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Summary:

One of the biggest challenges of corporate web working is being able to demonstrate that you are at least as productive while working at home or in a remote office as you would be sitting in a cubicle where everyone can see you at work.

One of the biggest challenges of corporate web working is being able to demonstrate that you are at least as productive — if not more so –  while working at home or in a remote office as you would be sitting in a cubicle where everyone can see you at work. This is easier to do at companies where performance is really based on results, but you still need to be able to demonstrate those results.

The harsh reality in many working situations is that unless you do some bragging to your boss about your amazing results, she may never notice the great work that you do. Your manager has multiple people who work for her and she probably has some special projects of her own, so her ability to keep track of you is limited and she may miss things — especially if you work remotely.

Many people feel uncomfortable bragging about how amazing they are, but modesty has no place when it comes to discussions with your manager. You don’t need to go too over the top, but you will need to spend time educating your manager about what you do, and there are a few good ways to do this.

Regular Status Meetings

I meet with my manager every other week to talk about my work, and I take the time to prepare an agenda in advance of each meeting. The scheduled meeting acts as way to make sure that we remember to talk regularly, and the prepared agenda helps us stay on track to talk about the most important items. My agenda usually includes the following:

  • Updates and reviews for any big projects where we talk about status and go over any big deliverables.  In this section, I’ll show her my work and review any tangible work (presentations, documents, etc.)
  • Areas of focus for the past two weeks. This is where I talk about how I’ve been spending my time and the big items that I’ve been working on. I usually pick the top four or five items to talk about and include mentions of ongoing work in addition to the big projects.
  • Areas of focus for the next two weeks. These are the things that I plan to spend most of my time on in the upcoming weeks. This is a great way to make sure that you are focused in the right areas, and it gives your manager an opportunity to mention anything that she thinks you should be working on that wasn’t mentioned.
  • Upcoming travel, presentations, events and miscellaneous activities.
  • About every other month, I also ask explicitly about my performance. I ask about any areas where she thinks I could improve and ask if she’s had any feedback from others about my work. This really helps to avoid surprises during performance reviews and gives me a chance to make improvements or adjustments throughout the year. While most managers should proactively bring up any major issues without any prompting, I’ve found that asking encourages your manager to bring up the minor issues that might slip through unnoticed for a while.

Email Updates

We do monthly status updates at work, and while they are a bit of a pain and add extra overhead, they do give your manager a good written summary of your key results over the past month. Even if you aren’t required to do regular status updates, they are a great way to make sure that your manager has a written record of your accomplishments. I make this task easier on myself by spending a few minutes every day jotting down a few things I did that day. At the end of the month, this provides a quick reminder of what I worked on, and from a personal perspective it gives me a tremendous amount of insight into how I spend my time.

Also, don’t forget to email your manager with pieces of work as you complete them. I work in a complex environment where I do quite a bit of work for other people where my manager isn’t necessarily directly involved, so I try to remember to copy her when I send my work to other people so that she can see the results firsthand.

Exactly how you update your manager isn’t as important as making sure that you provide her with some kind of regular update. Managers aren’t telepathic; they rely on you to tell them what you have accomplished.

How do you make sure that your manager knows what you accomplish when working remotely?

Photo by chrisjroos used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

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By Dawn Foster

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  1. Dawn, thanks for this great reminder. Not being in the office with your manager means it’s up to you to work harder to maintain presence. Your manager can’t see if you’re at your desk, so I’d add to the list setting office hours and if you use instant messaging, make sure it is running when you’re working (and that you respond in a timely manner).
    Thanks!
    -k
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  3. It took me a long time to come to terms with being responsible for my own reviews. I felt my company/supervisor should record the trainings and milestones I hit so they could make sure to add them to my stats. Finally I started dropping emails pertaining to customer ‘wows’, projects I worked on and other accomplishments I had achieved into a folder called ‘self review worthy’. This has provided me with an easy way of pulling info for my annual and semi annual reviews.

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  5. Very helpful, thanks Dawn.

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  6. [...] How to Manage Your Boss When Working Remotely by Dawn Foster–Great ideas for fostering better communication and managing a good connection with your boss when you are a remote worker. [...]

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  7. I couldn’t agree more! Especially if you aren’t practicing daily meetings, taking the initiative to provide status and solicit feedback is an excellent idea.

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  8. @Avdi: I’d even add onto that and don’t rely solely on e-mail. There are a lot of great tools out there (like Fellowstream) that can help keep the boss in the loop about what you’re working on remotely. Even beyond that, though, scheduling regular calls and even trips to the office every now and again can be a lot of help.

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