When you work in an office, others see you working every day. What about when you work from home?
When you work at home, who sees you sitting at your desk typing and clicking? Your dog?
If you're a knowledge worker like me (I'm a technical writer), most of your work is mental. The stuff going on in your head is more important than the clicks and drags and key strokes. The most important work you're doing cannot be seen. So it shouldn't matter whether the outward signs of you working are seen. But it does.
People form the strongest bonds with people they see. It's in the very words we use to describe the quality of relationships. A strong friendship is a "close" friendship. A tenuous chance is a "remote" chance.
What does this mean for those of us who work from home?
Remote workers need to work harder
We need to work harder to form close bonds with our coworkers. We need to make sure we're seen and heard, despite being miles away from those with whom we share a common mission during the working portion of our day.
If you're self-employed, this is even more important. You may have no established coworkers. You may have no "boss" in the traditional sense. But you have others on whom your livelihood depends ... clients, maybe or customers. And it's critical that you get seen and heard by them no matter how much distance separates you.
Performing is key
We remote workers need to get better at performing work so that we get seen and heard.
Just like the actor who must raise her voice loudly enough to reach people in the nosebleed seats, you must project across the distance that separates you from your team, clients, and customers. The distance for us is much greater than the back of a theater. It's miles, states, or even countries away.
So how do you project across distances this great? Technology! Remote work is becoming more and more common because technology that allows us to communicate across distance is improving. So use that technology.
Seize any chance to speak up in online meetings.
I used to be hesitant to "bother" people or "interrupt" other people in meetings so I would wait until I felt I had something truly important or smart-sounding to say. But I learned I am a poor judge of my own utterances. And most others spoke much more than I did, offering ideas that were nowhere near fully formed. Noticing that, I decided to jump in more often. You can too. And turn your video on. If more than a couple people are attending online, be sure to introduce yourself before you speak. "This is Bob, and I want to say ... "
If you're invited to the meeting (unless it's listen only), they want to hear your thoughts and questions. Speak up!
Make your own chances to speak up
Use video call technology to talk to your coworkers just like you would if you walked over to their desk in the office. Find reasons to do a video call at least a few times a week.
Send friendly words daily
Use chatting apps .... I like Slack a lot ... to converse with coworkers a few times a day. It doesn't always have to be strictly work-related. Think about chatter in the office ... people talk about their families, about sports and movies. They tell jokes.
This is the kind of talk that forms tight bonds ... not the more formal "professional" speak.
Rewrite your communicating story
For those of us who are introverts, it can be difficult to overcome the tendency to do what's most comfortable — keeping to yourself. We often consider introversion to be our authentic self. And reaching out to others can feel inauthentic.
But this is just a story we tell ourselves. What we consider to be our "authentic self" is based on current and prior roles ... not some kernel of self essence. If we hold ourselves to stay true to that story we don't evolve.
We need to tell ourselves new stories. Try on a story about being outgoing. Relentlessly positive. Observent of the strengths of others. Friendly.
Yes, trying on new stories can be uncomfortable. But for remote workers, being seen and heard is more important than being comfortable.
Honor your own value to your team ... what you offer is greater than proximity. And you can overcome the challenges of distance by using these tips to get seen and heard.