On a typical day in the Atlanta suburbs, Carly Williams drops off 9-year-old Luke and 7-year-old Morgan at school, returns home and hops on the phone to start her day as PwC's national campus recruiting leader. If she's training for a half marathon, she'll squeeze in a long run during lunch. In the afternoons, she and her husband take turns shuttling the kids to baseball practice or gymnastics classes.
Carly’s position is demanding and career-fulfilling. Her job is also completely remote, giving her more flexibility to volunteer in the classroom or pick up an unexpectedly sick kid from school.
More and more companies, including almost all of the Working Mother 100 Best Companies, are offering or arranging these kinds of work-from-home positions. A 2017 Gallup report on the changing workplace found that, among employees who work remotely at all, the percentage who do so full-time rose to 20 percent in 2016 from 15 percent in 2012. Jobs with flexible, remote options have become a valuable tool for recruiting and retaining talented employees. And letting employees work from home can be good for business.
Still, work-from-home jobs with good pay and benefits tend to fly under the radar. Most of these positions aren’t advertised as remote jobs, though some companies might use language such as “location flexible” or expect you to negotiate for work-from-home status. But while permanent, full-time remote positions might be hard to come by, they are out there—that’s why we dug deep at some of our 100 Best Companies to find out who the remote workers are, how they got their jobs and how you can get one too.
How to Get a Work-From-Home Job at PwC
Six years ago, the accounting firm introduced a flexible-work policy, allowing employees to choose their own hours and locations. The schedule and work site have to work for their managers and clients, but to take advantage, “you don’t have to be here for a certain number of years,” says Anne Donovan, PwC’s people innovation leader. “You just have to be able to do your job from wherever you are.” The practice has paid off: Employees are more satisfied with their jobs, and the company has saved 30 percent on real estate—despite rising property costs—because it no longer needs as much office space.
TIP: Don’t be afraid to ask.
PwC had not yet rolled out its flexible-work policy when Carly returned from maternity leave in 2010. She had just taken on a new national role as PwC’s diversity and inclusion recruiting director. Her boss was based in Washington, DC, she was based in Atlanta, and her colleagues were spread throughout the United States. She realized she was commuting 40 minutes each way to the office only to connect with her team by phone and email. A few months into it, she raised the possibility of working from home full-time to her boss, who agreed. “There are a lot of pros that people might not see, so don’t be afraid to ask,” Carly says.
TIP: Do your homework.
When Carly returned to the office after maternity leave, she reached out to other working mothers at the company for advice. Her colleagues used a variety of flexible scheduling and location policies, which encouraged her to ask her boss about altering her work setup.
TIP: Start small.
Offer a trial period, and take baby steps. Both you and your manager need to adjust to not interacting with each other in the office regularly. “It’s all about trust in the beginning,” Carly says. She began working remotely a few days a week before ramping up to full-time.
TIP: Pay it forward.
If you land a remote job, be open and share your experience with others. One of the most powerful forces in increasing the acceptance and availability of remote and flexible jobs is knowing that your managers or colleagues have done it too. “People appreciate the honesty,” says Carly, who now oversees a team of about 100 recruiters, some of whom are also remote. She will often share with them if she’s, say, stepping out to attend her child’s art show in the middle of the day. She likes to show “we have a life outside of what we do.”
How to Get a Work-From-Home Job at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ
This health insurer shifted to a more flexible strategy about five years ago, upgrading its infrastructure so employees could access data securely and remotely. Now, 25 percent of staffers work from home part-time, and 15 percent do so full-time. Many of its nurses, for instance, respond to member calls from home, and can start doing so once they’ve gone through the company’s training program. “They feel it gives them the ability to be really focused on the member because they don’t have the distraction of the office around them,” says a spokesperson from Horizon’s human resources department. The bulk of its claims are also processed by employees off-site—to the tune of 20 percent more volume since the transition.
TIP: Build a strong relationship with your manager.
Often, it will be your direct supervisor’s call. She or he must feel comfortable with a remote arrangement and, if necessary, seek the approval of those at higher levels.
For Washington, DC-based project manager Laura Lawlor, it was her boss who proposed a remote setup. Laura was married in 2005 and needed to relocate because of her husband’s work. She planned to quit her job at Horizon, based in Newark, NJ, and find a new position. Instead, her manager suggested that she work remotely part of the time, and commute to Horizon’s New Jersey offices on the other days. Because they had a positive relationship, Laura’s manager knew that she could complete her work no matter where she was. About two years later, after she had a baby (son Donovan, now 10; she also has a daughter, Casey, 7), Laura arranged to be completely remote and to work part-time. “We had a level of trust and understanding, which helped,” she says.
TIP: Present a convincing business case.
Laura had years of institutional knowledge and a deep network within the company. By keeping her, the company wouldn’t have to train a new employee and risk disruption. “I laid out to my manager what I could bring to the table, and how it would benefit Horizon,” she says. “I highlighted how I knew the project, and that I wanted to make sure it kept going.”
