What do employees really want? To escape the office.
Research from World at Work, a nonprofit human resources research group based in Scottsdale, Ariz., shows that more than one out of three employees are "very interested" in telecommuting at least part time.
The problem is that many don't know how to make it a reality. Despite the fact that 60 percent of employers offer informal teleworking programs, only 21 percent of the firms train managers and 17 percent train workers on how to make flexible work arrangements feasible. Successfully transitioning to remote working requires managers and employees to be on the same page. Here's how to make the leap.
The first step to eliminating your work commute is understanding your own job, says Christine Durst, co-founder of the teleworking training company Rat Race Rebellion and co-author of "Work at Home Now."
"You need to be realistic about the type of work that you do and whether or not it will translate easily to a home-based alternative," she says. "Is it realistic for you to even be asking your manager to consider (a remote-working option) or is it sort of a pie-in-the-sky dream for yourself?"
Durst recommends breaking down your job duties and evaluating what can be done remotely. Once employees understand how much of their job can be done outside the office, they're better equipped to plead their case to the boss.
Tory Johnson, CEO of the recruiting firm Women for Hire and co-author of "Will Work from Home," also advises those eyeing working from home to informally test out the arrangement before creating an official remote-working proposal. That can mean asking the boss if you can work from home for a few hours or taking a sick or vacation day to find out if you enjoy teleworking.
"Really force yourself to simulate what it would be like to work from home," she says, by setting up a home office situation that would mirror a telework arrangement.
Do the research
Before asking for a teleworking arrangement, bone up on your company's flexible work policy, and research if workers in other departments have flexible schedules. Leslie Truex, author of "The Work-at-Home Success Bible," also recommends checking out national studies on telework arrangements. In addition to saving the company overhead, real estate and office equipment costs, teleworkers are generally happier than office-based employees.
Those who teleworked at least three days per week had less conflict between their work and home life, less stress from workday interruptions, and ultimately greater job satisfaction than those who didn't, according to a study by Northwestern University and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee researchers.
"Happy employees tend to be much more productive, which is cost-efficient," says Truex. "They tend to take less time off. They're not tardy, they're not absent, they're not sick, which is also a way that maximizes what (companies are) paying for this employee."
Make a plan
Durst advises employees to make an airtight teleworking plan before approaching the boss. This should include an outline of why teleworking will benefit the company, a breakdown of tasks you can complete at home, ways your boss can monitor your productivity and a description of your future remote-working environment that details why you can be just as professional at your home office as at your current office.
"Provide your boss with a list of measurable goals against which he or she can gauge your performance. Suggest applications that will allow you to communicate with them very easily, whether it's online 'webinar' tools or conferencing tools," Durst adds. "If you have to, have a pager or backup communication method so your boss can rely on reaching you in the event of a systems failure."
To make the transition easier, Durst also recommends teleworking a few hours or one day per week for the first few months. If the arrangement works out, you might be able to ramp up your time away from the office.
Working from home comes with its own challenges. Teleworkers often contend with family or pet distractions, difficulty staying up-to-date on company projects, social isolation, and an inability to separate work from home life. To ensure success, Johnson recommends brainstorming ways to replace the perks that come with office life.
"How do you make up for (not being in the office)? How do you keep yourself motivated and engaged as opposed to becoming isolated?" she says. "That is everything from planning visits to the office; planning lunches with colleagues, peers or clients; planning breaks so that you're not locked in your home office 24/7."
Truex adds that new teleworkers should also be prepared to be evaluated differently than those immediately visible to the boss.
"No longer is (your performance) based on hours at your desk, but how much are you putting out, how much you are producing," she says.
But be advised that teleworkers who can't continue to make notable progress and achieve results run the risk of being forgotten. "A lot of times, out of sight is out of mind," says Truex.
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