In July 2018, I sat down with my manager to make a request that was rather rare in my organisation, I wanted to become a full time remote employee. I’d already been teleworking once or twice per week for the last 4 years or so, however a few different changes had made me long for a full-time telework position and it seemed like the right time to ask for it. While my own manager appeared on board and was to discuss with upper management, a month later she came back with the sad news that the request was being rejected.
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Exactly 4 months later, I was setting up my home office where I have now been working from home full-time ever since. Did I change organisation? Nope. It turns out that the timing was indeed right to make this request as in the month following the rejection, my manager insisted on my behalf to upper-management to get me a chance to present my proposal to become a full-time remote employee. A well crafted proposal later, with a bit of nerve wracking waiting, my request was approved.
Now I’ve been working from home for several months and I still need to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. It’s not full on financial independence, but it feels like a pretty nice transition on the way to reaching it. I have a lot of flexibility in my days and I’ve won back so much time from no longer having to commute.
Here are the steps that helped me negotiate becoming a remote employee in an organisation where this is not very common:
Make a plan
I’d been thinking of a remote position in fact for a few years. It probably first entered my mind when I started listening to the Mad Fientist podcast back in 2014 and he was at the time working remotely in his final years towards FIRE. I then started paying attention to similar stories in the financial independence community. For example, on the Mr Money Mustache forums, you’d see lots of people being offered options such as remote positions when they were approaching their FIRE dates. It seemed that the more an employee was getting ready to leave, the more eager their employer was in offering them this nice perk, among others.
This particular option started to look very appealing as I was looking at the kindergarten schedule of our son when he would enter school in September 2020. Since school finishes at 2h30PM, there would be no way to opt out of after school care. For a large part of my childhood I did not have to attend after school care since my dad was running his business out of our home and could prepare his own schedule. Living really close to our son’s future school, I knew that if one of us did have a remote position, we could easily skip the after school program and walk our son from school to our home and set him up with a snack as we would finish our work day.
My first plan was therefore that I would love to either have a full-time remote position by September 2020 or at least 2-3 days of remote work if Mr. Mod could have the same. With that plan in mind, I knew that I needed to be attentive to specific opportunities that could help me put it into action.
Choose your roles wisely
A very important aspect to concretize the plan, was that my role had to be appropriate for a full-time remote position. I was lucky to already be in a rather suitable role for teleworking and was already doing so a few days per week. However, I still had some meetings to attend and more location based parts of my job.
At one point, I was offered an opportunity to take on a different role within the same team and I took a lot of time to ask questions about the role. My questions were obviously aligned with my plan to find more autonomy in my work. I asked if there was a lot of meetings that required my physical presence, if there were presentations or in-person consulting with colleagues that was essential to complete the tasks. In the end, this seemed to be in line with my plan.
It’s not always easy to choose the right positions that would lend themselves well to transition to remote work but with a concrete plan in mind, your mind is more open to asking the right questions to find out if the role would fit well into your plan.
Do your job and do it well
Obviously, you should be doing your job well! More specifically, if you have certain perks in mind, you have to work in a strategic manner that would demonstrate why these would help you continue to do a good job or do it even better.
While this is not possible in every role, I kept on demonstrating my ability to work on files that required more autonomy and less meetings. This played a huge part on being offered to take on a different role in my team. It was a position that needed a lot of autonomy and good judgement.
I also made sure to always show that I was efficient when working from home. Even though I was a couple of years away from making the request to obtain more teleworking days in terms of my plan, I knew I could point back to all this time of working efficiently from home to help support this request.
Finally, I established some tracking processes that really helped highlight my productivity and how it was positively influenced by working from home. I was closing more cases and making great progress on the days where I didn’t have daily office interruptions and I had data to back that up.
Stay open for opportunity
Although I did not plan on asking for a switch to becoming a full-time remote employee until mid-2020, a few opportunities popped up earlier than planned and made the time ripe to ask for a change.
Firstly, a few years back an employee in a different group in my organisation had moved to another town and been offered to work remotely in order to keep this well knowledgeable employee on board. This experiment had been going well. There’d also been a few retired employees taking on contracts, and they only accepted to come on board for those short periods, as long as they were working remotely (a lot like the mustachians I had been reading about on the forums).
Secondly, in 2018 there was announcements of a big wave of hires to come at the same time as announcements of crucial renovations needed to be done to our offices. As such, the organization was starting to face office space shortages.
I wasn’t exactly mentally prepared to make a request in 2018, however always having my plan in the back of my mind, little bells were going off telling me it may be time to make the request. Finally in the Spring of 2018, the head of the organization launched a big push for employee wellness and flexibility for employee retainment. That’s when I knew it was time to take concrete action.
Having a plan laid out in the back of my mind helped me take the appropriate steps to be ready to seize this opportunity I was lucky to get.
Network and ask for advice
Once I realized it was time to make a move, I reached out directly to members on the mustachian forum that I knew were working remotely. I asked them for tips and thoughts as well as their own stories of landing their remote position. I also talked to a few people in real life that had stories of friends, family or past colleagues who were working remotely in a similar governmental organization.
Furthermore, when I was finally offered a chance to make a proposal, I reached out again to some of those people with specific questions regarding my proposal. A few weeks before that, I had heard J from Millenial Boss & the FIRE Drill Podcast on the Choose FI Podcast talking about her own proposal to her employer for her team to be able to work from home on occasion. I reached out to her and she was so kind to provide a lot of feedback on what worked for her. I even think she was on her way to FINCON so it was pretty generous of her to take the time to share her experience with me!
Adapt the advice to your organization and your boss
I knew that some of the advice I had gotten wasn’t exactly suited for my specific organisation or for the personality of the higher management. For example, I had received a lot of US specific data on teleworking so I did extra research to find some statistics applying to Canada.
Furthermore, in Js situation, she indicated that she got her whole team on board for the proposal. As for me, I knew that there was some worries that members on the team whose jobs weren’t exactly perfectly suited for full-time remote work might aim for that. Therefore I decided to include advice on how different remote work schedules or options could be adapted depending on the role requirements.
If you face rejection, keep doing a good job and stay open to other opportunity
I could have easily become gloomy and done a bad job when my initial proposal was rejected. Of course I was mad, especially knowing that my own manager was on board with the idea, but I dealt with that in my own way and on my own time (maybe with a little extra alcohol on Friday after finding out for example, hey I didn’t say I dealt with it in a healthy fashion just not in a detrimental way for my work).
I kept doing a good job, and started thinking about other ways that I could gain more freedom like thinking about doubling down on my side-hustles. Lucky for me, I didn’t have to wait long until I was allowed to make the request again.
If you aren’t as lucky, I would still highly recommend you keep up with great work while looking elsewhere for opportunity. Remote working is becoming more and more common. In fact, this 2017 survey showed that over 50% of worker report that they work outside the main office 2.5 days a week or more. With a bit of careful planning and research, you may be able to find an opportunity that allows you to work out of your home for at least some part of the week and have a great reference out of your current employer since you kept doing a good job.
What about you, do you work remotely occasionally or full-time? If not, is this an option that would interest you and do you think your employer would be open to it?
Want to know more about how I negotiated this work arrangement? I was recently interviewed on the FIRE Drill Podcast about this. You can read a bit about my experience appearing on the podcast, or click right ahead on the link below to listen to the full FIRE Drill Podcast episode: