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A network / system engineers guide to convincing your manger to let your work from home

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A survey conducted by CNBC found that 43% of Americans work from home occasionally. Which is up 39% since 2012. A study conducted by Science Direct found that working from home increases creativity. This can be beneficial for network engineers who are trying to come up with a creative solution to discover new and creative solutions to increase network up times.

With rapid technology innovation including cloud software and SDN, it is no longer essential for network engineers to be in the office five days a week. Yet, most network engineers have little or no work from home options. 

By working with hiring managers, CIOs, and CTOs for the past 30 years I have learned how they view working from home for network engineers. I’ve also learned how to negotiate with your manager to let you work from home at least part of the time. 

When you break it down, it really comes down to 8 steps (9 steps in this corona virus effected market) to start the process of convincing your managers to let you work from home a couple days a week.

1. Demonstrate that you have a great space at home to work

Most of the time your boss is reluctant to let you work from home because they don’t think you will be as productive. A big part of being productive is where you’re working. Are you doing your work in the kitchen? Or working on your couch where your dog, kids or the TV can distract you? We all know it’s hard to be focused on work when your dog is barking, a TV is running or a family member keeps trying to talk to you.

You must demonstrate to your boss that you’re able to be productive at home by first showing them you have a dedicated spot to work. You need to be specific. If your manager asks “do you have a place to work at home?” Don’t just say “yeah of course.” Tell them the exact setup you have. For example, tell them you have a home office with two monitors that is away from your family and has a door that can lock.

But you don’t have to have a home office! It can be a spare bedroom or even a desk in your room. You just need to demonstrate that you have work space that is conducive for productivity.

2. Have a great internet connection

As a network engineer you obviously need a strong internet connection. When you’re in the office you’re most likely on one of the strongest internet connections as companies pay for “business internet package.” According to Verizon, business internet speeds tend to be two to five times faster than residential. Also, business internet contains more features and benefits such as, faster upload speeds and longer uptimes.

With that being said, why would an employer let you work from home if your internet is slower?

Because in the grand scheme of things home internet is not that slow. Tell your manager how fast your upload speed, download speed, what your bandwidth is, what your broadband is, the type of internet you use (ideally you want to be on a cable or fiber) and finally your latency. By citing this information to your manager this proves to them that you know you have fast enough internet connection. 

But how fast is fast enough?

For this answer you want to reach out to your internet service provider as each provider is slightly different. After you reach out you want to compare the difference between your home internet and your business internet. 

When you talk to your manager about this you can say something along these lines of “I have a very fast internet connection. I upgraded my plan that has x upload speed, x download speed, x bandwidth, x broadband and I have a wired connection to my work space.” 

It is important to note that you will probably want to consider upgrading your speed with your internet service provider to improve your ability to work from home. This may mean that you will be paying more per month for the internet, but by working from home a couple days a week you will be saving on gas, wear and tear to your car, and your time.

3. Be available and accessible at home

What if our network crashes and I can’t get a hold of you? 

This is a fear many managers have and a big reason why many managers don’t allow network engineers to work from home. The fear of them not being able to get a hold of you during a critical time. But there is a simple solution to this problem and it’s your job to convey this solution to your boss.

You need to show them that you’re just a short call away and you’re always easy to get a hold of. Your manager can do a screen or invest in online remote support software that allows you to take control of their computer from anywhere in the world. Perhaps a good exercise to prove this to your manager is the next time they need your help, have them reach out to you through a phone call instead of them walking over to you. Yes, you’re both in the office but the idea is to show them first hand that you don’t need to be talking with you in person to solve their networking issues in an efficient way.

4. Prove to your manager that you are just as, if not more, productive at home

Like in any profession, managers want their employees to be getting their work done efficiently and effectively. In the past this has required going into the office. However, with new cloud networking technology this is all changing. Now you have the technical ability to work from home, you have to prove to your manager that you are just as productive at home than at work.

But how do you do this? 

By knowing the key performance indicators (KPIs) that your manager manages you by. All network engineers are measured by their boss by some metrics. The most common form of KPIs in networking and system administration is network up time and network speed.

Side note, most of the network engineers that end up getting let go by their company aren’t meeting these KPIs. If you want to keep your job, hit your KPIs. If you want to grow your career, exceed your KPIs. 

It is your job to know what the KPIs your managers are tracking and ensure you are hitting each of them when working from home. Here is a little bonus tip too…you can find out what your boss is measuring you by and how to be successful within your company by asking them two questions.

  1. How do I become successful in my role?
  2. What metrics do I need to be hitting on a weekly and daily basis to be successful? 

These two questions will not only reveal the KPIs your manager is measuring you by but, like I said early, this will help you keep your job or grow your career.

5. Leverage the fact that you have done great work during COVID

COVID-19 has provided a unique opportunity to provide proof that you have been just as if not more productive when working from home. The virus has essentially forced employers to let network engineers work from home. Use KPIs that we talked about in the last section to demonstrate your abilities from home. As long as you can provide evidence that proves you have been just as productive if not more, it is logically hard for managers to reject your request. 

On the other hand, if you look at your KPIs and you were less productive you may want to hold off asking if you could work from home. Instead, when your employer allows you to go back to the office, make sure you are keeping track of your KPIs and doing good work. Then use the remaining steps in this article to let you work from home again.

6. Be flexible when asking

Always keep a reasonable mind when requesting to work from home. There is a transition process that takes place. Most employers don’t go from 100% working in the office to 100% working from home. This isn’t a reasonable request so don’t ask for it. 

You want to lean into it. Most network engineers that do the transition of working in the office to working from home start off working 1 to day at home. So start by asking for 1 or 2 days work from home and if your KPIs are good and you’re enjoying it, ask for more later.

7. Explain how much it will mean to you

Here is a little secret about managers, if you are a good network engineer they really do not want to lose you. I mean really do not want to lose you. Why? One of the biggest expenses in a company is replacing, recruiting and training new employees.

With that in mind, as a good network engineer you have a lot of power. You just do not want to go up to your boss and say something along the lines of “if I can’t work from home, I’m going to quit”. That shows the lack of flexibility and will to compromise. No one is going to be receptive to negotiation with someone like that.

Instead, you want to express to your employer that working from home would increase the length of tenure as this means a lot to you. You can start off by saying something that highlights how much you love working here and you want to stay here for a long time. This shows that you care about your company and work. You are just asking for them to give you a little flexibility so you can enjoy your non-work life more.

8. Consider taking a pay cut

Oftentimes, working from home comes at a monetary cost. But doing some simple math can take this fear away. For example, you are given the ability to work from home 90% for a pay cut of $5000. Now I know that can sound scary at first, but take into consideration that you’re saving money on gas, wear and tear, and you will have more time with your friends and family.

I’m not saying you want to mention this to your employer right away! But if working from home means that much to you consider taking a slight pay reduction. Depending on your commute, you might end up saving more money than your salary deduction was.

When it comes down to it…

Managers are mainly worried about two things when considering if they should have their network engineers work from home, can you work from home and still be productive? And, are you able to hit your KPIs? 

If you can prove to your manager that you’re able to do both, your chances of being able to work from home increase dramatically.

If you would ever like to explore opportunities in the area that offer work from home or how we can help you achieve greater work from home time, feel free to contact our team of recruiters here.

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