Hey Boss: I Am Begging You to Let Me Work From Home

work from home dog

I studied philosophy. (True.) You know the old cliché about the tree falling in the forest. If no one is there to hear it, did it really make a sound? Well, remote work may seem that way for some. After all, how can you be sure people are actually working if you are not there to witness it?

I can tell you firsthand that remote teams get work done. Often, more work than you could ever imagine.

I know this because I have the privilege to lead the team at Aha! — a completely distributed company and one of the fastest-growing software companies in the U.S. I see the benefits of remote work firsthand every day. We love the work we do and how much we accomplish together, no matter how far apart we are.

But not every organization is ready to embrace this style of working. And many notable companies are calling their remote workers back to cubicle-land.

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard folks say that they would have loved to work from home in the past — some were even begging the boss to get on board. And if your boss is one of these remote work naysayers, then you may need some talking points.

Here are a few proven benefits of working remotely:

Improved focus
This one is obvious: Without chatty co-workers or distracting background noise, remote employees can concentrate deeply on work without interruptions. In a survey conducted by an employee engagement firm, 91 percent of remote employees said they accomplished far more at home than if they had been in the office.

Better communication
Surprised? By default, remote teams rely on a variety of tools and methods to work across teams. This means that you develop broader communication skills faster than in-office workers. You learn how to build strong relationships with teammates as you work through problems and make decisions together.

Less wasted time
No commutes, for one thing. People who work remotely actually put in more hours — an average of four more hours per week than people working in an office. And when you do connect with colleagues on video meetings or chat applications, you want to make the best use of that time. Perhaps that is why web-based meetings tend to be better planned and focused.

Reduced attrition
You can point out that remote employees do not take this freedom for granted and appreciate the ability to work from home. In fact, research shows that turnover among remote workers is greatly reduced, compared to in-office workers.

You want to work hard and accomplish goals. So why should it matter where you do that work from?

But perhaps your organization is still not ready to embrace this kind of flexibility. If your boss still says no, then maybe you should consider working for a company that thrives on the advantages of remote work — a company like Aha!

(And of course that tree made a noise and motivated remote workers are incredibly productive.)

What do you think about working from home?

About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product roadmap software — and the author of Lovability. His two previous startups were acquired by well-known public companies. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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Comments

  1. Juan Pablo

    I have been working from home for the past 8 years.
    I love it. I love the quietness of my home. The possibility to go and play with my dog when I want to clear my head .
    It requires discipline, commitment and establishing boundaries for oneself and of the family and friends as well. But when you accomplish a balance, it is the best thing ever.

    Reply
  2. Ed Zschau

    Nice article Brian on a very poignoit topic. You obviously have succeeded to build a successful company around this model. From the outside, it seems a couple of factors have to come together to make it work over a sustained period of time. 1/ attracting the type of people who are comfortable working independently and are self-motivated. Some employers need to be with others to be productive and thrice off of the interaction and energy of others. 2/ Having good tools and processes in place to enable productive collaboration. A company is a team of people getting things done together so having the tools, routines and expectations to work collaboratively need to be in place. 3/ bringing the team together periodically. Even remote workers need to interact physically with colleagues. Bringing the entire company together for work and fun, culture-building activities helps build the trust, familiarity and comraderie that facilities being productive 4/ Over delivery in one-to-many communications. Working remotely accentuates need for knowing one’s work is impacting the bigger picture and aligned with the company direction. One-to-one communication is important but frequent communications (blog, video, email, Slack) is especially important for distributed teams. I’d be interested in your thoughts about other factors necessary for remote teams to succeed.

