12 Ways Remote Workers can Prove they are Working

I recently read Scarlet Pruitt’s HR World article on 6 Ways Remote Workers Can Prove They’re Working.

Scarlet’s premise is that as a remote worker “Your life is pretty great except for one small problem: No one at the office believes that you’re actually working.”

She’s hit on the nail on the head. As a remote worker sometimes it feels like you can’t win: You’ve either got the boss constantly ringing you up to check that you haven’t secretly crawled back under the covers OR you have to deal with your own personal guilt because work trusts you enough to leave you to your own devices – so you need to prove them right. Either way it makes sense to exert your virtual presence every now and then!

Scarlet offered 6 ways you can check in with the folks at the office. I’d like to offer my own take on these and a few extra…

1. Check in frequently. You can do this using Skype, IM, email or even Facebook. Then of course there’s Twitter which seems to have single handily revitalised the water cooler moment. When you start work it’s easy to send a quick message about an interesting article you’ve read or something you’re planning to work on. Of course there are issues with who follows you on certain Social Networking tools and you need to make sure you catch the work audience rather than all your mates. There is a fuller description of possible tools in Staying Connected: Technologies Supporting Remote Workers and on the technologies page of this blog.

2. Share your schedule. Letting others know where you are and when you are working is immensely important when you don’t work in the same office. At work we use Oracle calendar, it’s a bit clunky (it integrates with Microsoft Outlook) but every one at the University can see when you are available, as long as you keep it up to date. For virtual teams something like Google Calendar or Yahoo Calendar.

3. Tout your results. Share your achievements with the right people. Do this through internal mailing lists, online project management systems (such as I did work) or an internal micro-blogging service. I share my outputs with my line manager every few hours using Yammer. It’s also good to be pro-active with dissemination of your work. Write articles, peer reviewed papers, blog posts etc.

4. Engage in discussions.
As Scarlet says “Try to participate in company conference calls and email threads to show that you’re an engaged and active member of the team. This participation will also give you a good gauge of current workplace issues and ideas.” We have a lot of email discussions at work and if I can’t come up with an answer I’ll try to come up with a question, which is just as useful a way of contributing. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation, the more you participate, the more you’ll understand what’s going on so the more you’ll have to offer. Obviously this can’t be at the expense of your required work but it isn’t always a wasted distraction.

5. Periodically check in with different departments. Again the more you mingle the more you’ll find out and the more on the ball you will be

6. Make time for in-person visits. This isn’t always easy to do but some one-to-one time goes a long way. At UKOLN remote workers are encouraged to make it over to Bath as much as possible. People tend to schedule a few meetings close together and even initiate a social for when they are in town, this makes the best use of their time on-site.

At UKOLN we’ve now agreed that a hot-desk wasn’t really necessary as people tend to come into the office and sit with their laptop near who ever they want to work with. Instead the systems team try to make sure that there are plug sockets and seats available for people to just turn up and use. If you can’t meet at the office try to attend conferences that co-workers will also be at.

7. Phone in for meetings. If you can’t be at a meeting then the next best thing is phoning in and participating using phone conference technology. I’ve written on the blog about how we support remote workers who phone in. Making sure that you have a representative at the meeting (on Skype or IM) who will allow you to ask questions and comment is essential.

8. Write a blog. I’m not just saying it because I do it but writing a blog is a good way to show case things you are working on. Reading and commenting on other people’s posts is another way to be a pro-active member of the community. Try keeping up to date on current posts using a feed aggregator like Bloglines, Google Reader or Feedreader.

Scheduling blog posts is also a fantastic way to make it look like you are online when you are making use of your flexible working quota! 😉

9. Keep a personal impact file. Make sure you keep any positive feedback (in whatever form it takes) and file it away for when you might need it. This information could be really useful when it comes to appraisal time.

10. Be accessible. Try to be available if needed. Provide work with a mobile number so they can contact you if you are out and about. Answer emails and IM messages fairly regularly. It’s fine to take a break but if you are going to be out for 3 hours either tell people or find a wifi hot spot.

11. Manage your manager. If your manager is constantly on your case then maybe you need to have a talk about how this is not an effective use of your time. If they’ve trusted you enough to let you work remotely then they need to trust that you will get your work done. A good working relationship with your manager is really important if you’re a remote worker as you’ll need them to tell the big bosses that you are doing what you are supposed to!

12. Be output driven. If you use your time effectively, stay organised and keep motivated then you will get your work done. Some people find it useful to track their time if they work in a more flexible way. I prefer to work the same core hours every day. When 5:30 comes round I virtually clock off. Working the same time as everyone else means that I am visual to a greater number of people too! At the end of the day if you are achieving good quality work and maintaining a healthy public profile then you are doing yourself proud.

Any other good ways you can prove you are working?


9 thoughts on “12 Ways Remote Workers can Prove they are Working

  1. In the company I work for we use the IBM Sametime messaging system. This would fall in the “Check in frequently” category, I believe. We must be connected to the company’s vpn first. Sametime allows us to stay “connected” all day, and your status is displayed in green (available), yellow (away), red (do not disturb), inMeeting (a nice window-like icon). So, the big deal here is that if you “say” you are available, then it means that you are working, and you should answer immediatley to whatever request somebody makes to you. If you don’t answer, and you are supposed to be available … well … then, what are you doing?

  2. Hi Victor,

    If you don’t answer, and you are supposed to be available … well … then, what are you doing?

    Erm….going to the toilet?!

    A bit scary to always have to be on call. At work I used to scoot off for a coffee and be ‘offline’ for ages and nobody said a thing so why do I have to be available all the time now I work from home.

    Marieke – I think your points make sense though as these days you want to provide evidence that you are a good employee, just to cover yourself…

    Great read.


  3. Hi Melanie,
    Yes!! … that’s a good one. 🙂
    But it is a too common trick, and then it happens that you keep going very often to the toilet.
    Well, the point there is that you could be in the “away” status as necessary. It is not required to be 100% of time available. So, you should be “available” only if you are really working.

  4. Hi Luck,

    That’s an interesting idea. I might do a post on it. Are there any other solutions you’d recommend?



  5. Hi Marieke,

    Glad you liked my idea.

    I would recommend Radmin software that I use to access my office PC (I gave a link in my prevoious post).

    But sure there is a lot of programs for remote access. You can find some interesting reviews about it at http://remote-access-software.net/working-remotely/ and by googling “remote access software” 🙂


  6. Pingback: Cultural Heritage » Blog Archive » Elsewhere on UKOLN Blogs: April 2009

  7. If I responded instantly to every single Sametime message that I received, I may be perceived to be working, but very little actual work would be getting done. I use Sametime every day, but I’m not a slave to it. People realise that if I’m available then I’ll respond in a reasonable timeframe, but that isn’t instantly. If you can actually achieve this, you aren’t seeing the same volume of Sametime messages that I do.

  8. Luck: You should ensure that any use of such software is authorised by your security department. You might be being “visible” to people you really don’t want to be visible to 🙂

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