Strategies for Showing Your Boss That You’re Keeping Busy

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One of the worst parts of working from home: Feeling like your superiors don’t think you’re busy since they can’t see you being busy. How you let them know that you’re toiling away, particularly on days when you don’t have deliverables or face time with your manager? Here are a few strategies:

Keep talking. “The key to effective remote work in all circumstances is increased communication,” says Barbara Larson, professor of management at Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business, who suggests simply asking your boss how she’d like to stay updated on your work. “Just acknowledging that your boss might have those questions goes a long way to establishing an open line of communication.”

Offer options. You could suggest one or more of the following:

  • A daily, twice-a-week, or weekly status update by email, videoconference, phone, or Slack
  • BCC’d or forwarded emails to keep your manager in the loop
  • Google Docs or Sheets (or their equivalent) to share work in progress
  • A project management tool such as Basecamp, Trello, Asana, or Jira, for a more comprehensive overview
  • A livestreamed video feed of your workspace. (Kidding!)

Think of these not as tasks or overshares, but as a way to allow your boss to give input. Larson says that some managers will be relieved and want to hear more from you; others will be content and just assume that you’re working.

Stay focused. A good status update answers three questions your boss will likely have:

  • How’s everything going?
  • Are there any problems?
  • Do you need anything?

You don’t have to provide a laundry list of specific tasks or a printout of how you spent your day. But by demonstrating that you’re effective and trustworthy, you are subtly helping your boss be results-oriented. “I always encourage remote bosses to be focused on results, not face time or hours,” says Larson.

Employ stealth tactics. There are subtle ways to make sure your boss knows you’re working hard. Here a few to think about:

  • Post on a social media account that your boss sees. A snapshot of your latest work accomplishment. A photo of your laptop and coffee. A note of thanks to your awesome coworkers. Time your posts for when you want your boss to know you’re on the clock. (Just prepare yourself for a few “#humblebrag” comments.)
  • Share your work calendar. If you want your manager to be aware of, say, the long hours you spend on the phone, or the eight times you edited and re-edited the annual report, block out that time in your calendar.
  • Do a weekly roundup. On Monday or Friday, outline what’s on your plate, and what’s up for the week to come.
  • Slack away. Share links, positive news, industry articles, or anecdotes that indicate that you’re working (“Bob from the supplier just told me the funniest story …”).
  • Tag your boss in comments. Shared documents, project-tracking software, and Slack are an ongoing opportunity to show your boss that you’re detail-oriented and that you want to make sure she knows that you’re keeping her up to date.
  • Respond immediately. Replying quickly to emails or texts indicates that you’re attentive and available. (Only do this if you want to be known as attentive and available.)
  • Send questions that indicate progress. Try, “Hey, Samantha, which of these seven supplier bids sound the most promising?” Your boss now knows that you’ve collected seven supplier bids.

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