by Cynthia Spraggs, author of “How to Work from Home and Actually Get Sh*t Done: 50 Tips for Leaders and Professionals to Work Remotely and Outperform the Office“
There are two key aspects to any company – culture and production. You can think about these as “who we are” and “what we produce.”
Since the onset of the pandemic and the switch to more people working from home, the overriding emphasis across most companies has been on culture. This is why we saw the explosion of Zoom calls, online pizza parties, people working together on video, the onset of “remote worker managers” and a host of other activities geared to team engagement.
Now the pendulum is starting to swing the other way. With the possibility of further lockdowns, more firms are paying even closer attention to production and starting to notice that being on camera all day on Zoom calls may not be the most productive policy. Besides the widely reported “Zoom Fatigue,” there is more research on how working from home can be productive, or even if it can be.
In our decade of experience making virtual teams more productive, I can absolutely guarantee that working from home can be highly productive – if you structure it properly. And a nice spin-off from this is it that it will help your career at the same time.
Engagement is important to the process of teams being productive, but of course it doesn’t ensure productivity. Articles like this one emphasize the importance of video in team engagement – virtual meetings, your workplace involvement and your career – but it says nothing about how you will actually get something done during your work day. If you are extremely productive, you can get more done in less time, you can offload tasks from your managers, and you can make them more productive.
So what do you think makes you more valuable: offloading stress and making someone’s life a lot easier, or looking good on a video call?
In terms of career progression, nothing beats interpersonal connection to senior managers. Frankly, there are people who do this better than others, and I’m sure we all know who they are.
When things do open up, if you want to advance your career, of course, spending some time in the office and at in-person meetings will be critical. However, until that happens, there is an unprecedented opportunity for the quieter ones among us, who may not always make the best impression in person, to shine – and that’s by producing results.
How do you do this? Here are my top four tips:
1. Become the solution.
Have a department that is struggling to organize better? Find one thing and suggest a way to fix it. Maybe your online files need a reorganization. Suggest having a working session to clean them up. Maybe you need an online dashboard with links to key information. Or, maybe everyone could use training on how to use a video platform more efficiently.
2. Communicate with impact.
With all the emails and messaging going on right now, it is easy for your messages to get lost. Take a cue from advertising companies and learn to say the most with the least. Use tools like Canva to create high-impact messages. Use storytelling rather than repeating information. Read “The Elements of Style” to learn how to pare down your language.
3. Turn off the webcam and get to work.
Staring at a bunch of talking heads will create distractions that will make it difficult for many on your team to focus on the matter at hand.
4. Follow up.
Designate a meeting facilitator to keep things on track, someone else to take minutes, and someone else to follow up on action items and report back status. The underperformers will be obvious, and so will the people making a difference.
Life will return to a new normal. With everyone on the same playing field, if there was ever a time to shine in your job, now is it. Yes, if it is a video call, of course look your best. But even more important, show you are someone who can take charge and produce results. In the end, function is going to triumph over form.
Cynthia Spraggs is the author of “How to Work from Home and Actually Get Sh*t Done“. She is CEO of Virtira, a completely virtual company that focuses on remote-team performance. Before taking leadership of the company in 2011, Spraggs worked with large consulting and tech companies while completing her MBA and research into telecommuting.