Q: I’ve been working from home for six months now. While I like a lot about it, I sometimes feel isolated. I also suspect I may miss out on opportunities in the future. About half the members of our team have returned to the workplace and I feel they could be stealing a march on me. Is there anything I can do now to ensure that I simply don’t fall ‘out of sight, out of mind’? (DD, email).
A: DD, you have articulated a common fear among people working away from the mother ship. This fear existed pre-pandemic when people thought that working in a sub-office could result in them being overlooked for promotional opportunities or felt that their efforts were not being properly noted.
Many companies are struggling to get on top of this new working-from-home reality, or variations on same. In some cases, managers themselves are now working from home and trying to get to terms with that, let alone figuring out how to deal with the challenges faced by their team members dispersed around the country or the globe.
Six actions to consider:
- Make sure you agree clear goals with your manager. Ultimately, achieving those goals is what matters. In an enlightened company, managers should not be preoccupied with the number of hours clocked in but rather on the output generated. In any job, it is important to know what amounts to success, and there must be very clear agreement between your manager and you on this.
- Be up front with your manager. Tell them that working from home changes your working hours or practices, if it does. You may have children arriving home, or other domestic issues to manage, and rather than trying to obscure these from your manager, let them know the reality. As in the case of point 1 above, there must be mutual understanding of the expectation in terms of your availability. It’s a new world. Flexibility is vital.
- Understand that building rapport with your colleagues and manager now takes longer than before. You don’t have those chance encounters, nor are you able to sidle into someone’s office to pick their brains or let them know about something. Could you arrange fixed times to speak to key people? Even ten minutes every few days could go a long way.
- Be strategic in how you use your time. Ensure that interminable online meetings don’t overwhelm your day. Sound familiar? Not every Zoom meeting has to last 40 minutes just because it can. Build a habit of shorter, sharper meetings – not unlike the ones I described in point 3.
- In terms of isolation, what do you miss about the workplace? Thursday evening drinks? Lunch with colleagues? Social outings? Can you replace those locally? Remember, there are many others in the same boat as you, possibly just living around the corner.
- Make sure the technology works for you. It can take time to adopt new technologies but there really is an extraordinary range of tools and devices out there to diminish that sense of isolation. Technology experts are predicting dramatic advances in this area in the years ahead to bridge the gap between home and work, home and home or indeed home, hub and office.
Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.
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