October is National Work and Family Month and that may be a great time to request a work-from-home arrangement. Call it a pilot, promising to monitor your productivity and measure your results.
Working from home, even occasionally, is a privilege most of us want, and those of us who have it want very much to hang on it. Of all the things that cause a telework arrangement to fail, falling out of touch with the office may be the most common problem. Here are 12 suggestions for staying in touch, and saving that cherished remote work arrangement.
1. First and foremost, let your manager know you'd like feedback often and will take it - informally or formally - in any format.
2. Then, don't miss key meetings. If you can't alter your schedule, be an active participant via conference call, videoconference, or Web conference.
3. Be flexible. People won't always be able to work around your schedule, so you may have to come in on some days you usually work from home.
4. Contact key co-workers at least once a week. If you don't have any pressing business issues, just ask if there's anything new, compare notes, and find out if there's anything you can do to help them. One thing those in the office may be missing on the days you're gone is your assistance.
5. Establish "office hours," and encourage those in the office to contact you when you're at home. Make sure anyone who might need you knows exactly when they can get you, what to do if they feel it's urgent, and how long it will be before you return their voicemail or email message.
6. Master the art of e-mail conversations if you haven't already. E-mail messages sometimes call for tact, diplomacy and sensitivity. Without a smile or vocal inflections to soften what may be perceived as criticism, feelings can be hurt and colleagues irritated.
7. Keep in touch often. Find appropriate ways to make sure others don't forget about you and your contributions. Don't flood co-workers and clients with unnecessary email or phone calls, but don't be shy about getting the word out about your status on key projects, etc.
8. Be clear about your career goals. Is there a next step for you? If so, what is it and how would you like to get there? It's generally not true that flex workers get overlooked for promotion, but it helps if you know what you'd like to be doing in the next few years.
9. Keep checking out the perceptions of your in-office colleagues. Telecommuters tell of suddenly noticing relationships cooling with no warning, perhaps the result of a perceived slight, a little jealousy on the part of someone who had been wishing they could telecommute, or the sense that the telecommuter just didn't care anymore. There's no need to wait for signs and symptoms. Ask this question regularly: "Do you have any thoughts about how this arrangement is working? Has it had any impact on you?"
10. Know their schedules. Just as your in-office colleagues need to know when and where to contact you, you need to be able to find them when you need them. Ask team members and others to copy you when they work out their weekly schedule.
11. Take credit where credit is due. Your goal isn't to be seen as a single-handed superstar (even if you are one) but as a valuable and contributing member of the department. Make sure you get the credit that's due you, but don't try to upstage or by-pass your colleagues.
12. And finally, no matter how irritating he or she may be, try very hard not to alienate your boss.