Workplace Wellbeing: Simple steps you can take to stay visible when working from home

Working from home can make you less visible to managers, but experts say it's possible to ensure your work gets noticed by adopting simple strategies 
Workplace Wellbeing: Simple steps you can take to stay visible when working from home

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Working from home has its advantages. There’s no commute; you can wear comfy clothes and slippers all day and spend far less on lunch.

But there are downsides, especially if you want to progress in your career. If you’re not in the office, you risk missing out on interesting assignments and opportunities for promotion.

“Out of sight can mean out of mind,” says Melrona Kirrane, associate professor of organisational psychology at DCU Business School and academic leader of Let’s Lead, DCU’s leadership development programme for women, above.

Our psychology is to blame for this. “We take cognitive shortcuts to ease the burden of thinking through everything we have to attend to every day,” she says. “These shortcuts are called heuristics, and one is the availability heuristic, which means we recall what we come across most regularly. If we don’t see someone very often, the ease with which we can recall information about them is compromised. If you’re a manager considering who might be good for what project, you’re less likely to think of the person working from home.”

Does it follow that those working from home are doomed to career stagnation? Not necessarily, say the experts. It’s possible to remain visible while working remotely — they have to work harder to make their presence felt.

Melrona Kirrane
Melrona Kirrane

The power of communication

It all starts with communication, says executive coach HR consultant Melissa Stone, right.

“Regular, effective communication is important in increasing your visibility,” she says. “It’s also vital that you communicate to your company the goals you want to achieve and the projects you want to be involved in. Your manager has to know the opportunities you want to be part of so they can consider whether or not they will be possible for you.”

Kirrane agrees that maintaining a high level of communication is critical. “When working remotely, we inevitably communicate much less than we would if we were in the office, so we have to make up for that by dairying meetings and scheduling video calls and catchups regularly,” she says.

Be careful not to go overboard, warns Stone. “Regular communication boosts the perception that you’re involved, but the extent of it depends on the workplace norms,” she says. “You don’t want to highlight the fact that you’re not in the office by constantly sending emails. However, if it’s totally normal in your company to chat online, it won’t matter if you’re chatting from a few desks down or miles away.”

Turn on your camera for virtual meetings, advises Kirrane. “It allows your colleagues to see some of your work environment; your desk, pictures on your wall, or — as happened to me this morning — your cat walking across your keyboard. Sharing little bits of your life allows you to connect more, building trust and supporting future co-operation.”

Don’t underestimate the importance of small talk, either. “You have to like people to trust them,” says Kirrane. “And to like them, you have to know them. You can’t just talk business.”

It’s even more important to communicate with your boss. “Unless your manager knows exactly what you are achieving, it’s likely you’ll be overlooked,” says Stone.

She recommends scheduling a meeting at least once a week. “Use these meetings to make your supervisor aware of what you’re working on, your successes over the last week and the challenges in the week ahead so that your output, achievements, and barriers to success are highlighted,” she says. “Prepare for each meeting by making notes and when the time comes to discuss a pay increase or a promotion, you’ll have a reminder of all the great work you have done.”

Don’t feel shy about promoting your achievements. “It isn’t bragging,” says Kirrane. “It’s part of maintaining your visibility in the workplace.”

Melissa Stone
Melissa Stone

“Your company needs to know the positive impact you have on their business,” adds Stone. “How else are they going to realise they can rely on you to deliver? How else will they consider you for greater opportunities moving forward? Sharing your successes is really important, and you can do it in many ways such as at weekly meetings with your manager, at your annual performance review, or through a monthly report on your progress framed as accomplishments and results.”

Kirrane’s experience of working on DCU’s Let’s Lead programme has shown her that women tend to struggle with this. “They think there is no need to shout about their achievements, as their achievements should speak for themselves,” she says. “And because they are often up against a stronger evaluation of likeability than men, they can be reluctant to do anything that might compromise that.”

Changing the way you frame your successes can help overcome such modesty. “Many people who struggle to toot their own horn can find it helpful to phrase achievements as ways in which you helped and supported others or were able to solve an issue for them,” says Kirrane.

Social media can also be harnessed to increase your visibility. “Keep your feed current by posting a work achievement on Linkedin or sharing relevant articles,” says Kirrane.

“Set yourself a target of posting something once a week and commenting on other people’s posts twice and week and that way you won’t fall off people’s radars.”

Finally, it’s a good idea to visit the office occasionally. “It helps keep relationships alive,” says Kirrane. “And it can offer a new perspective too. I spend a lot of time working from home and going to the office wakes me up. It bounces me out of the narrow, isolated world I live in when I’m at home all the time.”

Shaz Malik
Shaz Malik

‘I remind them I’m working hard’

Shaz Malik is a key account manager with Lyrea, a global office supplies and services company. He lives in Kerry and Lyreco has its headquarters in Dublin. He has worked from home since starting with the firm in 2019 and has been promoted three times since then. “Working from home hasn’t hindered my career progression at all,” he says. “If you’re ambitious, working from home needn’t hold you back.”

His workday consists of meetings with clients, in person or online, and completing paperwork and admin tasks in his home office.

The arrangement suits him.

“Two of my four children still live at home, and I can pick them up from school and help with homework most days,” he says.

However, he makes sure he remains visible to his superiors in Dublin. “Being based in Kerry makes me the most isolated Lyreco employee in Ireland,” he says.

“I have to remind them I’m doing my job and working hard.”

This is why he has a one-to-one meeting with his manager every month. “I travel to Dublin for that and schedule other meetings with colleagues and clients while I’m there,” says Malik.

“I have lots of video meetings with colleagues and my seniors have access to my calendar, results, and figures, which allows them to see all that I’m achieving.”

He also makes sure to pop into the office from time to time.

“People might forget me if I didn’t,” he says.

“I need to remind them of why I am and what I do in order to be kept in line for promotion. Being at home all the time can be isolating and demotivating too, with no one to chat to or bounce ideas off. Working from home has so many benefits, but it pays to visit the office regularly.”

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