All hail the new WFH lifestyle! You’ve finally gained more freedom… but are you missing out on the chance to stand out in your workplace?
It’s time to Embrace the “new normal” of Working from Home
Yes, Working from Home has given us more freedom from the close supervision of the boss, more spare time gained by not having to commute, and the flexibility to dress up for the job only on the upper part of the body… while wearing our pyjama bottoms!
The pandemic has suddenly turned us into screen stars… featured in a little screen of a digital tool called ‘Zoom’ or ‘Teams’ which many of us are having to use daily now we are safely working from home.
The issue is some of us haven’t had enough time to prepare for this abrupt change in our day-to-day engagement with work colleagues, suppliers or clients.
I get it. Not everyone feels comfortable interacting with a group of people laid out on a computer screen while you have only a fraction of time to get your message across.
It can be daunting to understand when it’s appropriate to speak up when you are in a busy digital chat room with 6 other colleagues.
Deep down, it’s natural that you miss the chit chats you had with your colleague by the water cooler.
You may also be feeling that you’ve lost some networking opportunities now you can only use emails, chats, videocalls and the odd off line call!
If you have been feeling out of your comfort zone being miles away from the key people you work with, I offer you a little coaching guidance here.
3 steps to master your Working from Home set-up
STEP 1) BE CLEARER THAN EVER ABOUT YOUR GOALS
Interrogate yourself about your present long-term goal relating to your job:
“What are you trying to achieve as a next step in your career?”
Spend some quality time to analyse your situation and write it down in all its contextual details.
Maybe you are currently enjoying the security of a long-standing job with the same company so you feel you just want to please everyone at work so that you can continue to pay the bills at the end of the month.
Or, it could be that you heard that your colleague from the marketing department is leaving the country and her position will soon be vacant. So, you wonder: could this be my chance to move from sales into marketing and ask for a promotion?
Or, it could be that you are the last person who joined the company and still have a lot to learn from your colleagues. Maybe you’ve realised that your direct line manager is not a great mentor but you could learn a lot from a colleague you met from another department, so your goal is to have as many opportunities to shadow that person as possible.
STEP 2) BE A BETTER NETWORKER, ONLINE
If you have gone through the first step, you are even more conscious of how fundamental it is to strengthen your relationships with one or more key people in your job. These are the people who are going to get you one step closer to your professional goal: it could be your line manager, or your Head of department, or the HR manager or a combination of colleagues and clients.
It’s true: you have less chances to interact with them in person but you can still do this in a one-to-one way, online. How?
There are generally three key factors that will contribute to making you more “liked” by your colleagues. Find a way to own these factors, using your online channels:
1) Be helpful – whatever their role is, they also need work done from you and other people who are WFH. Try ask them what is it that they are finding more challenging now that they are not at the office: e.g. is it taking them more time to get a report back from Finance? Is there something you could do to get those numbers earlier?
2) Be empathetic – your colleagues are on your same boat: whenever you get a chance to speak one-to-one, try ask them an open question about how their WFH mode is affecting their home life. You may find that you have the same feeling about it and could bond over exchanging tips on how to manage it better. E.g. ask them if they have re-arranged the furniture at home or if they can recommend a store to buy a laptop stand or a more ergonomic chair! Anything that is more attuned to your personal lives will make you feel a deeper connection.
3) Be fun – often WFH means we are more exposed to feeling lonely or bored so it’s only natural to want to gain back moments of fun during the working hours! So, find the right moment to do just that: propose a virtual coffee or tea break with your colleagues. You could even do that at the end of another scheduled work meeting. Propose them also non-work-related activities – e.g. are they into meditation? Could you join an online group meditation class together?
STEP 3) STRATEGISE HOW TO STAND OUT
If you are at a stage where you recently joined the company and want to make yourself known by everyone or if you are up for a promotion, you need to implement extra tactics to find a way to shine through the digital interfaces you use.
How to shine as a WFH or Remote employee
1) Always show a positive mindset
People don’t like moaners – yes, you can bond with a colleague over one common pain point you have about your work place but ultimately, they could use that “private information” against you at any time.
If you are new in your company or want to demonstrate you are worthy of that promotion, start by working on your PMA (positive mindset attitude).
There is nothing more attractive than a colleague who smiles frequently and lifts everyone’s spirits up in a company meeting.
2) Do an extra dose of homework
Get well up to speed with your company’s current goals, the KPIs or business objectives communicated to all staff, research the competitors of your company and your industry sector’s news. Find an opportunity to share any relevant breaking news you found with your colleagues: e.g. write it as a PS. comment at the bottom of an email or type it in the Zoom chat at the end of a virtual meeting.
Surprise everyone with your commitment to the company.
3) Communicate effectively on digital channels
Adaptability is one of the key soft skills employers appreciate, in any sector.
In these days of fast-paced changes to our ways of working, you need to demonstrate that you can adapt and communicate clearly across any channel – off and online.
Find the way to master any digital tool your company may be asking you to use: Zoom, Skype Business, Slack, etcetera. If needed, ask a tech guru friend of yours to show you how to use all the features of the tool, so you don’t have to ask your colleagues.
4) Run and attend any virtual meetings efficiently
Before any scheduled virtual meeting double-check that you accurately know:
- the latest agenda (even a draft one)
- what the time zones of the participants are (you need to say “good morning” to some colleagues or “good afternoon” to others!)
- who exactly the participants are
- who is due to take any specific actions
- any follow-up actions that are dure to happen.
At the start of any meeting, ensure you extend a warm greeting and introduce yourself in a confident way to any new attendees, speak up when it’s your turn to speak in the group and articulate clearly any points of the agenda you own.
If anyone asks you questions on something you are not sure about, never say “I’m not sure” or “I don’t know” – just say “let me double-check that detail before I get back to you with an answer. I’ll follow up right after this call”.
Conclude the session with a re-cap of what you will do directly to follow up to the meeting.
If you don’t want to take notes manually, record the call at your end to re-listen to the action points in your own time (then delete the recording, for privacy reasons). Sometimes the devil can be in the details and you don’t want to omit one key point made by a colleague which happens to be connected to your own tasks.
5) Key takeaway: the more effort you put into adapting, the better you will get
I do think WFH is here to stay; it’s not just a temporary solution to the pandemic and economic crisis we are living. It’s a sign we are all shifting towards a more human-centred way of combining “work” and “personal life”.