Her boss agreed. Since then, Laura has increased her hours to almost full-time as her responsibilities have intensified. But she continues to work from home. “If you’re doing good work, you’re doing good work,” she says. “It doesn’t matter if you are down the hall or in another state.”
How to Get a Work-From-Home Job at Zoetis
Elisabeth (Misha) Castillo’s remote inside sales position at Zoetis was made possible because both her direct manager and her regional manager wanted to find a way to keep her at the animal-health company. In late 2015, her husband, who is a master sergeant in the U.S. Army, was transferred to Fort Bragg, NC. At the time, Misha had a held-based sales position, in which she was responsible for about 100 clients as the senior territory business manager for Tampa, FL. “My office was my car,” says Misha, mother of Yasmeen, 5, Lenin, 3, and newborn Lincoln. That changed after she and her family moved. Her manager arranged for her to transfer to a new inside sales position, and to allow her to work remotely from her new home in North Carolina.
Currently, five of the department’s 30 salespeople work remotely, and Misha is one of them. “Now I work at a desk in my home office and speak to customers on the phone,” she says.
TIP: Be known for doing good work.
Network with others in your company, and make sure they know about your accomplishments. Their support for you could help sway your manager or your company’s top brass to give your proposed full-time at-home work arrangement the green light.
Zoetis’ management made the effort to accommodate Misha since she had a strong track record, hitting her sales goals year after year. During her tenure—almost a decade at Pfizer and its Animal Health business unit before the latter became Zoetis in 2013—she had gotten to know the company’s executives.
“They knew my work ethic. They knew what I was able to accomplish.” The company didn’t want to lose her, so they found a new role for her that could continue to tap into her sales skills. Says Roxanne Lagano, chief human resources officer at Zoetis: “Our philosophy is if we’ve got good people who are doing a great job for the company, we will make arrangements so they can continue working for us. If that means having these remote arrangements—and this happens most frequently for working mothers—we will accommodate those.”
How to Get a Work-From-Home Job at Astellas
At this pharmaceutical company, remote employees and their managers create a schedule aligned with their personal goals and the company’s performance goals, which are evaluated semiannually. That way, both the company’s objectives and the employee’s needs are met, says Rod Christmon, Astellas’ senior director of human resources and diversity and inclusion officer.
TIP: Show how you’d make it work.
Set up metrics that can demonstrate that you’re staying on track. This will give your manager confidence that you will continue to hit your goals, be available for meetings, and respond to calls and messages. (That includes making sure you have dependable childcare lined up.)
When working from home doesn't work
Unfortunately, not all companies are on board with full-time remote-job arrangements. Some have pulled back because they believe that their employees could benefit from more face-to-face interactions. In 2013, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, in her bid to turn the company around, famously demanded that remote employees report back to the office. (In June, Yahoo was acquired by Verizon and Mayer resigned.)
Earlier this year, IBM, a longtime champion of remote work, requested that some of its employees return to its offices, citing the changing nature of how colleagues can best work together. “We have a variety of work environments for different roles and teams,” the company said in a statement. “IBM’s strategy is about adopting the best work method for the work being done. For example, small, multidisciplinary teams of engineers, coders, project managers and designers work in close proximity, often directly with clients or end-users, continually generating and refining ideas.” It added that tens of thousands of IBM employees continue to work from home and that it still believes in flexible-work practices.
Remote employees should always be aware that companies can reverse policies at their discretion. And employees should also know that at some point, they might have to return to the office if they wish to be promoted or become a manager or supervisor—or if their performance drops. Work-from-home positions aren’t necessarily forever, but then again, the time might come when you don’t want to be remote anymore either.
Getting hired as a remote worker
Last summer, furniture manufacturer Herman Miller told Working Mother that about 17 percent of its 57 open jobs were designated for full-time remote workers. The positions included talent recruiter, workplace-knowledge consultant, helpdesk technician and sales-operations manager. But Ann Noe, the company’s inclusiveness and corporate diversity senior program manager, says these jobs aren’t labeled as “remote” in the listings. So how can you tell if a job you’re interested in can be done remotely?
Noe points out that her company’s remote job listings often mention a home-office requirement. It’s also possible that although a job might not be listed as remote, it could be negotiated with an employer that already has such arrangements. Still, a director of human resources for one of the 100 Best Companies advises against broaching the matter right away during a first meeting. “I would do well in the interview first,” she says. Then, if you move far enough along in the process to meet with human resources, you can ask if the role could be eligible for a remote arrangement, either after you’ve gone through training or after you’ve proved yourself to your manager. (The caveat: If the job’s location is a deal breaker, you need to be upfront about that.)
Employers will be more open to a work-from-home scenario for someone with a unique specialty, says Zoetis’ Roxanne Lagano. Remote employees at her company include scientists, research and development staff, sales representatives and an employee in its tax division. Zoetis doesn’t recruit for specific remote positions, but “we look for the right talent for our organization, and sometimes that means people work from a distance,” says Lagano. She estimates that happens about 5 to 10 percent of the time.