It’s OK to admit it–you want to work from home. But if your boss forbids it or limits your remote work time, what’s an accountant to do?
If you’re lucky, you work for an employer that embraces remote work and flexible work-from-home policies. If you’re tragically unlucky, your company is resisting the remote trend and forbidding work outside the office completely–a la IBM.
But more than likely, your firm is somewhere in the middle. There are some full-time remote employees at your company, but most accountants are largely stuck in the office during work hours. Work-from-home policies exist, but they’re restrictive.
And worse, those accountants at your firm who often work from home are privately viewed as lazy by coworkers and management, which can cost them promotions or, in extreme cases, their jobs.
So for this post, we’re not just going to give you some tips on how to fleece your firm into giving you a few more work-from-home hours. We’re here to answer a larger question: “How do I get my boss to let me work from home–without hurting my career?”
Build some anecdotal evidence
Google it all you want, but as far as we can tell, you won’t find a solid statistic on how many accountants currently work from home–part-time or full-time. So if you’re looking to shove a “60% of accountants work remotely”-type figure into your boss’s face, you’re out of luck–for now, at least.
You can try this, an article from Harvard Business Review that claims remote employees are more engaged than their in-office counterparts, but be prepared for your boss to point out that it’s six years old and light on proven facts.
To build the most effective work-from-home case, your best bet is probably to resort to some good old-fashioned anecdotal evidence. Find some remote accountants in the industry performing similar duties to your own. Ask them how they stay on task, what types of communication and productivity apps they use, and try to get some proof they they’re doing their jobs well.
Look for examples within your firm, as well. Are other employees working from home or remotely? Are they finishing projects on time and providing quality work?
You’ll want to be careful when presenting your boss with the present status of remote work at your firm. The last thing you want to do is sound like a jealous younger sibling begging for the cushy work-from-home hours big brother gets.
But if you can put together some statistics on how much remote work is currently done at your firm and frame it in a way that doesn’t sound whiny, you should have a better chance of convincing your boss to give you more hours outside the office–or at least as much as the average worker is getting.
Cite virtuous motivations
If your desire to work from home is driven by aspirations of nine-to-fiving it in your pajamas and playing more Xbox, you probably don’t want to mention that to your boss.
But if you have some virtuous reasons for wanting to work from home–or if you can credibly make some up–those can help your case. Perhaps your long commute is causing you to miss valuable time with your children. Or maybe you have an aging parent or grandparent who needs your personal care and attention.
Your own health is a consideration, as well. You don’t want to look like the kid who brought in a doctor’s note to get out of gym, but if long office hours are causing you legitimate joint/back issues, carpal tunnel syndrome, or high blood pressure, the argument of “this job may literally be killing me” could buy you one or two days a week of working from home.
Use sick days to prove you can do it
If you really want to be a Boy Scout/Girl Scout/junior forest ranger/whatever, you could wait until you’re actually sick to do this, but is there anyone among us who hasn’t abused the privilege of a sick day here or there?
Regardless of whether you’re truly sick or just malingering, your sick days are your opportunity to prove to your boss you can work from home effectively. Make this one of your most productive days of the year. Check in with colleagues and superiors regularly, finish multiple projects before they’re due, get a head start on projects that haven’t kicked off, and lend a hand on work that isn’t even your responsibility.
Log everything you do during your sick days down to the quarter hour, including breaks. When your boss asks, “How can I trust you to be productive if I let you work from home?” you can point to these logs as proof you’re even more effective remotely than when you’re in the office.
Brand it as “an experiment”
If you feel like the negotiation is going nowhere, you could ask for some work-from-home time on an experimental basis. Tell your boss you’re willing to keep track of everything and be completely honest about your productivity and the results. Assure him that if it turns out you actually are more productive in the office, you’ll give up your remote work dreams and never mention it again.
As you’re probably all too aware, office experiments can sometimes become permanent when no one’s paying attention–not because they work, but because managers are too busy with other things (or, let’s face it, too lazy) to change things back. Your “experimental period” may wind up running for a year and a half before your boss remembers it was an experiment to begin with.
If you’ve discovered any other strategies that help convince managers to let their accountants work from home, let us know in the comments.
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