Remote workers sometimes get a bad reputation, thanks in part to concerns about productivity and accountability. But the stereotype of a pajama-wearing, video game-playing employee who spends their days shopping online is more of a myth than a reality.
Still, while statistics from Global Workplace Analytics and elsewhere show remote work can actually improve productivity, employees who work from home may be held to a higher standard, and perhaps even asked to demonstrate their value to the team.
Here are 10 ways to show your boss you’re still on the ball while working remotely:
1. Be responsive
In a traditional office, your constant presence in a shared workspace gives others confidence that you’re busy contributing to your company or organization. But as a remote worker, this assumption no longer exists; simply popping in to chat is no longer a possibility.
To counteract this lack of physical presence, be expedient in your communications with colleagues.
Swift and timely replies to emails, instant messages, and other correspondence will reassure colleagues and supervisors that even though you’re at home, you are still hard at work.
Of course, answering every single message immediately is unnecessary—but while many professionals may still believe the standard advice that responding within 24 hours is acceptable, opinions on that changed drastically when mobile devices came onto the scene.
Nearly 3 in 4 respondents to a 2015 survey by Toister Performance Solutions said they expected coworkers to respond to their messages in four hours or less.
This is where your professional discretion comes in: if a manager needs to set up an urgent meeting, you’ll want to get back with them as quickly as possible. But for a simple project update weeks before a deadline, you may have some leeway when it comes to getting back to your teammates. That said…
2. Keep your team updated
As a remote employee, your supervisor will likely expect some level of independence on your part; however, independence doesn’t mean only connecting with your manager on launch days.
While you should be careful not to overwhelm your manager or colleagues with an excess of messages, updating your team and supervisor regularly can help establish you as a consistent employee who makes valuable contributions to the company.
Even a gesture as simple as sending out a weekly summary of your goals and specifics on how your assignments are taking shape makes a difference.
For those who are newer to remote work, discuss with your supervisor how often they would like updates and which platforms they prefer to communicate on.
If possible, set up regular check-ins with your direct manager, as well as brief meetings with members of your team who you work closely with.
If a large portion of your team is distributed, consider suggesting the popular daily “stand-up” meeting strategy, as described by GoToMeeting’s Amber Tiffany.
Groups use these brief 15-minute morning meetings to ensure accountability and progress. Everyone shares where they are in their projects, what they will be working on that day, and their estimated date for project completion.
For remote workers, such meetings can provide an opportunity for everyone on the team, including supervisors, to explain how they are adding value to the organization each day.
It also gives visibility to your follow-through on both company-set and personal deadlines, helping to dispel the myth that remote workers sit at home and goof off all day.
3. Provide a breakdown of your time
As technology improves, tools we use every day to complete our work, such as Google Suite, Microsoft Office, and VPN connections, can serve as evidence for time worked.
In “working” documents, the metadata detailed from constant automatic saves proves when you opened a document when you closed it, and exactly what changes you made and when.
Should management need a detailed history of your work, using tools that have easily accessible metadata allows you to provide that for them without any extra work on your end.
4. Give management an all-access pass
Transparency goes a long way toward building trust within an organization. We see this often with big businesses, which intentionally open up their financial documents to public scrutiny with the goal of being perceived as more trustworthy.
Earning your manager’s trust works similarly for remote employees. Employees who are trustworthy are valuable to any company, especially when leadership has limited control of workers, as with remote work arrangements.
When telecommuters open up or “share” all their working documents, files, storage and other information related to their work with their boss or team, it communicates a higher standard of accountability and ultimately leads to more trust from higher-ups—trust that you are regularly working and using your time wisely.
A VPN, which provides a direct connection to your company’s network, can also act as a record of your log-in and log-out times. You can request a copy of this record to back you up if there is ever a concern about the number of hours you worked or times you “arrived” or “left.”
5. Produce results
High-quality results speak for themselves. Approach your days like you would a typical office role: focus on deliverables. With 91% of remote workers experiencing increased productivity when working at home, according to research cited by Forbes’ Victor Lipman, you’ll probably surprise yourself with how much you get done.
In fact, you may even be able to go above and beyond on occasion, perhaps by taking on an extra assignment if you finish another project early. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone for the benefit of the team.
