If you decide you’d like to try working from home, you know the usual advice: schedule a meeting with your supervisor, and ask to try it one day a week.
But which day?
For most people, the default answer is “Friday,” which makes sense. Your manager knows that Friday is less productive than, say, Tuesday. People schedule fewer meetings. Therefore, it’s less of a risk.
But there are reasons not to automatically ask for Friday. First, asking for any specific day negates much of the magic of working from home. What if Thursday has fewer meetings this week? What if you really need to crank something out on Tuesday for a Wednesday deadline, and your office has way too many distractions? Rather than negotiating for any specific day, getting permission to work from home when you need to is a much better benefit.
But, if you are going to ask for a specific day, keep this in mind. Some research finds that people who telecommute are less likely to be promoted. One possible reason? When you work from home on Friday, people may believe you’re cutting out early for the weekend. They may be right. It’s human nature to start in on the errands, especially if you’re pretty sure everyone at the office is wasting time on Facebook. Asking for a “peak” day--Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday--shows that your request is about productivity. You’ll work more hours without the commute, and you’ll get more done without distractions. It’s not about scoring a long weekend.
Alissa Williams, an assistant director at a library, negotiated to work from home on Thursdays. Enough staff work on Thursdays that she usually doesn’t need to man the desk. Working from home gives her peace and quiet to select books and plan programming. Then she can bring these big ideas back to the library. “I like going back in on Fridays to finish the week and make it feel complete,” she says. “Overall it’s worked really well for both my employer and myself during the past two and a half years.”
That’s the argument against Friday. As for the particular upside of Wednesday, consider this: Studies of happiness find that commuting ranks at the absolute bottom of the human experience. If your commute is much longer than average, you’re inviting even more misery into your life. By working from home on Wednesdays, you’re never more than two days from respite.
That’s why Sharon Glazer, who works at an academic medical center in Massachusetts, regularly chooses Wednesdays as her one day per week to work from home. “I have a one-hour commute (45 miles) each way, which is why I negotiated for a work-at-home day when I was hired,” she says.
“Wednesdays are good because I like to break up the week. Although I am working, my day is so much more relaxed, not to mention two hours shorter, that it’s like a mini-weekend.” She can see her personal trainer at 8 a.m. and be working at nine--when she normally starts. Having just two “mini-weeks” on each side of her work-at-home day makes even a horrible commute bearable.