so it is less of a stretch when you do ultimately ask to work remotely.
Where will your home base be located?
A key piece for many employers is having employees available for the odd face-to-face meeting at the office. Will your home be located in the same city? Would it be easy to make a couple of trips to the office per month if your manager needs it? Or will you be moving your family to another geography and fully working remotely? These are good things to clarify with both yourself and your family before you consider taking the next steps. And consider what preference your supervisor might have in terms of having employees living in the same city as the main office.
Is there already a teleworking policy at your office?
You need to do your homework before asking your manager to switch you to a working from home scenario. Does your office already have some kind of teleworking policy? Have others already been working remotely from home? If there is a precedent you could consider reaching out to one of those colleagues to see the process they went through. Also, consider checking in with your human resources department about company resources around remote work. You might be surprised to see that there are mechanisms in place for part-time and full-time work from home.
Become familiar with what is actually in the teleworking policy. Are there stipulations that might limit your ability to do your job from home? Does this policy still reflect the reality that we saw during COVID-19? Perhaps some things at your office have changed since then and working from home is now much more accepted. This might be a scenario where the policy needs to be tweaked, given the “new normal” that we all face.
Justifying a working from home arrangement with your manager
Full time, part time or temporary telecommuting agreements
When you approach your manager be as clear as possible about what you are proposing. Is this a temporary situation of working from home (for example, due to COVID-19) or are you looking for a more long-term working from home arrangement? Consider starting out small. Propose to your manager that you would like to “try out” working from home for 1-2 days a week. Slowly build up some trust with your manager and show them that you can actually put in the hours and be productive. As mentioned above, prove to them that this is a good move. Show up early to meetings. Dress like you are at the office. Contribute to your team at a high level. All of these things will help convince your manager that working from home might actually be the perfect arrangement.
Make a compelling case to work from home
When you are asking to drastically change your working model, you need to be sure that have come up with a compelling case. It’s not enough to just say that you hate the commute. That might be true, but you need to show why working from home with actually benefit your employer and not just yourself. Talk about how you might be able to put in more hours from home without a commute. Perhaps mention to your manager that you would no longer need a permanent desk at the office. Those desks are actually quite expensive and they might need the room. But most of all, mention how much more productive you can be from home. In short, by working from home you will be improving the efficiency of your office.
A few elements that can make a compelling case to work from home:
- Will you be more productive? For example, do you do a lot of writing that can benefit from working from home?
- How would you do a better job in your position if you worked remotely?
- How would you be more available if you worked from home? For example, perhaps without the commute, you could be available for earlier and later meetings.
- Do you have the technology to effectively work from home (ie. a good internet connection)
What should be in a working from home agreement?
Once you have confirmed whether your office has a working from home policy, then you may want to see if a formal request template or working from home agreement template is already made. If so, then this is obviously what you would use to come up with an agreement with your manager. In many cases, the manager or senior staff would actually be the one that works on the agreement, so consider this a time for collaboration on an agreement that works for both of you. If this is the first time your manager has worked with a staff member on a formal work from home agreement, they might appreciate the work you do on this. Make it easy on them! The more prepared you are, the easier it is for them to say yes.
But let’s stop beating around the bush. What should actually be in a working from home agreement? We have outlined some of the main elements that would need to be in this agreement in our downloadable PDF (also available in Word, and Google Docs), but we will cover the basics here.
*Please note that Home Werker is not a law firm and this document does not represent legal advice for either employees or companies. Agreements such as these should align with official company policy and be reviewed by trained legal experts.
Elements of a working from home agreement
A summary proposal
Think of this section like a cover letter on a resume. This is a summary of you making your case. You can mention all of the justifications from above that make working from home a compelling solution for your particular job. Remember, what are the benefits to the company? How will working from home make you a better and more efficient worker?
You can also get into how you will manage to shift things you normally did from a traditional office environment to working from home. What are your key roles in the business and how are those fulfilled from home? For example, how will you specifically maintain regular communication with your team?
If a working from home policy already exist, this is the place to make reference to that policy.
