Save gas! Telecommute!
5 Tips: Here's how to convince your boss you should work from home.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - If you're tired of shlepping to work, now may be one of the best times to negotiate flextime with your employer. The high cost of gas and the devastation we've witnessed from natural disasters may have convinced more of us than ever that working from home has many advantages.
1. Seize the moment
We're on the verge of becoming a telecommunication nation says John Challenger of consultant company Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "It will become the norm, rather than a benefit," he says. In fact, 44 percent of US companies offered at least some telecommuting options in 2005 according to Mercer Human Resources. And that's a 32 percent increase since 2001.
The average commute is about 8,000 miles a year according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Employers also recognize that long commutes are unproductive plus, from the company's point of view, there is a real savings on real estate, says Pat Katepoo of WorkOptions.com.
2. Assess your job
So how do you know if your job is suited to telecommuting? If you spend most of your day using a computer and talking on the phone, there's a good chance you can telecommute.
Accountants, travel agents, public relations specialists, and customer service jobs are good bets for telecommuting. Keep in mind it's rare to find a job that starts out as a telecommuting gig. It's more likely that you'll have to show your employer how productive and trustworthy you are before you can telecommute.
3. Weigh the costs
Telecommuting twice a week can save you 40% of your gas costs according to the Telework Coalition. But what about the costs you'll incur when you do work from home? We're talking about an extra phone line, a fax machine, a laptop, a broadband internet connection and of course, you'll need some space (other than the kitchen table).
If you work with sensitive files, your IT department will likely set you up with a Virtual Private Network that lets you transmit data securely, says Dennis O'Reilly of PC World Magazine. While some employers may chip in for at least half of the bill, others may offer between $5,000-$12,000 per employee according to Susan Seitel of Work and Family Connection.
But be prepared to foot the bills for a while if the accounting department is slow with the reimbursement checks. For office supplies, your best bet is to stock up while you're still at the office.
4. Get it in writing
Deducting your home office is harder than you think. To claim a home office deduction, you have to telecommute for the convenience of your employer, not for your own sake. So be sure to get a letter from your employer that confirms the arrangement benefits your boss, not just you.
5. It's all about your boss
When it comes down to proposing a telecommuting arrangement, remember it's all about what telecommuting can do for your employer, not what telecommuting can do for you.
Focus on the bennies your company will get. For help on some of the stats, check out the Telework Coalition at Telcoa.org. But it's also important to bring it down to the personal level.
Explain how working at home one day a week you'll be closer to clients on your side of town. And it's also a good idea to start small. Ask about telecommuting a day or two a week. You don't want to be out of sight, out of mind for too long.
If you can't convince your boss, here's how to cut your costs at the gas pump
Gerri Willis is a personal finance editor for CNN Business News and the host for Open House. Send your questions, your comments and your own ideas to us at email@example.com.