Should you need a more flexible schedule, you may consider pursuing work with a company that employs a Results-Only Work Environment, wherein employees are judged solely or almost entirely on output, rather than on attendance or time worked.
6. Promote positivity
An employees’ worth comprises more than their work history, attendance, and current skills. Your attitude and contribution to a positive work culture are part of the mix, as well.
To improve positive culture in your workplace, spend five or ten minutes each day encouraging others you work with, either by complimenting them on a job well done or simply by using positive language in your messages to colleagues.
When you have feedback, give it constructively; when something goes wrong, look for solutions, and avoid attributing blame.
Not only is a positive attitude healthy for you and those who interact with you—but it’s also contagious.
The more you let your positive personality shine, the more others will catch on, leading to lower stress levels, fewer sick days, higher resilience, higher productivity, better decision making, and more energy in you and your entire team.
7. Use collaborative project management tools to your advantage
Collaborative project management tools allow you to share ideas and interact with your team, while also helping you prove you can reliably handle multiple projects and meet deadlines, even when you’re not physically sharing an office building with your team. To that end, you should strive to be as active as possible on these platforms.
Only opening your company’s project management software when you need to check off a completed assignment largely limits your opportunity to use it to prove your value as an employee.
Meeting deadlines matters, but project management systems offer a range of additional ways to literally get your name in front of your co-workers and supervisors: you can take part in brainstorming discussions or give others kudos for impressive work, contribute your ideas and your specific knowledge to individuals or groups seeking help, or even share interesting industry news or research with a group you know will find it valuable.
If your team doesn’t use a project management system such as Asana, Trello, Basecamp, or Wrike, showcase your skills on a smaller scale by sharing the link to your personal task management system in a group communication channel or email.
Since your goal is to prove exactly what you’re working on and when you complete it, make sure whatever system you use assigns a date to both the creation and conclusion of each task.
8. Devote time to professional development
Mastering additional skills—especially those related to emerging technologies and methods—helps make you indispensable to your employer.
It’s important to invest in the learning opportunities suggested or required by management, but what’s really impressive is choosing to devote your time to professional development outside of mandatory training.
Express your gratitude for the privilege to work from home by using 30 minutes of time you may have otherwise spent in an uncomfortable commute each day mastering a skill that can help aid your organization later on.
Respected development courses are available for a vast pool of industries both online and in-person, and many of these courses even offer certificates upon completion.
In some cases, your company may already have a paid subscription to one of these learning platforms that you can take advantage of.
As you improve in your chosen area, offer to lead an internal professional seminar on the topic or volunteer to take part in a ground-floor project utilizing your new skill. You’ll impress your boss and reiterate to team members why it’s a good thing the company keeps you around.
This professional growth will also improve your marketability when you eventually look for another position or are angling for a raise.
9. Be present and prompt for virtual meetings
When you have the opportunity to meet a coworker or supervisor face-to-face—even if that’s through a screen—it’s vital to maintain both promptness and presence.
With so much on your plate, these meetings may seem trivial; however, even if you’re not discussing anything related to your work, the professionalism and focus that you exhibit will not go unnoticed.
Go somewhere quiet prior to the meeting and turn off your phone. Avoid multitasking and log in on time; in fact, you may even want to show up early and use the few minutes before the meeting for an organic conversation with other team members.
When you take the time to foster these relationships and create a solid history of being on time, you add a new kind of value to your role in an organization.
If you are part of a company with a physical office nearby, you could also commit to going into the office at least once a month to attend an in-person meeting, ask for updates from people you don’t frequently work with, or grow your relationships with colleagues by doing lunch with a few work buddies.
This way, more people learn about your contributions to the company, and when it comes time for promotions, your name is fresh in your manager’s mind.
10. Don’t go overboard
Enthusiasm for your quest to prove your value as a remote employee is understandable, but heed a word of caution: be careful not to commit to too many responsibilities.
In theory, taking on extra tasks demonstrates your efficiency or drive, but if you take on too much and are unable to perform, you may gain your supervisor’s attention for what will appear to be poor time management and an inability to follow through.
Though it may sound intimidating, there are many ways a remote worker can prove their value within a company or organization—and some would argue that it’s your responsibility to.
Fortunately, your top-notch work will help you stand out. With that on your side, plus the practice of the ideas discussed here, you’ll have the boss eager for your entire organization to work from home.