After I vowed never to work full-time in an office again, finding a job has been tricky. Remote working arrangements are notoriously tricky to find or even organize. This is evidenced by the countless questions many digital nomads post on forums all over the web.
With most computer-based, white-collar positions, there’s a particular standard. When a company hires you, they provide you with a desk and equipment. Some may be generous and offer “flexitime”, so you don’t have to be there at nine on the dot every day.
If you’re particularly unlucky, you may have to commute up to two hours or more per day.
Let’s backtrack quickly: what I’m talking about here is a standard. Most jobs are office-based by default because that’s how it’s always been done.
For professionals who’d prefer not to listen to Carol munching on carrots every single day – it sucks. However, the majority of us just suck it up. That’s understandable and admirable. After all, we’ve got bills to pay!
Is there any way around this?
The good news is yes, there is. The bad news… You may have a harder time finding a job. However, that’s depends on your particular industry. First and foremost, I’ll say that those working in customer service and IT are probably the “luckiest” when it comes to remote work arrangements. Many companies, desperate for talent and expertise, don’t really give a flaming where their programmer is as long as they, well, program.
For some bizarre reason, this expectation hasn’t been passed on to other careers which are computer-based. Many accountants, digital marketers, graphic designers, copywriters(!?), human resources professionals, etc. are expected to plod into the office every day. Even if we quit our jobs and look for something else, we’re faced with a problem like the following:
So it was up to me to suss out whether remote work would be acceptable.
That meant asking.
But, pray tell, how do you go about asking for a telecommute arrangement? Before you do, consider the following:
With many jobs, remote working can be a solution
As stated before, many jobs today are conducive to remote working. However, it may not always be on the forefront of an employer’s mind. Yet, here’s the thing: quite a few employers are willing to implement a remote work arrangement as a solution to the problem of distance/travel. Especially if they find it difficult to get someone with the right skillset and/or experience.
Companies, after all, don’t want to hear problems – they’ve got enough of them. They want to hear solutions. This company is in Braunschweig, a relatively out-of-the-way city. Cologne, on the other hand, is the media capital of Germany. Düsseldorf is also nearby. There are a lot of companies I could potentially work for. So, the wonderful vapers sitting in Braunschweig might be taking their time evaluating candidates and trying to make the location as attractive as possible.
All I could do was offer the solution of being available via Skype, email and phone. In addition, I stated that I had no problems travelling for meetings. I offered them a solution immediately. How effectively I did that, we’ll see. As with much of what I’m currently doing, I’m testing waters. If they like it… Well, something substantial might result. If not, I’ll learn from the mistake and move on!
UPDATE: I didn’t even get an automated response from the company. Rude. I won’t be going anywhere near them again.
Right then, when’s the right time to ask?
Questions about your future “work environment” come under the same headers as perks, salary, severance package, working hours etc. In reality, you shouldn’t feel that asking for a remote or partially-remote position is pushing it. It’s all part-and-parcel of the negotiations you make before you sign their little piece of paper.
In my opinion, the best time to ask is during the first interview. I would usually wait until the interviewer starts to talk about the benefits of working there. Don’t go in whole-hog and ask about remote working off the bat. Soften it a little.
For example, if their office is located quite a while away, you could ask if it’s possible to work from home some of the days. You can make the argument that two hours a day is a lot to travel.
Applying to a company that’s a good few hours from your home is also an option. If they offer a relocation package, you could ask if a telecommute arrangement might be more favourable. After all, they will end up saving a LOT of money. Not just on office overheads, but relocation expanses.
If you’ve got experience working remotely, you can also do what I do. Mention that you’re used to working from home and that you’d prefer not to give it up.
The “how” is up to you – but based on experience, I would strongly advise asking in the first interview/phone call. Those are usually the “make or break” situations where both an employer and a candidate suss one another out. Remember, they’re not just interviewing you – you’re also interviewing them!