As more Canadian property and casualty insurance professionals shift to a hybrid workplace, it will be important for remote workers to remain visible while the rest of their colleagues are in the office.
To be viewed as a valued team member, workers should overdeliver to guard against the negative assumptions that come with remote work, a marketing strategist and professional speaker wrote in a recent blog.
“It’s true that the previous stigma against [working from home (WFH)] has decreased markedly during the pandemic, as many knowledge workers had the opportunity to try it for themselves,” Dorie Clark wrote in a blog posted to Harvard Business Review Friday. “But it’s also probable that leaders may revert to their past frame of reference once they’re back in the office — namely, that employees they can’t directly monitor may well be goofing off. That’s why it’s essential for remote workers to overindex on creating perceptions of rock-solid reliability.”
This may include reinforcing that you’re meeting or exceeding deadlines, Clark wrote in Staying Visible When Your Team Is in the Office… But You’re WFH. For example, if your manager has asked you to write a time-sensitive report, you could send it over early “so that we have more time to make revisions if necessary,” Clark used as an example. But this stops being effective if used too often, so use sparingly!
For those who plan to work remotely full-time or most of the time, it’s important to stay visible, particularly since in-office colleagues are likely to have far more exposure to the boss, as well as access to casually transmitted information that could prove useful to their careers and promotional opportunities.
Besides overdelivering, here are three other key strategies that can help remote workers maintain their visibility and strong reputation, even when measured against co-workers who are putting in more face time at the office.
Ensure you’re easy to work with
As a remote worker, you’re never going to be as accessible as someone sitting 10 feet away who the boss can grab when a question arises or a new idea pops into their head — so you’ll need to make yourself easy to work with in other ways.
It’s valuable to have an explicit conversation about your manager’s communication preferences. Do they find phone calls to be the most efficient way to connect? Or are they a fan of email or text messages? Make sure you understand how — and when — they expect to be able to reach you, how they’d prefer that you contact them, and their assumptions around response time, including during nights and weekends.
“You’ll be far more successful if you understand, and honour, their desired communication style, even if it’s not your natural preference,” wrote Clark, who also teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. “Your goal is to minimize friction in their ability to connect with you when needed.”
As well, even if your boss hasn’t requested it, it’s useful to suggest a regular (perhaps weekly) one-on-one check-in meeting, ideally on video. That ensures you’ll have at least a small amount of direct contact every week, including an opportunity to ask questions, clarify expectations, and keep your boss updated on your progress.
Fight against the pull toward transactional relationships
Colleagues working together in an office have plenty of opportunities, from elevator rides to water cooler encounters, to develop a low-key, ambient awareness of each other’s lives (everything from where they last vacationed to what their favourite sports teams are).
That information isn’t essential to performing your job, of course, so it’s easy to overlook its importance. But it provides a form of “social glue” that enables you to connect with colleagues beyond the purely transactional format of Zoom calls discussing a particular project or account.
Research has shown that online negotiations are far more likely to be resolved successfully when participants share personal information with one another and thereby create a bond, rather than sticking to “just the facts,” Clark said. “Similarly, a colleague who feels a personal connection to you is almost certainly more likely to advocate for you when you’re not in the room, or volunteer to help you even when it’s not convenient, as compared to someone with whom you have a more distant relationship.”
As a remote worker, think hard about how to engineer these connections. You’ll likely have to be the initiator, whether you decide to invite colleagues for one-on-one video chats or host a virtual networking event. “But the effort is worth it, given the powerful impact of social connections on both your reputation at work and your ability to do your job successfully.”
Make yourself physically visible
Where geographically feasible, try to come into the office occasionally to meet with colleagues and ensure, particularly with new hires with whom you don’t have a previous history, that they can “put a face to the name,” Clark wrote.
Even if office culture permits online meetings with the video camera turned off, make a point of keeping yours on and ensuring your face is well-lit, with a professional backdrop, Clark recommended. While this may seem like a minor point, “this is the only way you’re connecting with colleagues, so you need to be hypervigilant about how you’re presenting yourself,” she said.
The risk when working from home is that your contributions fade into the background until the point when your boss and colleagues feel that you’re no longer essential to the company, Clark wrote. But by staying visible, you can ensure that “you’re viewed as a valued contributor who makes a significant impact on your team’s success.”