Ask LH: How Do I Find A Job That Will Let Me Telecommute?

Dear Lifehacker, My commute is killing me. I hate driving in to work every day, dealing with traffic, and paying for parking. I'm looking for a new job, but how can I find a job that will let me work remotely or telecommute, even a few days a week?Sincerely, Hate My Commute

Photo by Antony Mayfield.

Dear Hate My Commute,

We know how you feel. Working at Lifehacker gives me a unique opportunity to work from home all the time, but I've had office jobs in the past where I wasn't so lucky. Finding a job that allows for remote work or telecommuting on a regular basis can be difficult, but here are a few tips to help you land one.

Look for Mentions of Remote Work in the Listing

First, make sure you're looking for the types of jobs that allow for tele-work. For example, if you're a project manager, researcher, technical writer or a software developer, odds are that you'll land a position that allows for at least some remote work. That may not be the case for an accountant, team leader, manager or anyone working on building a physical product.

The first way to find a job that offers telecommuting or remote work as an option is to look for it in the job listing. As we've mentioned, many job search sites let you search their databases on more criteria than just a position title: you can search for keywords through the placement listing, and "telecommute" or "remote work" are options that will land you more than a few hits. Be mindful of "work from home" scams when using this method though, as you're more likely to have to sift through them to find the real solid jobs, and remember to only apply for jobs you're qualified for and have tailored your resume and cover letter to. If a company advertises the position as one that allows for remote work, you can bet they're inundated with responses from people who may not be qualified, but just want to work from home. You'll want to stand out.

Even if you don't turn up much when you search job sites, remember to look at the company websites for the job listings that interest you. Often a company won't list telecommuting as an option in the job listing, but they'll proudly mention it as part of their corporate culture on their website to attract talent -- talent like you.

Bring It Up In Your First Conversations

When you do land that phone interview, or better yet an in-person interview, ask about telecommuting as an option. We always suggest that you do your homework and have a few questions handy when your interviewer asks if there's anything you want to know, so make telecommuting and remote work one of them. Don't come right out and say "I want to work from home as often as possible"; ask them gently whether or not they allow their employees to work from home occasionally, or even frequently. See if it's a possibility, and then go from there.

If your interviewer is in HR, they may not know the policies of specific departments or managers, so ask if they allow employees to work from home when sick or have the technology to let you stay connected if you're on the road. Ask if they issue their employees laptops versus desktops. Both of those questions will clue you in to whether the organisation has the technology and ability to allow you to work from home, and then you can take it up with the hiring manager when you speak to them directly.

Ask for It Outright and Make Your Case

When you get to the point where a potential employer asks you what you're looking for in a job, make your case that you'd like the flexibility to work from home at times. This is where you have the opportunity to sell the benefits, like the ability to concentrate without the distractions of an office and extol the benefits of remote-access technology. If you have a personal reason for wanting to work from home, as in you'd love to work for the company but don't want to relocate, or you have a small child that needs some supervision during the day, now's the time to make your case.

At the same time, judge how important telecommuting is for you, and weigh your case appropriately. You don't want to make a hard sell and potentially scare the employer away if all you're looking for is the ability to work from the coffee shop down the street every now and then, or work from your home office once a week. However, if it's very important, make sure the employer knows it. If you've gotten this far in the interview process, they're clearly interested in you, and may be willing to give you what you want.

In my last job, we had a mish-mash of employees who worked from home and worked in our offices. Employees that were close to our office locations often had the option to come in to the office or work from home, and if we really wanted a candidate who lived far away from an office and didn't relocate, we often just let them work from their homes. Many companies, even in this job market, are interested in hiring the best they can get. If you can sell the company on why you're awesome for the job they have open, you may be able to swing telecommuting as a bonus.

Photo by Eric Schmuttenmaer.

Negotiate For It

If you can't swing it as a bonus, you may be able to haggle for telecommuting as an option for your job. If a potential employer tells you that they'd love to accommodate but can't, you can always offer up a little of your salary requirements or other benefits in exchange. Consider your fuel costs, time spent on the commute you'd have to endure, the wear and tear on your vehicle, and how much avoiding all of that is worth to you personally, and tell the potential employer that you're willing to trade up some of your salary in order to telecommute. Propose that you work from home a few days a week instead of all the time, or that you'd be happy to come in for staff meetings and events.

