How to convince your boss that working from home is feasible

Demonstrating that the change will bring a benefit to the organisation is crucial

Working from home is becoming increasingly prevalent as old work practices change

Working from home is becoming increasingly prevalent as old work practices change


More and more people are working remotely, and many say it improves their productivity and satisfaction while also saving them time and money. If you’re commuting to an office every day but would like to work elsewhere on a weekly basis, how can you convince your boss to let you do so?

The 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday schedule has its “origins in the Industrial Revolution,” says Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford University professor. “But times, they are a-changin’. We live in a different era.”

Still, working from home has a bad reputation.

“Some people ... think it means goofing off and watching cartoons.”

But, in fact, research suggests the opposite: Working from home increases productivity, efficiency and engagement.

“It is possible to be as or more productive” at home, says Karen Dillon, co-author of How Will You Measure Your Life? Here are some strategies to convince your boss to let you work remotely.

– Reflect on your motivations: Before broaching the subject with your boss, be clear on why you wish to work from home in the first place. Perhaps your motivation is purely professional: You want more space and time to focus better. Or maybe your reasons are personal, whether they have to do with child care responsibilities, fitness goals or caring for aging parents. Whatever your motives, you need “to be honest with yourself about what you’re asking for,” Dillon says.

– Devise a plan: Next, Dillon says, you need to consider what a realistic remote work schedule might look like. What do you want? Is it to work Tuesdays and Thursdays from home? Every other Friday? Consider what will worry your manager, and then think of ways to pre-empt those concerns. You might need to have a back-up plan for flexibility.

– Talk to your boss: Your proposal should be simple and straightforward, Dillon says. Explain to your boss, “Here’s what I am thinking, here’s why and here’s what the organization will gain”. That last point is critical. “There’s no harm in using empirical evidence to make your case more compelling,” Dillon says.

– Give your boss time: It’s important “not to push for a yes or no right away,” Dillon says. If your initial conversation goes well, “present your boss with a one-page proposal – nothing elaborate – that details your plan.” And then back off, giving your manager time to think it through.

– Be willing to experiment: Try suggesting a three- or six-month trial period, Bloom says. If your manager agrees to the plan, Dillon suggests “over-communicating in the beginning” just to show how much you’re able to get done from home. After the trial ends, Dillon recommends discussing whether “your mutual expectations were met”.

– Push for organisational change: If your request is denied, don’t take it personally, Dillon adds. It’s likely that there are “bigger cultural issues” at play. You might talk to human resources about implementing a new workplace policy.

(Rebecca Knight is a freelance journalist in Boston and a lecturer at Wesleyan University.)

New York Times Service