A Guide To Organising A Remote Working Agreement With Your Company

One of the simplest and possibly lowest risk ways to become location independent for many people is to negotiate a remote working agreement with your existing employer.

This can be a great, stepped transition into entrepreneurship and give you a taste of what it’s like to work out of the office, on your own with no colleagues to banter with and no boss breathing down your neck.

Many people dismiss remote working because they just don’t think their employer will go for it but I’m here to give you hope…

Over the course of the past 7+ years, we’ve organised a remote working agreement with 3 entirely different types of employer. These include:

  • An global recruiting company who had no prior history of remote working for any type of employee.
  • A small, start-up consulting company who are traditionalists when it comes to presentee-ism (i.e. you’re only working if you’re seen in the office).
  • A small family-run business where remote working was a foreign concept.

In each instance, we’ve used the following approach to start negotiations and put remote working on the table…

Step 1: Demonstrate your value

This is the first crucial step and, depending upon how long you’ve been in the job, may take a while to do. Think of this step as laying the foundation of good relationships, building trust and demonstrating your worth and value to the company. These may sound like overly simplistic tips, but the kinds of things you should focus on include:

  • Delivering on time or early
  • Over delivering whenever possible
  • Upward management – making your manager’s job & life easier and making them look good
  • Making everyone around you look good

Once you’ve developed a level of trust and demonstrated the value you bring to your employer, you’ll have a strong base for negotiating your worth.

Don’t worry however, if you’re completely new to a role…in this case, look for negotiating points and aspects of the role which could give you some leverage. We’ve negotiated remote working before starting a role, in exchange for a £500 annual salary reduction.

Step 2: Ask

This is the step that most people fall down on! Rather than asking to begin negotiations, many people talk themselves out of even asking, convinced that it’s just not an option.

In some cases, this may be true – but if you’re sure your job could work as a remote position, then you need to ask about the possibility of working remotely. If you don’t ask, you’ll *never* get. Here’s how to ask…

Put in a Proposal

While this may seem a little formal, especially if your work environment is casual, there’s a reason that putting in a more formal proposal works: it shows how organised and serious you are about the suggestion.

The proposal that we submitted each time was a simple 1-page document which listed the following:

  • Benefits To You (the employer/client)
  • Benefits To Me (the employee/freelancer)
  • How To Make This Work

Under each item, we noted an honest list of everything we could think of…

The 1st area is obviously hugely important, if possible include all of the tangible and intangible benefits you can think of such as:

  • Any cost savings you can identify – contact HR for costs of being on-site
  • Improved productivity with fewer distractions
  • Improved creativity and problem-solving from a more comfortable, homely environment

The 2nd area is just as important – it lets them know that you’re fully aware of the huge benefits to you and that you don’t take this for granted nor are you trying to bamboozle them that it’s all for their benefit.

The 3rd area is the make or break area – you need to make it sound simple (not easy but simple) – you need to provide practical suggestions on how to make it work, for example:

  • Agree specific deliverables and deadlines for your work so managers know what work to expect and when
  • Define a resolution process and fall-back position should it not work so well to begin with (e.g. let’s trial it for a week, then a month and iron out any problems as we go and then do a full review after a month)
  • Agree communication channels and tools you’ll use for collaboration

Step 3: Perform a Trial Run

Rather than ask for the full whammy (100% remote working) right from the get-go, start slowly and suggest 1 day a week.

If this is too much, suggest half a day – perhaps one morning or afternoon – as a trial run. Expect a knock-back – even a firm “no”. Don’t be deterred, it’s worth asking again. And again. And again. Especially if you can see no good reason not to.

When you finally get the trial run, use it to test the processes, tools and channels you’ve suggested to iron out any kinks and make this work as effectively as possible so that your employers will feel comfortable when you negotiate full time remote working.

If you’ve got hopes to do this from overseas, make sure you get this working from home smoothly first, then take some shorter (1-2 day) trial runs working outside your home (from a coffee shop, elsewhere within your own country) and finally, ensure you undertake copious amounts of research before you fly off to foreign climes with no idea what to expect when you get there.

This exact process has worked each time, so if you’re hoping to organise something similar, it’s worth a try. The best advice I can offer is this: just ask. If you don’t ask, you stand absolutely ZERO chance of getting!

