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November 25, 2013 7:38 PM   Subscribe

How to tell a company I’d like to telecommute? Should I take the job if they don’t agree to it?

In early summer I quit a job on the East Coast at a company I hated and moved in with my partner to a flyover state. Months passed and I was not able to find a job here (I’m in a relatively high-skills, fairly narrow technical field; I’m not really willing to be doing something very different.). There are some companies that allow for telecommuting, but so far I have not been able to land a job at any of them. In early November I decided that I need to start looking outside of the immediate area, and sure enough I now have a job offer from a company back on the East Coast, with the understanding that it’s based out of the office there (when asked about moving back I did give them something vague how I’d be ready to move, circumstances have changed, my partner can telecommute probably etc., etc.). However, after thinking about it for some time, I came to the realization that I quite like my new home state and would much rather not move (no traffic, I made some friends, and my relationship is going great). The company is used to people telecommuting – in fact, more than half of the people I interviewed with were by phone. The job is a good match for my skills, would definitely be a great challenge, and I’m sure I’d learn a lot, but it’s not a dream job and would be a slight detour from the path I’ve been on previously (i.e. it’s unclear to me, if having had this job would make me more or less marketable should I wish to return to my previous career).

I’m talking to the hiring manager again in the next week or so – is it reasonable to ask if they were willing to rethink the office presence requirement? If so, how exactly do I bring it up? I’m trying to avoid the impression that I lied to them during my interviews (although I guess I did...) Is it prudent to take the job no matter what they say vs. potentially face another many months of unemployment? I can handle the unemployment financially, but it’s been extremely difficult for me mentally. While my partner is open to moving, it’s not going to be possible for them in the next year or so.
posted by Dotty to Work & Money (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Is it prudent to take the job no matter what they say....

How would that work? You aren't moving, right? So, you can't take the job if they need you there in the office. Honestly, I think you should keep looking. Now that you have widened your circle, perhaps you can open your mind to other local opportunities.

Why is it so important that you telecommute? Often that is a perk given to known quantities, such as a long-time employee. It's still rather unusual for people to telecommute despite all the media suggesting otherwise.

I think you should be up front with this employer, especially as it's not your dream job. "You know, I've thought about relocating back to [your area] but have decided against it, would you ever consider hiring me as a telecommuter?" Keep in mind that you may need to travel from time to time to put in face time and they may not offer that as a paid benefit. And if you're unwilling to do that then this just isn't the right fit, end of story. Let someone else take this job and find something that suits you better.
posted by amanda at 7:58 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

In a lot of companies you need to earn trust before you can work remotely f/t. Maybe you can talk to the hiring manager about setting up a schedule where you would be on-site for X weeks month for the first Y months. The important thing is to get the schedule in your employment contract.
posted by askmehow at 8:13 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm also confused as to whether or not you are planning to move for this job. It's tricky because you did tell them you'd be relocating, and it will be even trickier if your manager is in that office. If I were in your position, I'd still ask the hiring manager to reconsider. You may have a chance if the office culture is pro WFH.

It still might be possible to go remote at some point in the near future. In my case, I started a new job at my company the last week of August. The team was entirely distributed, but my manager wanted me to stay in the office. She said she wanted me to be more comfortable in my new role. She let me go to 3 days WFH at the end of September. My husband is job hunting now, and she told me last week that she'd be fine with me working fully from home if we need to relocate.

(If you do anything related to data analytics, data warehousing, or insurance IT, send me a PM and I can point you to two companies that do a lot of remote staffing)
posted by smalls at 10:30 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Bring it up early in the next interview. Here's how I'd frame this.

When I applied I anticipated that my partner would telecommute, but that's not feasible. I'm very interested in this position, but would need to telecommute from FlyoverState. I could handle a few weeks of on-site work to get acclimated, but after that I'd need to transition to working from my home state. Is that something realistic or should we end the interview process now? I don't want to waste your time if we can't find a fit due to geographic constraints.

Ask. If it's a no, at least you told them before you got to the offer stage.
posted by 26.2 at 10:44 PM on November 25, 2013 [17 favorites]

I'd call the HR recruiter and/or hiring manager and explain using 26.2's script.

Better to 'fess up now than to get any further down the road. You don't want this to look like a bait and swtich.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:42 AM on November 26, 2013

You got an offer to work on the east coast in person. IF you don't want to do that, you probably aren't getting the job, but you can ask.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:12 AM on November 26, 2013

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