Work from Home with a Newborn: Tips for Talking to your Boss

This is Part 1 of a 3 Part series, work from home with newborns, which will discuss working from home when your kidsIMGP1267 are young.  I will be sharing my experience when I worked from home to help out with the family when our twins were born.  In this Blog I will look at our story and provide tips for talking to your boss.

Our Story

So………huh……………wow…………hmmm.  That was pretty much our conversation as we were driving home from the ultrasound after we had found out that we were now expecting twins.  We didn’t know where to start the conversation.  We were happy of course, but the news that our family was going to be 5 instead of 4 disorientated us for a while.  Once the initial shock wore off our thoughts turned to how we are going to manage looking after two babies as well as a 3-year old with our current schedule. Having our immediate family living out of town and having very little help close by was challenging with our first child and we knew it would much more difficult with our second, but now with twins……huh…………wow……….hmmm.  Over time we started to worry about it less and were convincing ourselves we would be OK with my current work schedule.  That was until we went to a ‘preparing for twins’ class.

While we thought that this class was going to tell us that everything will be OK and that we were on the right track, what it did instead was to reinforce our panic.  How are we going to do this?  How will we give the twins the care they need without ignoring our 3 year old?  How are we going keep some form of sanity?  Our search for ideas generated two options that we were comfortable with, I could take leave from work for the first 9 months (an option for fathers in Canada), or I could somehow convince my boss to allow me to work from home.  Not thinking there was much chance of the latter we went through the budget to find out if we could survive for 9 months on a partial salary.  We figured we could make it work but to be safe we called my parents to see if we could get an emergency loan if needed.  Once we had all the details of this backup plan in place I then turned to the ideal situation.

I was a bundle of nerves the day I went to discuss these options with my supervisors.  If I was to ask them to allow me to work from home, something that they had never allowed anyone else to do before, I had to be bluntly honest and to the point.  We were having twins, we were freaking out, and I had to change my current work schedule for my family’s sake.  I explained that I would have to take leave unless we could work something out. Essentially, in a very nice way, I gave them an ultimatum where they either had to cave to my request to work from home or have to replace me for 9 months.  I had built up a high level of trust with my boss and now I was going to find out if they were willing to set a precedent and have someone work from home – something large companies can be wary of.  To my surprise, after a couple of weeks of deliberating by the VP’s, it was agreed that I would be able to work at home for 14 months after our twins were born.

Tips for Talking to your Boss

  • Build up Trust – This should be something you have done since being employed regardless what your goals are.  It is important to be viewed by your employer as someone who is hard working, loyal, and dependable as you want the conversation to be about the details to how it will work, not about if you can be trusted with this responsibility.  If they do not trust you with giving your best effort within the office, you have no chance being able to work out of the office.
  • Be honest as to why you want to work from home.  In our case I explained that I needed to be close to home to help my wife during the chaotic times throughout the day.  You do not want to give the impression that there may be some other motive you are not disclosing.
  • Try to anticipate what their concerns will be and have the answers ready.
    • Technical requirements: what equipment do they have to provide so you can do your job as well as you would in the office?
    • Schedule:  When are you planning on getting your work done?  In our case I presented a 7 day work week with the weekend used if necessary to get caught up.  I will be talking more about schedules in the next blog in this series.
    • How acceptable will you be if you get called into work or to emergency meetings? How long will it take you to get there?
    • Are you willing to spend part of the week in the office?  I spent 2 afternoons a week where I could have face to face time with vendors and coworkers on the request of my boss.
  • Provide reasons why this scenario could benefit them.  In my case my schedule was going to include working during non business hours where I could work more efficiently without distractions.  As well, it locks you into a position that you are good at during the time you are working from home since you are less likely to look for other opportunities.
  • Prepare for rejection – In my case I knew exactly what I would do if they said no.
  • Be flexible – They may want to do a trial period or allow you to work only part time away from the office.  If they are open to the idea than negotiate with them but you may have to deviate from your original hope.  I was hoping to keep my schedule completely open and only come in when meetings came up.  I agreed to work in the office every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon.
  • If accepted make it your mission to prove that this was a good decision and show them that your productivity is as good if not better than it was when you worked at the office.

Part 2 in this series will focus on the importance of making a realistic schedule when working from home, especially when you are to help out with the family

Part 3 in this series will look at the advantages and disadvantages of working from home.

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