How to Reassure Your Employer as You Work from Home

Up Close & Personal

By Rae Shungur

Working from home. “Blah, blah, blah,” is probably what you’re thinking by now, “great, another article on how to win employee of the month, from my kitchen office”.

Well, that’s what this article is all about—my deep thoughts on how to keep the old career engine revving as you fuse comfortable sweatpants with your best business attire on top. Everyone knows what you’re wearing off screen, by the way. Throughout the virtual corridors of industry, I often hear stats on reduced employee productivity while working from home.  For some lines of work, productivity is easy to measure: it’s how many, how few, how costly, how soon, how repaired, how painted?  For other industries, it’s a tougher concept: it can be how well or poorly, how thoroughly, how creatively, and the list goes on.  But beyond this, there’s a subjectivity to it that we all fear might work against us.  What if the boss thinks we’re sipping Mai Tais on the back porch while on the clock?  Or, worse, what if he knows we are?

To summarize the issue, we’re working from home, in an unprecedented global pandemic, using new technology, with people located all over the place, accompanied by interrupting dogs, cats, children, or partners, AND our boss might think we’re catching up on daytime soaps.  Occam’s Razor might apply here—the rule that the simplest outcome or solution to a dilemma is often the best.  That simple solution, in my humble opinion, is to communicate respectfully, meaningfully, and in a timely fashion.  Absence at work seldom makes the heart grow fonder.

Now that we’ve realized it’s on us to speak, we need to adopt a protocol.  Over-communicating is as bothersome as under-communicating.  So, here’s where a little empathy goes a long way.  Before you send your boss a six-page document of your weekly calendar, projects, and deep thoughts, manage her expectations.  Take the initiative to find out what is a useful level of information for your supervisor, and when or how often she wishes to be updated on your daily goings-on.  

This provides a framework for you to perform the update while sticking to that schedule!  Even if your supervisor does nothing more than a casual scan of the file, sending that concise, professional document on time and as promised sets a positive precedent.  Even if she chooses not to read your weekly update, you hit ‘send’.  And a huge caveat here, if Monday is report submission day, and on Tuesday the ‘craziest thing just happened’ you update on Tuesday with said crazy thing.  A great mentor of mine once said to me, “I’ll always have your back, but NO SURPRISES.  Because then, I probably won’t have your back.”  

But you get the picture.  In these unprecedented times, consider the needs of others.  Ask what they need in order to feel comfortable with you.  Having this information, under any circumstance, whether it’s a pandemic, plague of locusts, or Martian invasion, is a surefire way to build trust and confidence in one another.  Your boss will appreciate your initiative and your career engine will hum along just fine…even through a global pandemic.