Is it actually possible to do this job from a distance? This section will outline the current job description and how a work from home model is appropriate for that work. Any areas where physical presence at an office is required or preferred should be spelled out in this section. It may be in your interest to keep an element of physical connection with your office if you are still going to be living in the same city. Even if it is going to the office 2-3 times a month. Spell this out so your manager knows what you are committing to.
Temporary or permanent
This section should outline the specific nature of the working from home situation. Is this a permanent shift or will this only be temporary? Perhaps consider adding a section about regular check-ins to see how a remote working model is progressing at regular intervals with your boss.
When will you start working from home? Be specific. If you are easing into it, make that clear in this section.
Costs covered by the employer
Equipment: You’re going to need to procure the right equipment to make your home office a place you can work from. This will include where you will source your computer and other technology and whether this needs to be purchased specifically or whether your existing office laptop will be used. Things like company cell phones can also be included in this section. Make sure you will have everything you would normally have access to in an office (within reason). Be sure that your work covers a comfortable chair for you!
Office supplies: Depending on your role, you may need to have access to things like envelopes, pens, printer toner, etc. Make sure it is clear how these will be sourced and whether reimbursements will be made by the company and the policy that should be followed for this.
Maintenance of workspace: You may want to spell out how your work will maintain the different equipment, software, and other items that you will need on an everyday basis. Similarly, a clause around your responsibility to maintain any work property can be mentioned here.
Reimbursements: How will you be reimbursed if you purchase it for office use? What is eligible? What policy needs to be followed?
Other accommodations: Do you need any specific accommodations in order to work from home? This could include ways to customize your space if you have a physical impairment. If any specialized equipment is necessary, make sure it is spelled out here.
Benefits and salary
Do your existing employment benefits apply the same way when you work from home? Clarify this in this section. Similarly, mention your current salary and how it should remain the same even when working from home. Salary reviews should continue in the same way as they would when in the physical office space. You, as the employee, will agree to all other job requirements like you are working from the office.
Are there any specific tax implications from remote work? Mention that you will be responsible to figure out any tax changes that may take place based on working from home. Many locations will give some tax breaks and refunds for those that use a room in their home solely for working. We recommend talking to a tax professional on this one as the intricacies of each locality can have very specific ramifications.
Availability and accountability
Work hours: What hours will you commit to working? If there are core work hours where all employees are expected to be available, mention that this will not change (unless for some reason it will). If you think you might be able to start earlier in the morning you may want to mention this here. After all, you won’t be commuting anymore!
Availability for in-face meetings: If you can dedicate yourself to some regular visits to the physical office, mention what would be ideal here. We recommend maintaining some form of physical visits with the office if only to maintain social connections. Many managers will appreciate your committing to this.
Time tracking: In order to maintain trust, commit to using company-wide time tracking. Whatever form of tracking is the norm, use this. If nothing is currently in effect, you should talk to your manager about what would be acceptable to keep you honest here. Many organizations will require some kind of timesheet, time tracking, etc. for audit purposes.
Responsiveness and expectations around contact: Explain your commitment to being available on channels like Google Chat, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and email. Specifically, outline what hours you are expected to be responding to messages on a normal basis.
What is your company’s policy around overtime? While working from home it can be easy to fall into a habit of working longer hours than usual. Should these hours be logged as overtime? Or is it expected that some level of extra time is put in when working from home? What is the process for approving overtime with your employer? Clarify this with your manager. Be careful to not commit to unreasonable expectations here. Whatever is the norm for office workers should be the same here.
How should vacation be scheduled and communicated with the wider team? Are there any special stipulations for remote workers in terms of vacation time?
Security and inspection
Client confidentiality: It is expected that you will keep strong client confidentiality. This means that all of your digital tools will be secured and any physical files are secured in a locking file cabinet, limited to your workspace at home. If you have a particularly confidential role, you may have to undergo some kind of audit around the storage of files and information at your home.
Secure networks and IT: Outline the expectation you would have around the IT department setting up secure VPNs, proxies, file storage, and other digital security. Commit to keeping the same standard of security in your own local network as you would at the office. Since this is a technical area, consider talking with your IT department to find out what is necessary to get you up and running securely at home.
