Teleworking is amazing. My commute is short. My chair never needs readjusting and there is never the threat that someone else may walk into my cube and abscond with my favorite pen. My coffee is always fresh. And for me, what I love the most, is that I can listen to whatever music I want to while I work.
Often, I’m up before 6am, logged into my work laptop checking my emails, verifying my calendar and cleaning up any loose ends. Often, I stay logged in until well after 5pm finishing up projects. I’m a workaholic. I work on vacation. When I’m not working, I’m looking for work. I love it, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
But sometimes, I get a little wrapped up and I don’t make contact with the outside world.
This habit that we studious home workers have – head down, nose buried in our work – is why people believe that we are actually not working. Odd isn’t it? Those habits we have that make us great workers, are the reasons why we are perceived (on occasion) as slackers. Here are three things we can do to help deflect this perception.
I’m guilty of this one. I try to limit it to first thing in the morning. If I were working in the office, I would be checking in at lunch, maybe on my breaks. But when working at home, no one thinks you are posting while on your break. They think you are posting instead of working. It’s our lovely little friend “perception” popping in again. Already, there is a cultural perception that work-at-homes take advantage of this amazing opportunity, largely in part to highly publicized scandals (thank you US Patent & Trademark Office) and twinges of jealousy. Don’t reinforce this by posting on Facebook multiple times during the day – even if you are a workaholic!
I don’t mean to simply say hello or socialize, though welcoming people to the office in the morning is a good touch. I use Microsoft Lync to keep in touch or to let people know when I’m away from my desk. I always use the “Be Right Back” when I need to step away from my desk. If people message you or telephone you – instead of sending an email – it’s usually because they need a fairly quick response. What happens if you don’t respond within 5 minutes? 15? Half an hour? The perception is that you are not at your desk or paying attention to your work. If you put up that “Be Right Back” sign then they will be more understanding and won’t grow frustrated waiting for you.
If you have a “Busy” sign up and they still message you, that’s another story.
If you have a phone call on your work phone, answer it if you are available. (And if you are like me, and you silence it during conference calls and trainings – take it off silent mode as soon as you’re out!) If you are usually on the phone (I conduct two hour phone trainings quite often) get caller ID, and call them back as soon as you can. Advise them of what you were doing… this is the perfect opportunity to remind them you are a busy workaholic! And, if you have an email you need to research, let them know you are researching it. Don’t wait until you have all of the information – three days later.
Your boss needs to know how you are doing. Set up a habit for a weekly wrap-up – asked for or not. Advise of any obstacles that you see coming up or anything that might have gotten in the way during the past week. If you have team members who report to you, let them know if you’re going to be out during the week, and ask them how they are doing. Reach out to important stake holders on your projects advise them how things are going. A quick email that everything is on track, or simply asking them if there is anything new, is a great way to keep ahead of any changes and to let people know you are working hard. People assume no news is bad news.
The trick here is to make sure that mindful updates are a part of your regular schedule. Typically what has a tendency to happen is we go quiet when we are up against a deadline. We focus all of our energy in getting the project done. If you have a habit of sending out status reports, you will remember to lift your head up from your work and make contact. And, if you’ve established a pattern, they will wait for your update rather than bothering you when you need the time the most!
How do you make sure people don’t think you are slacking when working from home? Share your tip below!