“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.” Benet Wilson, writer and entrepreneur
It’s not the work environment you expected, but it is the work environment you’ve got. Your career goals and aspirations haven’t changed, so how do you stay on track? How do you stand out while fitting in, and differentiate yourself, while working remotely?
- Be available for your manager. In a normal office environment (circa six months ago, but it feels much longer!), your boss would simply come find you at your workstation when she needed something. Perhaps to say, “We have an important client who’s upset. I have to hop on a call, so please handle it.” But when working remotely, your boss is still counting on you, but now you’re not as easy to find since you’re not down the hall. Can she find you? Make it easy for her by monitoring your email, text, and phone messages more frequently in this virtual environment. That’s not to say you should be on call 24/7 — of course not — but recognize that, to nail this working remotely thing, being gettable is important. Doing so adds a sense of normalcy for your manager – you can still be depended upon, just like you could be in the office.
- Be fully present in every virtual meeting you attend, whether audio or video, and engage. Do not try to multitask! Engage just as if it was an in person meeting. There is a psychological barrier to speaking in a virtual environment (to some it seems more daunting to step up and grab the Zoom floor than it does to speak in the usual back-and-forth of an in-person discussion). Be aware of this barrier and overcome it. Help the person running the meeting – perhaps your boss – by putting yourself out there. Give the kind of enthusiastic participation you would appreciate if you were running the meeting.
- Think quality versus quantity of your insights. As you participate (see above), seek to ensure that your virtual meeting contributions are pithy and advance the discussion. It is the quality of what you say that counts, and not the quantity. Don’t speak just to speak; speak because you have something meaningful to say! Just as someone who never says anything will be noticed for their lack of contribution, so too the person who dominates the discussion and doesn’t give others a chance to be heard will be noticed, and not in a good way. If you are an extrovert by nature, be on guard to make sure that as you make your points you don’t do so in a domineering way. Introverts will have an even harder time speaking up on Zoom than they do in person – give them a chance too.
- Be a bridge. Pay attention to who is missing from virtual meetings and from email chains, and be the one to ensure that colleagues – both managers and peers – are informed. Oversights happen, and virtual meetings sometimes conflict just as office meetings do. A key person might be forgotten on an invite or be been unavailable. Pay attention and be the communication bridge when needed. If you notice beforehand that someone needs to be invited or copied who isn’t, inform the meeting or email originator in real time so that he or she can proceed (or not) accordingly. If the oversight isn’t noticed until the meeting or until the email has been sent, be the one to remedy the situation. Say Bill, the technical lead, would normally have been on the call. Send Bill the meeting notes or client summary after the meeting. Don’t assume someone else will. Think about who should be informed and send them what they need to know. Recipients will appreciate that you looked out for them. And should you manager learn of it from others, he or she will too. Being a communication bridge is simply another way you add value.
- Stay in touch with your boss. Did you speak with your boss today? Likely there are more days in a virtual environment where you do not speak with your boss than there were in an office environment. She probably does not know what you’re up to today. So tell her and keep her informed. Send an “FYI – No Reply Needed” email saying what you worked on – or will work on – today. Here is what I did today, and this is the information or these are the situations you need to know about. This client is angry, this is how I diffused it, and this is what I plan to do next. This client called to say “well done” – and thought you would want to know. Your objective is to ensure that your manager is never surprised, especially in a bad way. She is informed, which may in turn help her with her boss. And she knows that you are fully engaged and rocking working remotely, just like you did at the office. Consider ending your email with “Happy to clarify or respond if you have questions.”
It’s a new, virtual, world out there. Successful business professionals adapt to change. Make sure that includes you!