WFH? Here’s how to make yourself indispensable

28th January 2021 Off By Vanessa Tierney

When you’re based in an office, you can often get a feel for how you fit into your boss’ plans – but your status can be so much harder to gauge when you work from home. Here’s some tips to boost your personal ‘stock price’ if you’re one of the WFH brigade…

We obviously condone the idea of working from home here at Abodoo – we think it can be fantastic for maintaining a healthy work/life balance; it can give you geographical freedom to live (and roam) wherever you want; and there’s no disputing the environmental pluses of not having to commute every day.

But yes – there can be downsides, too. The importance of remote workers being supported has been well documented both here and all over the internet (it’s one of the reasons we have partnered with ‘virtual office’ platform Yonderdesk), and much has also been said about WFH employees needing to find a way to keep set hours so that they can properly switch off at the end of the day.

But something that doesn’t get so much coverage is the notion that remote workers often struggle to get a measure of how they fit into the company’s wider plans. When you’re based in the office, it’s generally much easier to see where you fit into things – and proximity to your boss and other colleagues (plus the company rumour mill) can often give you an idea as to where your future opportunities may be.

We believe that managers should do whatever they can to ensure that all of their teams – those working at home, in co-working spaces or the office – should be equally informed; that announcements should be sent to everyone at the same time and that managers should be as communicative and transparent with their WFH teams as they are the people they see in the office every day.

We can’t control that, of course – but we can offer a few thoughts on making yourself a little more visible and, hopefully, indispensable if you work from home…

1 Be awesome

It can often feel that remote workers have to go the extra mile to be noticed – with this in mind, a good mantra for the WFH cohort is simply to try and “be awesome”. Another way of looking at it: own that job you’ve been tasked to do. Know it inside out, and also make sure you’re aware of how it relates to the work of others within the business. Refuse to see yourself as a passive hired-gun – be interested in the specific goal at hand, the company’s wider ambitions and also in your colleagues too. If a manager sees 90 per cent of his remote workers as “competent resources”, he’s most likely to see a brighter future for the 10 per cent who have somehow made themselves a part of the story.

2 Seize the moment

Meetings are where most remote workers have a daily or weekly chance to shine. Think of these moments as a performance opportunity: not in an annoying “looking at me!” way, but as a chance to subtly show your manager that you have read the agenda, you came prepared and you have something to contribute. Ask insightful questions that will open up new avenues of thought. Show interest in the other team members. Become the glue that holds the whole dispersed workforce together.

3 Be there, even when you’re not

When you’ve a quick chat scheduled with your boss, try and push for a video chat over a phone call or a flurry of texts on WhatsApp. Why? Because it puts you on near-level playing field with those people based in the office. You can share a joke, catch up on company gossip and so on (all of which should be done judiciously, of course – you don’t want to be an annoying time-waster). Ask yourself this: at the end of a week, if you’ve had six quick video chats with your boss while your less proactive colleague has had just as many emails, which of you is the boss most likely to feel like he/she actually knows?

4 Be the go-to person for something

During the course of your daily work you’ll likely develop a particular aptitude for something – or maybe you have some special skill from a previous job that makes you stand out. If it’s something you enjoy and is of value to your company, try and become the go-to person for that one niche thing. In some cases, this skill can be something so hard to master that your head-start puts you on a fast track to owning this area within the whole business – which makes you a vital cog in the company machine.

5 Become a client’s vital go-between

On a related note, in some businesses it is possible for an employee to elevate themselves to seriously lofty heights by becoming that one person that a certain key client will only ever deal with. This isn’t exactly easy to pull off, but if you have history with a client and they carry weight within the business, it can make sense to foster that relationship to the point where your bosses fear the day you talk about leaving. You’ve every bit as much a chance of becoming this critical link when working from home as you do if you’re based in the office. In fact, it might be said that it’s easier to woo a client over the phone in your private home office than it is in an open-plan workspace where your colleagues can hear your (potentially cringy) spiel.

There are other things you can do to elevate your status within a dispersed workforce – staying up to date with current trends and industry news is just one of them – but the five we’ve outlined above should offer plenty of food for thought.

And if you do spend the next year trying to achieve all five and still aren’t sure if they’re working, it can be a good idea to simply ask the boss for a quick chat about your career development. How does he/she see you fitting into the future of the business? In many cases, managers will be happy to have this conversation with you.