The following advice was shared by Christine Cantera

Before you decide to fire your boss and march headlong into the land of the self-employed, first give your current job a good, hard look and see if it can’t be made virtual.

Years ago, I worked at an ad agency based in New York that was in print production, which is a very hands-on, old-school industry. But my job was back-office and consisted entirely of Excel spreadsheets and email updates. When I got the idea to move to Rome, I took each element of my job and figured out how I could make it work without actually being in the office.

Obviously, not all jobs are conducive to the location independent lifestyle but more often than you’d think, on-site positions exist, simply because no one has ever considered that there might be an alternative.

Here are some things I did in order to make my location independent dream a reality whilst still remaining gainfully employed…

1. Consider how you communicate

How often do you actually need to be face-to-face with your colleagues? Could you call in for meetings? Are people in the habit of dropping by your desk to talk about an email they just sent, when they could have just waited for your reply? Do you have counterparts or clients you never see?

Think about how your communication dynamic would have to change in order to become virtual and start to implement those changes whilst you’re still in the office.

2. Crunch the numbers

Work with HR to get an idea of how much overhead you cost the company by being on site – and how much you could save them by being off-site and location independent. Many times, this may require them to “fire” you and then rehire you as a freelancer – which, depending on where you want to live, can be a big break for them financially and can even help you to avoid being laid off.

Companies often have strict depreciation guidelines for equipment – see if your IT staff can come up with a way to get your company to set you up with a laptop. Or if your company’s policy allows it, see if you can use your own laptop.

3. Get organized

If you’re the kind of person who uses their email inbox as a filing system or clutters their hard drive with out-of-date reports and documents, you need to change your ways now before you become a virtual employee.

Your success as a virtual employee lives and dies by your ability to respond quickly and efficiently. Take the time to figure out a system that works for you and be disciplined about implementing it.

4. Scale back your immediate work environment

Even if it’s just in the conference room down the hall or an empty office while someone’s on vacation, start working away from your desk to get used to it.

Take note of what you feel you’re missing by not being at your desk – file folders, calculator, wall charts, etc. – and find a way to make it all happen on your computer. Being mobile is no fun if you’re carrying around your entire office in a bag.

5. To Blackberry or not to Blackberry?

They don’t call them “Crackberry” for nothing. If your company does not already require you to use a Blackberry, then a small investment on your part can go a long way in assuring your colleagues that you’re always available. But a lot of making this work is training your office-bound colleagues – and that may mean not getting the answer they want immediately.

Even if you do get a Blackberry, it’s important to set clear schedule and communication boundaries. For example, because of the six-hour time difference between Rome and New York, my bosses agreed to let me work until from 6AM to 2PM EST every day – which allowed me to promise that any task they gave me after 2PM would be in their inbox when they arrived the next morning.

6. Take a test run

In general, people are averse to change – and this goes double in a corporate environment (think about the uproar when a new photocopier is installed or the vending machine selection is different!).

Therefore you want to take a test run before making the final move. Try working from home one day a week, then two or three; set up camp on a different floor in your office building; even go so far as to visit the place you want to move to for a week or two, using vacation time or even docking your pay for a few days as an added incentive for management.

Meet with all players involved in the decision and your work one-on-one before each test run and go over every aspect of your working relationship with each of them. Assure them that their Tuesday afternoon report will still be delivered on time or that you’ll still be available to go over the morning numbers at a set time every day.

Send them an email and then also print out, laminate and hand to them your schedule including flight information and a list of all the ways they’ll still be able to reach you.

Then when you return, schedule another round of meetings so they can voice any concerns or go over anything they were uncomfortable about – and together work on a solution.

7. Claim responsibility, fix it, and move on

If you mess up, fix the problem first and then write a short brief on what happened and what you’ll do to ensure it never happens again. Don’t let yourself get caught into defending your location independent lifestyle, because you’ll never win that argument. You must let your actions speak for you. Also do not go into the office to patch things up – it will weaken your stance.

Living the location independent lifestyle whilst still being employed by a company might not be the easiest thing to organise but if you play your cards right, it might be far more achievable than you think.

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