I’ve had jobs where I’ve been mostly in-person, mostly remote, and somewhere in-between. But I was still unprepared for 2020. In the past, I’ve relied being in-person to get the visibility I need at work. Since that’s not an option right now, and as someone often labeled as “soft-spoken,” I’ve had to make some changes this year. So here are some thoughts with the usual disclaimer that I know they won’t apply, won’t work for everyone.
Be There, Speak Up
It’s easy to fly under the radar—intentionally or not—when everyone is remote. But there’s a risk absence doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder but can make people wonder what you’re doing all day. Personally, I’m an introvert, and I don’t like to speak up unless I’m sure I’ll add value. I’ve pushed myself to pipe up more often, so people remember who I am and what I do. On the other side, I like to make sure I acknowledge everyone if I’m leading the meeting to break the ice.
What not to do: I got a note from my son’s teacher kindly asking if I could un-install the voice-changer on his system he was using to add some “excitement” to his class’s Zoom calls. You don’t want to stand out in the wrong way.
I know, I know…I sometimes dread turning on video, but I highly recommend doing so. Pre-pandemic, my co-workers who worked remotely and had the most career success always used video. There is something about putting a face to a voice that amplifies collaboration and makes you seem more present. It’s also helpful when people can tell you right away that you’re still on mute because they can see your lips moving! So, turn that video on if your bandwidth can handle it. If you get distracted by seeing yourself, turn the self-view off.
Beware: A downside of turning off the self-view on video is you can’t see what’s happening behind you. One day I screamed in terror during a big meeting when my 13-year-old came in and gave me a hug. Unfortunately, I was not on mute.
Not More Meetings, But More Conversations
I was 100% in-office when all of a sudden I was 100% remote back in March of this year. Initially, I had meetings almost every minute of my workday. By now, I have a lot better balance. I still have plenty of meetings, but I look for opportunities to ping over chat to ask if I can call for a quick conversation. I also get some extra 1x1 time.
But consider this: It’s fine to take care of business over chat as well to skip both the meeting and the call, especially if your typing is better than mine.
Schedule Fun Time, Too
In normal times, we’d have plenty of opportunity for casual conversations, be it traveling to see each other in-person or generally meeting up for fun. We can still do that, just differently. The key is the same as normal times, variety—video watch parties, gaming sessions, virtual happy hours, or book clubs. One thing isn’t going to work for everyone. Don’t overlook this stuff. The good news is you can include people from other offices and locations more easily.
I’m interested learning your tips and tricks as well, so comment below if something worked or didn’t for you and your team to be present and heard in these chaotic times.