Monday, 19 April 2021

In early 2020, the American workplace changed dramatically — and in some cases, permanently. 

Millions of workers went home one evening in mid-March and, more than a year later, many have yet to return to their offices.

In addition to the whiplash-like change in where they worked, how people worked and interacted with colleagues shifted just as suddenly. Gone were in-person staff meetings, breakroom chats, lunch with co-workers or casual interactions with the boss in the hall.

Suddenly, employees became small squares on Zoom calls, making it challenging for them to stand out and make career-boosting impressions on colleagues and supervisors.

However, even though 2020 put the temporary brakes on many careers — or left them idling in neutral — there are ways you can differentiate yourself while working remotely. What's more, many of these habits and tactics can support your career goals as you transition back into the in-person workplace.

Work regular hours

Working remotely does give you the flexibility to get work done during non-business hours. However, being online and available during regular business hours — or whenever your colleagues are working — shows you are reliable and trustworthy. It also provides a sense of routine, something many people are craving right now.

Control your environment

Everybody loves the videos of children misbehaving in the background while their parent is on a call — everybody but the employee and his or her boss. Those videos might be funny, but chances are the calls weren't very productive. It might be challenging if you have limited square footage, but designating a workspace and controlling your environment the best you can will make calls less stressful and make you more productive.

Always be prepared for meetings

Being prepared for meetings is a good idea whether you're remote or not. Indeed, being prepared for meetings when you're working remotely demonstrates you are putting in the time and staying on top of your projects and responsibilities.

Stay in touch with colleagues

Professional relationships are important in any workplace, but they can be hard to maintain when working remotely. Take the time to email or message — or even call — your co-workers regularly just to chat. Some offices are even hosting Zoom office parties or cocktail hours to keep remote employees connected.

Make sure your tech works

Don't be the person who can't share her screen during a call. Figure out how your software works — there's a YouTube video for everything. Make sure you have a good internet connection, updated software and a reliable computer. You can't impress anyone if you can't turn on your microphone.

Speak up and assert yourself

You have to work a little harder to stand out when you're a small square on a computer screen. Speak up, assert yourself and even offer to lead meetings. Make sure you talk clearly, explain your ideas in detail and ask for questions when you're finished. You don't have to be pushy, you just have to make a strong impression.

Be available and responsive to all kinds of communications

Availability is essential when working remotely. Your colleagues and supervisors need to know you are there when they need you. Answering calls, emails, texts and other messages promptly helps your colleagues do their jobs, which they will appreciate and your boss will notice.

Recap meetings, conversations and decisions with follow-up emails

Do not assume everyone heard what you said or what decisions were made during a call. It's wise to follow up meetings with emails or other communications that recap the highlights of all virtual meetings or discussions.

Be honest and transparent

The past year has been difficult for everyone. And there have certainly been days when you had to step away from the computer to handle a personal issue, when the stress was just too much, or when you didn't finish an assignment as promised. Trust between you, your co-workers and your supervisors is essential when working remotely. If you have a day or a moment when you can't put in 100 percent, be honest. Sure, you could say your internet was out or use some other updated "The dog-ate-my-homework" excuse. In almost all cases, however, honesty really is the best policy.

And don't forget... everyone else is in the same situation. All of your co-workers are dealing with the same challenges. But if you work a little harder and a little smarter, you can still shine.

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