Inspection: Will a physical audit of your home’s security be necessary by the employer? Make note of that here. What kind of notice needs to be given for your employer to retrieve company property?
Health and safety
Worker’s compensation and insurance: You should commit to keeping a workspace free of hazards, in line with company standards at the office. These minimum standards may need to be worked out with HR. Is your home environment insured? Will your workplace insurance cover you while working from home? It should, but this should be spelled out specifically in this agreement.
Liability: This would be a more legal section that would point towards policies around liability among work from home employees. Generally, the employee would be liable for injuries from their own premises.
Caring for dependents during work hours
This is an area that should be clear from the get-go. During COVID-19 it is understood that many parents and those with other dependents would need to take a reasonable time to care for these individuals during work time. During normal times, it should be clear that dependent care should not get in the way of normal office functions or availability. Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean you have the right to bring your kid to every online meeting. If you do need special accommodation it is recommended that you contact your manager and HR department to discuss your needs.
How to ask: Approaching your manager with a remote working agreement
This may actually take place before you even work on a template at all, depending on how much collaboration you are doing with your manager on the work from home agreement itself.
We recommend you approach the subject of requesting to work from home in an in-person meeting. A regular check-in may be the best time to approach this subject. Timing is everything! Have you done the leg work to make sure you can “make the case” that remote working will benefit the company?
Show you’ve done your research! Make sure you anticipate common issues employers may have and show you have a good answer to them. Here are a few points for you to be familiar with before you have the conversation with your boss:
- Can you ease into working from home? What if the manager offers you to work 3 days from home and 2 from the office?
- What hours can you work? Can you be flexible, given that you have now eliminated your commute? There may be an opportunity here, especially if your position deals a lot with other time zones. Make the case to your boss that this will be an asset to the organization.
- Is there already a working from home policy in place? If so, make sure you know it front and back.
- How will your specific job be done from home? Are there examples of agencies or other companies that do similar work remotely? Make sure you have these in your back pocket just in case your manager asks.
- How available can you be working from home? What tools will you use to show your manager that you are trustworthy and indeed getting the work done? We call this the “green” circle policy at my work. Make sure you are available on Google Chat, Skype, Slack, etc during core working hours.
When you finally meet with your superior, make sure you have (1) answers to the above at the ready and (2) your written proposal summary on paper. This would be the beginning of a work from home agreement that you would finalize with the help of your manager and HR department. Make it easy for your boss. Make sure they know that you are serious and have put in the research and work on this.
Give it your all during a trial period
In many cases, your boss will want to “try it out.” Especially if they are also new to the idea of a distributed workforce. This is your chance to show them that you really mean business. For the period of your trial make it clear that not only are you just as productive as at the office, but you are way more productive and useful to the company.
You might be the first one giving this whole working from home thing a try in your team. Here are a few things you can do to prove that it wasn’t a mistake to let you switch to remote work:
- Be professional: Wear nice clothes to meetings and keep an overall professional tone to your work.
- Be on time: Be the first person to show up on a Zoom call. Always be ready to chat with the boss about your current work as you wait for others to join. You have you “stuff together”, make sure your manager sees that.
- Be available: Make sure you work at least the core hours of your organization. Go above and beyond within reason. Answer the odd Slack message that comes in late. Make it clear that you are even more reliable than you were when you were at the office. Make sure that “green dot” on your instant message platform remains green!
- Communicate, a lot: The biggest perceived downside of working from home is the lack of on-the-fly communication that is lost when you no longer see your team in the hallway. Replace this with regular video check-ins and ad-hoc meetings to show that you will make the effort to communicate.
If you do all of these things it should be smooth sailing. Essentially make it easy on your supervisor to realize that working from home does not mean a drop in productivity. In fact, it can mean the opposite. It’s your job to prove it to them!
Use our working from home agreement template
Whether you are an employee trying to figure out how to broach the subject with your manager or a supervisor looking to build an agreement for your employees, we think you will benefit from our Working From Home Agreement template. We have made it available in Google Doc, Microsoft Word, and PDF. Enjoy!