Working from home is like a long distance relationship, and coming from someone who has had more than a few, they aren’t easy. As it turns out, it probably isn’t the best idea to send your boss cute selfies throughout the week. And that photo of you looking all cute and sexy with your pretty posse on a girls’ night out with the caption “Wish you were here..”, you can save that for your Instagram feed. Believe it or not, is unnecessary to send texts to your manager to let them know you are thinking of them or even to share what you are having for lunch. There are however some things that crossover and are relevant in both professional and personal long distance relationships. Here are a few:
Create Trust: Since you are doing “long distance”, you need to be sure that your manager knows they can count on you. Whether it is timely replies to their requests, being available for ad hoc calls, or delivering what you said you would, when you would, your predictability and your accountability go a long way to building and sustaining trust.
Stay Positive: We all know that work can be a bitch some days, but don’t you be one! Because you don’t see your boss (or your heart’s desire) on a daily basis, it is ever more important to keep a positive attitude. Playing the victim or being needy isn’t a good look. We all have bad days and sometimes just need to share challenges with our manager. In those instances, take a minute or two before your meeting and see if you can come up with a few possible solutions instead of proudly dropping it at their virtual door stoop like a dead mouse. Most of the time you can figure it out, and if you have an idea or two to start, together you just may come up with the best solution. Managers tend to have a lot of shit on their plate – you probably don’t know the half of it. Bringing a good attitude and solutions instead of problems is always the best play.
Have Shared Goals: If you don’t want the same thing, it is never going to work out. It is February so you likely have a good idea of what your work goals are for 2017. As the year progresses, things do change and shift with emerging priorities. It is a good idea to check in and level-set occasionally on what are the most important near-term deliverables. This helps keep you in sync with your organization’s needs and ensures you aren’t off-piste without a helmet heading for the trees.
Know each other’s schedules: Set some ground rules together to manage expectations. If you know you have the daily school run at 8:00 a.m. and pick up at 3:30 p.m. be sure to have that discussion with your boss. If it takes 20-30 minutes round trip and to get the kids settled, it may be a good idea to block your calendar. Joining conference calls from the road with a car full of unpredictable kids is not always professional and definitely unsafe. Just have the conversation up front with your manager to “negotiate” these times as unavailable. You are a professional, and assuming your role has the flexibility, just make it up by starting earlier, or ending later.
Oh, and if you are in different time zones be respectful of one another’s non-work time (or work time as in the case of long distance love). If you choose to work after business hours, that is typically your choice. If it is beginning to feel like the expectation, not the exception, it may be a good time to have an open and non-confrontational dialogue. This is assuming you have a good relationship with your manager.
Be Honest: Honest, open communication is a two-way street. This isn’t intended to be the virtual complaint jar, rather it is an opportunity to share with your employer what is working for you and what is not. For example, if you are feeling a bit isolated and disconnected from the team given the distance, chances are there are others feeling the same way. Feedback like this will allow your manager to come up with some creative ideas to strengthen the team’s connection. Who knows, it may become an opportunity for you take the lead in some virtual team building. Any manager worth their slot on the pay scale will welcome the chance for open engagement over perceived apathy every day of the week.
Be Available: ….but not toooo available. Come to think of it that jewel may only apply to the long-distance thing. Of course, keep your office hours and promptly reply to your manager’s emails, texts, or instant messages. Definitely not someone you want to play hard to get with.
Having written this advice, it may be time for a refresher course. For dating of course, not work, because I am after all the model employee;)