How to Meet and Exceed Your Boss' Expectations When Telecommuting

Telecommuting can seem like a dream come true. When you first start out, you might think the hard part’s over- convincing your boss to let you work from home was the challenge, but from now it’s plain sailing, right? Nope. Meeting your boss’ expectations and being valued as an employee isn’t always easy to do from home. But there are a few things you can do to make sure you don’t get viewed as lazy- or slip out of sight altogether.

Be clear on what your manager expects from you

It’s hard to fulfill anyone’s expectations unless you actually know what they are. So, communicate with your manager and your team to make sure you know what your role is. One of the reasons the US government agency Office of Personnel Management’s 2010-2011 telecommuting program flopped was because employees weren’t clear on how many hours’ work was expected of them or whether they were making enough effort. Most importantly, you have to understand your manager’s expectations regarding deadlines. And not just before you start telecommuting - keep on top of your boss’ expectations by communicating frequently with them (and, if appropriate, your colleagues).

Stay in the loop

Communication isn’t just useful for keeping to deadlines. Ascertain your supervisor’s preferred frequency and method of contact so you can communicate ideas, strategies, deadlines and other messages efficiently. Effective communication makes you look good and stand out, especially if you come up with fresh ideas or do proactive research. It’ll make increase your supervisor’s confidence in your ability to take on new responsibilities. 

Don’t neglect your teammates, either. Now that you’re working from home, your colleagues don’t see you at lunch or by the water cooler. So they might wonder about your progress on team projects. Communicating with them and giving them updates on what you’re doing reassures your colleagues that you’re doing your bit. Notifying them well in advance if you can’t meet a deadline will be appreciated, too.

Data protection 

This doesn’t affect most of us, but if you happen to work in the medical, financial or other sector where customer data must remain confidential, it’s a serious concern. Keeping your personal and work email separate when emailing and file sharing would be a great start. Keeping your work activities and personal activities separate- by using two separate laptops- would be better. Some employers do provide telecommuters with work computers for this reason. If your employer doesn’t provide you with one, make sure the computer you work on has up to date security, including a firewall and antivirus software. 

Make sure to minimise technical problems

We’ve all been there- slow computers, glitchy software, having to do System Restores after routine Windows updates. At work, though, being a tech dinosaur or even just having a slow internet connection can be frustrating for your colleagues if they’re Skyping you about a project, and can affect business if you’re videoconferencing. To make a positive impression on your supervisor, colleagues and clients, your participation should be seamless. Computers, phones, printers, fax machines and scanners must work properly.

Stay focused and on task

Avoid distractions from your partner and family by creating a space just for work. Ensure your family understand they can’t disturb you and stick to set mealtimes so you won’t be tempted to wander around your house and forage for snacks- this can lead to you getting distracted by household chores or your family. Establish set working hours to help you stay focused and in a work mindset. This work and personal life separation is key to helping you to focus on work. Make sure your friends know that just because you’re at home, you’re still working and they can’t call and text you all day.

Get to know your team mates

We all know that people say things online that they’d never say in person, and that email communication is never as intuitive and seamless as face to face conversation. Getting to know your colleagues will reduce friction. So before jumping into a long-term project with colleagues you’ve never met, take a couple minutes to get to know a little more about each other than the usual "Hi, I’m Pete". This could be a ’get to know you’ email exchange or the first few minutes of the first phone call, videoconference or Skype chat. The more you know about your team, the better you’ll be able to communicate and cooperate.

Fulfilling and exceeding your boss’ expectations isn’t always easy...and being out of sight and out of mind while telecommuting won’t make it any easier. But if you communicate effectively with your boss, meet deadlines and cultivate great relationships with colleagues and clients, you’ll definitely impress your boss and your company.


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