    Reply
  3. Sally Murray

    I’ve been a “satellite” employee – my preferred term, since “remote” implies “disengaged” in my ears – for ten years as a call center employee for a software company. I have never worked harder or for longer hours; it’s not all bunny slippers and comfy chairs! Autonomy is a double-edged sword. Here are a few of my assessments:
    PROS: No commute, no nasty cubicle to live in, no overhearing things that distract or irritate me. No dealing with oddball personalities, football lotteries or fighting over the thermostat. No one leaning over my shoulder to be sure I’m actually working or advising me that I have to “look busy” between phone calls. One huge benefit for the company (I’ve confirmed this behavior with other satellites) is that many offsite workers will not call in sick unless they can’t sit up; a commuter has to be able to drive and we don’t, so if we’re capable of staying upright we’re working, without potentially infecting other employees. I can dress in clothing far too casual or worn for an office appearance. I save lots of money on coffee and lunches. If I have to make a personal call, I have the privacy in which to do so.
    CONS: Assumptions about autonomy: it’s hard to get help when you send an IM or email asking nicely. It’s much more effective to stand in someone’s door and demand a response, so escalation can be difficult since I’m mostly invisible. By the same token it’s hard to get credit for a job well-done; no one sees my successes so a good satellite must have a high level of confidence. All overhead is my own – my high-speed service, my electric, water, heating and cooling costs are all things my employer would cover in a cubicle setting. I miss out on overhearing relevant talk such as arguments among employees about the software’s capabilities and limitations which inform me far better than most scheduled training sessions do. Bouncing ideas off of coworkers means I can’t lean over or walk across the room and ask; we have to tie up resources to confer. I get no tax advantage because I don’t have a dedicated room – my house doesn’t have enough rooms to devote one solely to professional work space. Headset technology is still frail. My employer has me show up for a week once or twice per year, at which time I end up spending a lot of money to make up for my wardrobe shortfall and I incur hotel and extraneous expenses that I will need to have reimbursed, inducing budget juggling. Most importantly, I live with other humans: my family is mostly good about it but they will pop in occasionally to discuss home matters, distracting me and sometimes eliciting an unintended harsh response that I feel a need to apologize for later.
    After ten years I miss the office and I don’t miss the office. They both have real benefits but I think the company makes out better utilizing satellites. Internal communication is the most important factor in success with any employees: the company needs to make a real effort to ensure that satellites are up to date on all new developments and don’t feel forgotten or disregarded. Clear escalation paths and chain of command are crucial as well, so the customer doesn’t perceive your communications shortcomings.

    Reply
  4. Megan

    I think there is a definite difference in communication and collaboration when the entire team is remote vs a few remote employees while the rest of the team is in an office. Having experience being a remote employee in both situations, I find when the entire team is remote, communication and online collaboration efforts are great. Meeting etiquette is established, tools like IM, webex, and things like online kanban boards are effectively used. When there are a few remote employees outside of the office, it is hard for the office folks to remember to include the remote folks, talk one at a time in meetings or not hold side conversations making it hard to hear and they don’t always relay what was written on the whiteboard out. I don’t think that this is done intentionally but the remote employee needs to occasionally remind people that they are there. I actually think there is greater transparency of the whole picture when the PM tools are used properly when everyone is remote as opposed to meetings in an office where if you are not in the room, key information isn’t always shared outwardly. In the fully remote environment , online meeting recordings are often posted for anyone to view in their spare time allowing broader opinions and feedback, kanban and engineering boards are diligently kept up to date, and there are more shared reports and queries.

    The one con to working from home on a fully remote team, is your team members are not always privy to how busy you are and can inundate you with requests without knowing they are the 10th person to IM you in the last 1/2 hour. In an office, they will see someone in your office/cube and come back later. It definitely takes discipline to manage that and the ability to say “I can’t respond now but will get back to you in an hour” or “can you type that in an email”.

    Other than that, I think I would find it difficult to go back to an office environment. I like the ability to pace while on the phone, walk outside around the block thinking about a particularly perplexing problem, and not worry that I spilled my coffee down the front of my shirt right before logging in.

    I enjoy your blogs! Thank you for sharing 🙂

    Reply
    1. Jessica Groff

      Hi Shailesh,
      Our engineers at Aha! have video calls and share screens. It works great for us!

  5. Bruce Gandy

    Great post, Brian, on one of my favorite topics.

    While it never ceases to amaze me that so many people tell me they could never work from home, I personally love it. It takes some discipline to avoid the distractions that arise sometimes, but I think that depends on your personality more than anything.

    * If talking is your thing, use video chats to compensate.
    * If privacy is your thing, hang out the “Do Not Disturb” signs on your collaboration tools.
    * If problem solving is your thing, collaborate using all your tools or shut the world out and focus.

    Also, my home office is better equipped than any corporate office I ever had, so working from home gets harder if you’re working from your dining room table. Make sure that you’re equipped to actually be working and not constantly trying to get comfortable in a bad situation.

    It helps too, to be more goal oriented than time oriented. I tend to tell myself, “I’ll have lunch after I finish this one thing.” Then when that thing is done and I still have time until most people eat, I do it again. Before you know it, it’s 2-3 o’clock and I decide to pull out the lunch bag.

    Finally, my field is IT so while my home office has a nice multi-function printer/scanner/copier (fax too, but really?), I choose to scan paper onto my Google Drive so that I have access to it wherever there is an internet connection (or not).

    Keep posting!

    Reply

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