Four ways to keep working from home when the boss wants you back
Boston — As offices reopen, some companies are letting workers decide when — or whether — to return.
A recent CBS News poll showed that 60% of employees want to keep working remotely, at least part time. But doing so can lead to anxiety. If you’re not in the office every day, will it start to become an issue? We asked experts for advice on how to ensure that a hybrid arrangement can continue to benefit you — and be valuable to bosses.
- Manage perceptions. “As a prospective member of the hybrid workplace, you want to distinguish between actual hours in the office and perception of presence and engagement,” says Alexandra Samuel, co-author of Remote, Inc.: How to Thrive at Work ... Wherever You Are. “They’re different things.” Samuel suggests spending 10 or 15 minutes answering important messages first thing in the morning, while your colleagues are starting their commute. “That extends the workday and can shorten feedback cycles and make people value you as somebody who’s out of the office,” she says. “It also creates the perception that you’re always working, always responsive.”
- Provide frequent progress reports. Get into a rhythm of providing short updates on your work. It shows colleagues what you’re getting done, “which is almost certainly going to outpace what they can do in the office,” Samuel says. The trick is to keep the check-ins concise. “You’re giving them quick, constant visibility on your work without burdening them with rambling e-mails.” When you send those e-mails, take care with how you come across. It can feel different to get an e-mail that says, “Sure!” and one that says, “Sure ...” As Erica Dhawan writes in her new book, Digital Body Language: How to Build Trust & Connection, No Matter the Distance, things such as punctuation, typos, and even the speed of your response take on outsize importance when the words are divorced from your physical presence. In general, e-mails seem colder than the author intends them to, so warm yours up.
- Find time for feedback. “Leaders are going to have to work extra hard to provide feedback regularly” to remote employees, says Tsedal Neeley, a professor at Harvard Business School and author of Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding From Anywhere. If your bosses don’t do that, take the initiative. Check in weekly and book time on their calendars for deeper quarterly conversations. This can prevent two related problems: assuming everything is fine because you haven’t heard from your boss, and worrying things are going badly because you haven’t heard from your boss.
- Set clear goals and performance metrics. “If you’re working on the basis of, ‘Make good use of 9 to 5,’ it’s amorphous, and you’re chained to your desk all day,” says Samuel. Once you have clear goals and metrics, manage your time to achieve them. Document your progress: When a colleague or client compliments your work, save that e-mail; build a file compiling all the great work you’ve achieved from home. When it’s time for that midyear performance review, you’ll be prepared.
Bloomberg Businessweek. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com.
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