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Working from home, managing your manager remotely, and Covid-19

working from home

Working from home

Working from home

Covid-19 has many employees working from home. Because this is a new practice for many, I wanted to share some best practices to ensure success as you work from home.

Working from home isn’t anything new. Folks have been working from home successfully since the dawn of time. I can imagine that early cavemen were chipping flint arrowheads in their caves and then leaving the safety of the cave to barter and trade. We have come a long way since the caveman days. Ultimately, we want to maximize our effectiveness and remain in good standing with our managers.

Not for all employees

I will be the first to say that working from home isn’t for all employees. It sounds like fun to many, but it comes with its own set of challenges. When employees make a request to work from home, HR and managers take into consideration a few standard considerations before granting employees work from home status. Even though these are strange times, if your manager has these ingrained concerns, so should you.

There are a few standard considerations and guidelines that managers use when granting work from home status. When employees have been declined a request to work from home, the reasons often boil down to a few specific reasons.  I will explain why these questions come up and why many requests to work from home are declined. 

There are too many distractions at work. Can I work from home?

If you are an employee that is distracted at work, it is assumed you will be distracted in the home. Many employees will request they have the ability to work from home because they are too distracted in the office by other employees. For most managers, being distracted is a matter of discipline. The ability to focus in the office will increase your manager’s confidence that you can focus at home. Ultimately it is our manager’s perception that matters, not ours. 

I’d like to work from home so I can take care of my children. 

This is a request I hear on a regular basis. Most managers will decline a work from home request for this reason. In the company’s mind, working from home isn’t a substitute for daycare. Employers want their employees focused on the work between 9-5 because that is what they are paying their employees for. This is why some companies provide daycare at work. If someone has a young child at home and wants to work from home, we require they either have daycare or someone at the house to take care of the child. This is about focus and distractions.

I realize that with the CoronaVirus many schools are shut down and employees are working from home and taking care of a young child. This can’t be helped, and I would like to believe that employers are sympathetic. That being said, this is still a consideration. We don’t want our managers thinking, “Well Tom has 2 kids at home, we can’t expect much work from him.”

Both of the above categories boil down to distractions in the home. Managers just want to know that if they assign you work, you will accomplish the work and meet the deadlines. By being proactive with your list of deliverables, you take away any doubts about being distracted at home. 

Work from home successfully

Whether you work in the office or at home, managers have expectations about us as employees. Those expectations will be different for different managers, but the common points managers are sensitive to regardless of working from home or in the office are:

  • Productivity
  • Is your work turned in on time and error-free?
  • Can you get along with the rest of the team?
  • Do you add positively to the culture of the team/company?
  • Are you available for phone calls and responding to emails and chats in a timely manner?

Dependability and the ability to get along

1st and foremost, managers want dependability and the ability to get along with others. If you can accomplish these two goals, you are 95% there and ahead of the pack.

The way to achieve this is to be in constant contact with your manager. Whether via email, phone, or video chat, stay connected. Here are few things you want to communicate on a consistent and regular basis. Your timeline and cadence may vary, but the more you can communicate your progress the better.

How to establish dependability

Monday: Email your manager and explain to them what you are going to accomplish for the remainder of the week. Without mentioning it to your manager, take your distractions into mind. This email will confirm with your manager that you are working on the correct priorities. If you submit 5 goals and your manager tells you they like 4 and swap out the 5th for a different goal, be excited. Your manager is engaged with your work and you won’t be working on the wrong priority. The key here is that you need to be proactive with this list. Don’t wait for them to tell you what to do. If they swap out 4 of the 5 items, be really happy because they just saved you a week’s worth of wasted work.

Friday: Email your manager the following:

  • What you proposed you were going to accomplish during the last cycle
  • Explain what you accomplished during the last cycle
  • What you plan on accomplishing the next cycle (next Mon – Friday)
  • Describe what you would have done differently to improve the performance of the last cycle. This self-retrospective accomplishes a couple of things that are very important:
    • Communicates to your manager that you are trying to improve.
    • It takes away the manager’s opportunity to lecture you on how to improve.


  • If you set a deadline at the beginning of the cycle and realize halfway through the cycle that you are not going to accomplish the goal, tell your manager ASAP that this deadline is going to be pushed. Waiting till the end of the cycle to inform your manager that a deadline was missed is a sure-fire way to let them know you are not dependable. As soon as you suspect a deadline will be missed, just inform your manager with an update on why it will be missed and when the project will be complete. This allows your manager to weigh in on your set of priorities and set expectations with other employees who may be depending on your deliverable.
  • The last thing we want to do is surprise your manager with bad news and set them up for a situation where they need to deliver bad news to their manager about a missed deadline at the last minute. 
  • If your manager assigns you a task list and you feel you won’t be able to meet the deadline, it is OK to speak up. Explain to your manager, “The company assigned me 7 things to get done this week, I am pretty confident I can get 5 done. I’d like to propose we prioritize the top 5 and I work on the last 2 next week”.  The point is to have a discussion and set realistic expectations.

Not a pajama party

If you are going to be in a video chat or telephone call with a colleague or manager, avoid wearing your pajamas. We are being paid by our employer and although you may believe you are effectively working in your pajamas with no shower, you won’t be perceived as such. Managers are paying you for your skillset and your professionalism. I am not saying you need to wear a suit. But we don’t want to go to the other end of the spectrum and allow our manager to think we are not taking our job seriously. How you dress is a reflection of who you are. When we all return to work in the office, we want our manager to have the right impression of us. This isn’t going to come from your Batman pajamas.

Like all parts of life, if you do what you say you are going to do and have a good attitude about it, you will be successful. Just be proactive in keeping connected to your manager. Don’t wait, reach out to your manager!


See you at the after-party,


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

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