Admittedly, this tactic only works if you're being offered a job that makes more than you make now, or if you have the luxury of negotiating away some of the money on the table, but if you would have spent it on petrol and car maintenance anyway, you never really had the money in the first place, did you? Hit your future employer where it makes a difference: the hiring manager can happily go back to their boss and say they managed to hire a great candidate for below their budget for the opening, and the only thing they had to trade is the ability to work from home.

Strike It Out on Your Own

Another option is to freelance or start your own business. It's a more extreme option, but we've discussed some ways to get started, and if you really want to work from home, being a full-time consultant and taking on contract work may be a great way to do it. You can set your own hours, work in your pajamas, and sit at home and work as much as you like. The problem however is that working at home in your pajamas may not always feel like work, and you may find yourself working much longer than you intend to, never changing out of those pajamas. Thankfully, they pitfalls are manageable if you're ready to take the plunge, but that doesn't mean they're easy or not stressful. That said, don't go into that option recklessly. Do your research and make sure striking it out on your own is right for you beforehand.

Photo by Dana Robinson.

In any case, working from home is a benefit that more and more companies offer their employees, even in small doses. Odds are that once you've landed a job, as long as there's no compelling reason that you have to be in the office to effectively perform your duties, odds are your employer will be willing to let you work from home occasionally. All it takes is a few occasions to work your way to regularity, or a good strong case for why you should be allowed to work from home. You may even be able to do it in your current job, all you have to do is ask.

Cheers Lifehacker

PS: Do you have any other suggestions for Hate My Commute? If you work from home, how did you land your job? Did you have to trade anything for the ability to telecommute every day? Share your suggestions and tips in the comments below.


Comments

    I tried this in Brisbane, but after a few months of getting nowhere conceded defeat. I live in Toowoomba and wanted to combine the pay of a city job without having to suffer the fetid humidity of Brisbane.
    Some companies were willing to offer it to existing employees who had built relationships with their colleagues but I wasn't willing to commute for 12-24 months before being allowed to work from home.
    When I lived in the UK, telecommuting wasn't uncommon. The cost saving for my employer plus my improved productivity made it a no-brainer and if I was needed in person I made the trip in (sometimes 40 minutes to the local office, sometimes a few hours to a neighbouring country but all the same I sucked it up if it was the most appropriate means of working).
    In Toowoomba I find that the attitude is even more backward/traditional than Brisbane, with employers expecting their workers at desks for set hours rather than measuring productivity and output.
    I know of one person here who works for a UK-based company so perhaps when I'm over there next year I'll line up some interviews and see if I can work it that way... or perhaps I'll wait until the pound is worth a bit more!!!

    An employer who is comfortable with telecommuters and is willing to provide the infrastructure to support such a business would find a large number of potential employees, and with the NBN and 4G beginning to roll out the potential for those employees to have near-LAN speeds must surely lead to an increase in such jobs becoming available.

    My employer has let me work from home on occasion if I need to be there such as to let a plumber in when our pipes blew feces all over the back garden. But it has never been something I was comfortable asking to do semi regularly even though it would be amazing.

    The work I do doesnt require me in the office; I have a phone, Skype etc which I can be contacted on if necessary. Some of our employees live in other Cities too and assume they work from home.

    My personal opinion is to have a very very small central office, one or two hotdesks and a small meeting room (our office is small but still has desks for everyone) containing the servers etc and everyone just works from home. Obviously we still fill in time sheets and do our work because we are professionals. It just makes more sense to me, not having to pay for transport, not paying as much in rent for the premises, less distractions from certain individuals in the office.

    Having to travel to work when its purely a desk job is becoming a bit redundant in my mind.

    I am 4 years in to working from home in Aus for a UK company.

    This is a perfect summation:
    http://theoatmeal.com/comics/working_home

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