With unemployment levels (EU, UK, US) at the highest since the Great Depression, many individuals don’t have the privilege of working, and those who do feel nervous about how long they’ll have that opportunity.
If you fall into the latter category, I can appreciate your very legitimate concern. Many companies are struggling to bring in revenue, let alone turn a profit. And with remote working arrangements, you don’t have the visibility with your colleagues and managers that you normally would. When you were in the office, you might have had informal interactions with these individuals multiple times a day. Now, if you don’t have a meeting on their calendar, you may wonder if they remember your presence — and more importantly, your importance to the organization.
I can’t guarantee that your position is secure, and there will certainly be factors outside your control. But there are ways that you can make yourself and your accomplishments more visible to your organization, even when you’re not in the same building. The following suggestions are five concrete steps that you can focus on right here, right now, to increase your odds of thriving in your job during this tumultuous time and demonstrating your value while working remotely.
Getting your work done is always a good idea. But especially in times where businesses and organizations are having to make hard decisions about who to keep, doing your work — and doing your work well — is essential.
As a time management coach, I’ve been working with clients throughout this time of uncertainty. (Thankfully, I was already remote!) And the sense I am getting is that there was a grace period in March and part of April as individuals were adjusting to working from home. Managers were more forgiving if there was a dip in productivity or missteps here and there. But now that it’s been multiple months of remote work, higher standards of output are returning. If you haven’t done so already, put a system in place for keeping track of your tasks and ticking them off, even if your schedule is modified because you have other responsibilities at home.
I don’t recommend that you give yourself a shout out at every single meeting, and I definitely don’t advise that you take undue credit for others’ work. But if you have accomplished something significant, share it. That could look like covering a few highlights of your work with your boss each week, either in your one-on-one or through email. Or speaking up in a meeting to share what your team is doing. Or even giving a presentation on some best practices that could help other colleagues in a similar role. Focus on not only what you did but how it produced positive results for your organization. This is not bragging but simply informing others about how, even though they might not see you working, you’re getting great things accomplished. And this gives you increased visibility across the organization as people understand the role that you fill and the value you add.
Although you don’t want to overload yourself with extra work to the extent that you burn out or can’t keep your commitments, look for ways to make your boss’s life easier. For instance, turn in your work early so your manager has extra time to review it before a meeting, or be extra prepared in your one-on-one meetings so they are as concise and effective as possible. These little things help reduce the pressure on your boss, so they are not worried about whether you’ll deliver and if you’re on top of your work. And if you have extra capacity, offer to help with extra assignments or take work completely off of your manager’s plate. This shows that you’re not only someone who gets their work done but also someone who takes initiative. Although your immediate supervisor doesn’t always have a say in layoff decisions, if they do, they’ll put in a good word for you if you’re making things easier for them.
With my clients, one of their least favourite ways to spend their time is in brokering arguments between people on their team. It drains energy, and they generally consider it a waste of time.
During this time, you not only want to be seen as a valuable individual contributor but also as someone who elevates the entire team. Try to work out differences with your colleagues on your own, without getting your manager involved. If you feel you absolutely must escalate a disagreement to your boss, do so minimally and only when it’s appropriate. Taking this approach to conflict shows that you have the capability to communicate and collaborate with others well, and it keeps your boss from being hesitant to put you on teams because they’re concerned you won’t play well with others.
One very unfortunate outcome of this season is that it’s brought out some very anti-social behaviour in people. Many people’s response to their own fear is controlling others. I’ve seen more vicious online behaviour and more people yelling at strangers in public in the last two months than I’ve seen in my entire life. And since the biggest subject on most people’s minds and on all media coverage is Covid-19 — an anxiety-producing topic for most — the air has been tainted with the stench of negativity.
Be different. When you’re chatting before the start of a meeting or sending an email, mention something — anything — other than the coronavirus. That could be the birds you saw on your walk, the funny things your kids did, or a book you’re reading. If needed, come up with some varied subjects in advance each day. Whatever you focus on expands, so expand goodness in the lives of your coworkers.
As a bonus, if you can be humorous, do so. Laughter and positive energy draw teams together and make people feel good about being around you. While doing good work and being a positive presence doesn’t guarantee your position will make the cut as you face layoffs, it does increase your odds because you’re demonstrating your value to the organization and the people around you.
Much of what happens with the job market and your particular job will be out of your hands. You can’t control what businesses are considered essential or not, nor can you control organizational changes and headcount. And there are many factors in place that determine the market demand for your work. However, if you follow the five pieces of advice above, you will do what you can to make the most impact and get credit for it within your current role. And you’ll make a positive impression in the process.
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This article was originally written by Elizabeth Grace Saunders, a time management coach and the founder of Real Life E Time Coaching & Speaking. She is the author of How to Invest Your Time Like Money and Divine Time Management. Full credit goes to HBR, who published this article earlier this year. This article has been reprinted for the purpose of education.