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.
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.