How can remote employees dispel the myth that they're not working as hard as they would if they were in the office? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Jane Chin (陳盈錦), Working remote since 1999, on Quora:

For some context, I came into a position where the previous person had left after a couple of months on the job. This person had started a business, and the employer suspected there were client "overlaps" such that when the person was meeting the employer's clients, the person was using that opportunity to develop the person's own business instead.

This left the employer with negative feelings around this remote position, as the executives could not constantly verify whether the person had indeed met the clients the person claimed to have met, and by the time the employer had enough information to "check out" the claims, the person had already resigned.

I stepped into a position where there were not only lack of credibility around work being produced, but also complete lack of trust for the role I was performing from other departments that also had remote employees. Here's what I did immediately:

During my first week at corporate headquarters for training, I met with the executive I knew would likely be evaluating my performance. I asked this:

"Let's imagine I have been with the company 60 days, and you came to me and told me 'Jane you are doing a fantastic job!' What have I accomplished in those 60 days for you to say that?"

Note: The reason why I chose 60 days instead of 90 days, which would comprise a business quarter, is because in this specific situation, I started in November and there were only 2 months before year-end. Otherwise I'd use, and recommend 90 days as your benchmark.

The executive gave me a list of items in response to my question. I made those items my "60-day goals." These goals had included interactions with specific internal stakeholders who manage remote teams I would support, as well as goals relating to my specific department. In other words:

First, Identify Specific Outcomes that are Meaningful to the person(s) Evaluating your Performance.

I created tasks and actions required to meet each of those goals, and really front-loaded the visibility of my actions. I immediately made myself known to all members of the other remote teams via introductory teleconferences. I reached out to their managers to understand what support they had needed but were lacking. I listened to their skepticism of my role because they had been burned by the predecessor who had made promises not kept. In other words:

Look for Lowest Hanging Fruits for Rapport Building from Internal Stakeholders Who Need to Know You are Working and Collaborative.

I made more phone calls during the first weeks to my internal stakeholders than I called external clients. I knew rebuilding trust with internal stakeholders was critical, because they probably had the ears of people who would ultimately judge my productivity and performance. I was proactive. I communicated and over-communicated.

This created a wave of support for my activities by other remote team members who were shocked that their questions were being responded to by someone they could easily reach via phone/email.

But there was something I really disliked doing at this organization: biweekly activity reports. The "standard practice" in my industry is monthly activity reports. Biweekly activity reports were an administrative chore that I found cumbersome, but I understood this was the culture at this organization. What I didn't realize was that I ended up differentiating my efforts with these reports by focusing less on "activities" and more on "insight and impact" of a particular activity. In other words:

Instead of Reporting Busy-Work (tasks), Share Insights and Impact of a Specific Effort -- Especially Involving Other Remote Team Members.

I knew I was on the right track when the executive started reminding us to focus less on lists of activities, and share more insights. Corporate headquarters value specific and actionable "intelligence" more than reading lists. I began to hear people at corporate acting on specific insights I had shared in my activity "reports," and learned that what I had written was being transmitted beyond the U.S. based franchise to the ex-U.S. "parent" company.

Finally, at the end of 60 days I circled back to the executive with the list of goals that had been defined from our original conversation, demonstrated that I had met or exceeded those goals, then added the next quarter's goals for feedback. (I did not receive feedback on those goals, but I knew if my goals were "off" I'd hear about it.)

Since I focused on collaborative effort, this encouraged other remote team members to support my effort helping them, and some have even asked how I was accomplishing so many things so quickly. In other words:

When other team members start wondering if you're working too hard/over time, you are on the right track of accomplishing the real goals that matter to the company, versus "looking busy enough."

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Published on: Jun 9, 2017