How to Stay Visible to Your Bosses While Working From Home
It’s time for annual reviews, and you’ve worked hard. Has your manager taken notice since telework became the new normal? Here’s how to get the credit you deserve.
When my children were young, and I was commuting for three hours each day, I longed to work from home. I finally got the chance a few years back in a new role, only having to go into the office two or three days a week. I thought, “Well, isn’t this sweet?”
Yet, once I saw colleagues who “show up” to the office every day getting in more face time with the boss, I realized something was amiss. Despite working long hours, doing stellar work and getting positive feedback, my street cred in the office had fallen. Sisters who keep their heads down and get the job done can be easily overlooked.
“Don’t put your head in the sand,” says Laura Morgan Roberts, a professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business who specializes in leadership and organizational behavior. “You’ve got to put yourself out there, ask questions and shape the narrative.” The narrative that says I’m valuable: I’m solving a problem, saving money, making money, saving time, scaling up or innovating for competitive advantage.
With COVID-19 making telework the new normal and 42 percent of the U.S. labor force now working from home full time, according to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, we can’t afford to recede into the digital shadows. We’ve been working at home for months, and many companies have now made this a long-term situation.
It’s the fourth quarter of the year, and you’re working harder than ever. As managers prepare to evaluate your performance, use these action items to stay visible so that you can get the credit — and the raise.
Brag on yourself
As Black women, we have to get comfortable patting ourselves on the back. “Share your accomplishments, accolades and success stories with leadership,” says Marlena Cole, a professional life coach in St. Louis. “Sharing your success with management is as easy as forwarding them an email where someone has congratulated you or acknowledged your work as being critical to the success of a project.”
Telling others about your accomplishments is a way to build rapport and trust. If you’ve taken a company-led course on leadership, ask if you could lead a 15-minute discussion on the topic in the next staff meeting. Or volunteer to host a session or participate as a panelist at the next virtual industry conference, then share any new trends with your team. “You don't have to feel arrogant or worry about what others may think when you share your success,” Cole says. “Being your authentic self is the key to making sure your message lands in the right way.”
Enjoy the view
Turning off your video during a virtual meeting is a no-no. “It makes you look that much more invisible,” says Ella Washington, an organizational psychologist who teaches at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. “The challenge is we know that Black women don’t feel as comfortable sharing our personal lives and connecting socially in work situations.” Pop in the next virtual meeting five minutes early to ask a colleague how a new project is progressing or solicit some advice on resolving a client conflict. “It will make them feel seen and heard and want to spend more time getting to know you,” Cole adds.
Follow these other tips from Cole on ways to elevate your presence in a virtual meeting:
● Focus on your camera, not your colleagues on the screen, to maintain eye contact.
● Make your voice loud and clear so everyone can hear you.
● Have good lighting in the room to show up bright and sharp on the video.
● Close unused tabs on your browser to increase your internet speed — and to keep the focus on what matters when you share your screen.
Post office hours
Virtually speaking, we can’t afford to be incognito at work. For leaders who need to log off during lunch to race a teen to an after-school practice, set your Slack or Team notifications to “Away.” Or block the times you’re unavailable and share your calendar with your team. It shows transparency on your part and alerts colleagues to the best time to communicate with you to ask questions, share ideas or tackle challenges.
Schedule regular check-ins with the boss
To demonstrate that you are a high-potential employee, plan monthly 30-minute meetings with your manager. “This is about showing genuine interest in the bigger picture of the company’s vision, and how the work you do supports that vision,” Cole says. It also clues managers in on what’s happening in your group and how people are feeling, she says. Focus on sharing your goals for growth, brainstorming ideas to help the team improve or asking for feedback on a difficult aspect of a new project.
Foster team culture
Some organizations have gone beyond happy hours to set up an art-sharing club, fitness challenges or meditation groups. “Think of ways to contribute and foster community at work even virtually so that you are seen as more than just a regular worker,” Washington suggests. “Whatever you can do to stand out in that space will help the organization to see your value.”
By employing these strategies, you will boost your profile at work. Your conversations may yield solutions for problems your company is facing right now, and then, Roberts says, “you’re gold.”