Working remotely can be rewarding in many ways — you no longer need to commute, for example. Yet it can be challenging to remain focused, motivated, engaged, and professional at all times when you work from home. It’s something that you need to master if you are to consistently produce quality work, keep your boss happy, and keep your job.
Working from home isn’t just about turning in quality work, however. You need to work on the way your boss sees you, as well. What follows are mistakes that you may make on the way to proving to your boss that you’re committed and focused, and ways to avoid them.
You arrive late for meetings
Being tardy never works in your favor. When you’re physically at the office, however, it’s often understandable if you’re a few minutes late to meetings — it takes time to make your way to another part of the building for a meeting, or when someone stops you in the hallway with a question. When your meetings are on Zoom from home, on the other hand, you have no ready reason to be late. Tardiness costs the economy billions each year. In these tough financial times, managers tend to be sensitive to how lateness costs the company, and may judge you harshly for it. Being on time for meetings can help your image, and make you look like the hard worker that you are.
If you need to set alarms on your phone or computer to be reminded a few minutes before each meeting, you should do it. You can work out how much time you need to prepare for a meeting – get a cup of coffee, take a bathroom break, or anything else – and set the alarm to go off well enough in advance. It’s important to be realistic about how much time you need, to ensure that you’re never late.
You aren’t visibly at work at your computer
When you use a work laptop at home, or a personal machine that’s connected to the corporate network, it’s likely that your boss is able to monitor you. Employers often use keystroke tracking software, and software to detect activity on employee computers, to see how active they are on work-related email programs, applications, documents, and so on. If you only make sure to tap a couple of keys or move the mouse once every 15 minutes, it won’t help you look like a hard worker.
Even video conferencing apps like Zoom allow employers to keep track of how engaged remote employees are in a meeting. If you have the habit of zoning out during boring meetings on Zoom, your boss is likely to be aware of it. When your boss turns on the attendee attention tracking function on Zoom, they see an indicator that tells them when your Zoom window isn’t in focus on your computer. If you’ve done something like move away to Twitter or something else that’s fun, your boss will know.
Goofing off during work hours isn’t exactly safe behavior, because your employer has ways and means of learning about it. The smartest thing to do is to make a note of everything in your work environment that distracts you — the television, Facebook, your dog — and either work in a place where you don’t have these distractions, or make a rule about not giving in to temptation.
You don’t talk to your boss about the progress you make
You may work hard all day and make great progress on your goals, but if you don’t share updates about your progress with your boss, and they can’t actually see your work because you’re a remote employee now, they can’t help but think that you aren’t doing very well.
It’s important to keep your manager in the loop about what you do each day. You could either ask your boss about how often they would like to see reports or updates from you, or simply make a note of all the progress that you make over the course of the week, and send them your notes at the end of each week. You want your boss to see that you’re proactive, and supportive of their needs.
You don’t look professional
If you think that working at home means you can plop down in front of the computer in your pajamas, you would be wrong. Even if your boss and colleagues only see you through a webcam, they are still likely to use whatever they see to make judgments about how professional you are. If your clothes, your grooming, your surroundings, and the sounds they hear don’t inspire confidence, they are likely to think that you aren’t doing a good job.
While you may not need to put on your entire work outfit to work from home, it can help to wear fresh clothes, shave, and otherwise look presentable in whatever way you can. It’s also important to remember to smile often when you speak to your boss and your colleagues over Zoom — not smiling can make you look curiously detached.
Remote work will be a part of the professional environment for the foreseeable future. If you want to do well at remote work, you need to make sure that you are perceived as professional at all times. Being alert to the mistakes that are commonly made is an important way to stay ahead in the new work environment.