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Remote Work: HR shares unspoken pitfalls about working from home

Remote work

Working from home. Do you know what your manager is thinking about you?

So you want to try remote work, post-COVID

Remote work: Most employees don’t know this. Your manager’s opinion may be very different from yours regarding remote work. Your manager may have approved remote work, but there may be more going on behind the scenes than you are aware of. So not only are you not aware of what is happening, but you may never hear about how your manager really feels.

COVID vaccines are being distributed, and companies are considering returning to the office for the first time in over a year.  Many companies are considering a hybrid model, where employees can work from home and/or work in the office. I know of one company that is not renewing their lease because remote work has been successful. All employees will work remotely. Obviously, there are a lot of cost savings with this approach. Of course, many companies are asking employees to return to the office to work full time. (That is a topic for another blog post)

Hybrid workplace

Where I work, we are going to a hybrid model. Employees can work in the office or from home—their choice. Because we are confident that most folks will want to work from home, we sub-leased one of our floors to save money on rent.

The other benefit to sub-leasing a floor is that with only half the space and fewer people in the office, space won’t feel empty.
We are a tech company, and with less than half the folks in the office, it will feel like we just went through a big layoff. Not good for the company culture. 

There is a downside to working remotely that all employees should be conscious of. Yes, there are plenty of positives to working from home for both the company and the employee. But there are some concepts that employees who work remotely should be aware of. Unfortunately, these are concepts that are often overlooked by both the employee and the employer. Here at HRNasty.com, I provide the unspoken rules that many employees are unaware of. Of course, I will also provide a simple workaround to overcome the potential downside of remote work.

Productive through COVID working from home

First, I should point out; I don’t have anything against remote work. I have a commute that is over one hour each way and gaining an extra two hours a day minimum allows me to do more. I have been more productive through COVID working from home than when I was in the office. The team I work with has experienced the same productivity gains.

We haven’t added anyone to the department, but we increased the company’s size by 50%. 

Yes, we will be doubling the size of the HR department shortly. HR departments that don’t have enough people only have enough resources to reactive. There is no time to be proactive and this is why so many HR departments have a bad rep. The company I work with had a record year through COVID, and I believe it was because folks were more productive. Seattle commutes can be a bitch, and the added stress taken off of our plates and more available hours to work helped increase productivity.

Working in HR, I always thought I would be working in the office. I need to be around the people, Yo!  This is the first time in my career that I will have the opportunity to work from home.  With so few folks in the office, Zoom is the new meeting place. I am really looking forward to the new work style. I will probably work in the office 2 days a week, so I will be practicing what I preach in this post. I can do this because I am confident that our CEO is supportive of remote work.  

Why some leaders want employees in the office

Before COVID, many managers felt that if employees were not working in the office, they were not working. I understand this. Senior leaders came up through the ranks in a different era. Working 10 – 12+ hours IN the office was how this generation of leaders paid their dues to advance. I did the same. For close to 20 years, I worked in the office 10 hours a day and then went home and put in another couple of hours after dinner. This was a time where we didn’t have sophisticated video conference capabilities. For some generations of leaders, they didn’t even have laptops. When we looked around the office, we saw that the folks who were being promoted were usually the ones putting in the hours. Some habits are hard to break.

Some managers, leaders, and decision-makers have worked in the office for the past 20, 25, and 30+ years. This demographic didn’t have the capability to work from home for the majority of their careers. Some leaders are high on the social scale. These leaders can’t wait to get back into the office and be around people. “Experience bias” is when you assume everyone around you should want and think as you do. For some, the idea of remote work is a big mind-shift and can be a hard nut to crack. 

Don’t take remote work at face value

With this history of working in the office in mind, I encourage all employees to consider how they approach their own careers.

Even though your company may have decided to allow remote work, this doesn’t mean that your manager is in the same headspace. They may or may not agree with remote work. Remember, they may have worked in an office for 20 plus years and were promoted for hours worked in the office. At the end of the day, your manager is your boss. Your manager influences your career. Your company may say remote work is OK. At the end of the day, it is your manager’s beliefs that matter.

Manage your manager

Readers of this blog know that I am a big proponent of managing your own career. Your career is not your manager’s career, it is your career. You can influence and control your career with a bit of Career Jujistu.  You may or may not know how your manager really feels about remote work, but my advice is to assume the worst. Even if your manager works from home occasionally, it doesn’t mean they have bought into remote work being productive. So how do you overcome this bias?

For leaders who believe that work can only be accomplished in the office, we need to reinforce to them that work is getting done remotely.  If they don’t believe you are working, there will not be any future opportunities, promotions, large clients, big projects, etc.

How do I prove to my manager I am working when not in the office?

It’s easy. I suggest the following should be done whether you are working in the office or from home. First, meet with your manager regularly. I would suggest every other week at a minimum in this new paradigm. This is a time where you can update your manager on what you have accomplished and what you will accomplish. Below is a potential schedule:

Meeting one:

    • Explain what you will accomplish over the next cycle (1 week, 2 weeks, etc.)

Meeting two:

    • Confirm what you said you were going to accomplish in the prior weeks meeting (1 or 2 weeks ago)
    • Share what you have accomplished against those prior goals
    • Explain what you are going to accomplish in the upcoming 2 weeks
    • After the meeting, send your manager a short email outlining the above progress

Meeting three: Rinse, lather, repeat

    • Confirm what you said you were going to accomplish in the last meeting
    • Share what you have accomplished against those prior goals
    • Explain what you are going to accomplish in the upcoming 1-2 weeks
    • After the meeting, send your manager a short email outlining the above progress

In between meetings, if you don’t think you are going to hit a deadline, let your manager know proactively. Don’t wait for the next meeting to say “I missed the deadline.” No manager wants to hear about a missed deadline on the day of the deadline. Your manager is probably giving status updates on your team’s progress to their manager, so help them avoid surprising their manager. 

These updates are critical because they will let your manager know that you are still working and delivering even though you are not in the office.

More importantly, if your manager signs off on the upcoming tasks, they are essentially saying, “Yes, this is the appropriate amount of work that should be accomplished.”  

After a month of successful meetings, you can level up your game. In addition to sharing what you feel you can accomplish in the upcoming cycle, add a “stretch goal.” Let your manager know that this is what I want to accomplish, but I will try and stretch myself and accomplish this additional task(s).

We never know what our managers are really thinking. Because of this, we need to take extra steps to control our careers. The above Nasty move can overcome any negative feelings around remote work and keep you on the Career Elevator. Ladders = old school.

 

See you at the after party

Good luck,

HRNasty

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, ridiculously good, tricky, and manipulative but with the result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone good at something. “He has a nasty forkball.”

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