Q: I work remotely but most of my colleagues are office based. How can I overcome the perception that I'm not working as hard as them - especially when it couldn't be more wrong?
A: Hybrid teams can be tricky for a lot of reasons, but this topic is definitely near the top of the list. Traditional office environments have trained managers to measure productivity by evaluating visual criteria, such as counting the number of “heads down” focused on work.
Breaking this habit will require effort from both the employee and the manager. All team members need to shift their mentality away from physical metrics (like the number of seats filled at a meeting, or seeing employees “burn the midnight oil”) and toward performance-based progress that revolves around the 7 essential skills of remote workers. Focusing on the process of collaboration instead of the workflow will help managers better evaluate the productivity of each employee, regardless of location.
Theoretically, that’s a great suggestion, but what does it look like in action? Here are some tips for remote workers to communicate their value without overworking or brown-nosing:
Be Active - Consider where you, your boss, and your team cross paths, and invest in those points. If it’s conference calls, dial in a minute or two early and greet participants as they call in. On Slack? Comment often and throughout the day to remind others that you’re “around” and accessible. No matter where you’re interacting with your team, don’t hide in the shadows. Always respond quickly and speak up without being prompted.
Build Relationships - Channel your inner Carnegie to win some friends. Trust me, no one is going to forget that you are a member of the team if you’re mailing them handwritten birthday cards, optimistically encouraging the team to stay motivated during a slump, or are sincerely asking about someone’s family, pet, or hobby.
Speak Wisely - When it comes to virtual collaboration, always focus on quality, not the quantity, of communication. Make sure that you’re being very open and transparent about your wins, as well as your blocks. Articulate assignments, ask questions, and offer ideas and suggestions. Don’t fall into the trap of sending 15 irrelevant emails to your boss throughout the day to prove that you’re still engaged - that’s when your team will start to tune you out.
Okay, managers, now it’s your turn. How can you tell which of your team members are putting in great effort without ever looking at a time card?
Track Progress - Implement a daily standup ritual when team members can report on their progress. Watch for team members to be consistently meeting (or exceeding) their goals and taking strong initiative without trying to overshadow their teammates.
Evaluate Output - As much as possible, take your hands off the process. Regardless of their location, earn the trust of your employees by giving them the creative freedom and logistical space they need to work at their own pace and use their own methods. At the end, compare the results of each employee’s work to the criteria, deadline, and goals that you provided at the beginning of the project.
Reward Skills - Include the 7 essential skills of remote workers in all of your tracking and reporting rituals. Developing these characteristics will not only help your employees thrive in their roles and feel connected to their team, but also allow you to supervise the professional development of individuals whether they are five feet or five countries away.