Adventures in Teleworking

When you are invisible to the Office and vice versa

Posted on 12/01/2008 09:00:00 PM by TeleworkChick

At least once in a telecommuter's lifetime, there will be a period of Invisibility (and not the good “spy on someone without getting noticed” kind either). Whether it's because the Office doesn't acknowledge you or because you don't acknowledge them, invisibility can sometimes be a bad thing. Not having your boss breathe down your neck can be one of the truly enjoyable perks of working from home. When it goes to the extreme, however, it's another thing entirely - not having any communication with Headquarters at all is just plain bad.

Invisibility can stem from many things, but it's usually from lack of communication from one or both of the parties involved.

In my particular case, I once went 17 business days without any communication from my supervisor.
At all.
Even though I left voicemails, e-mails, and gave my standard reports, I heard not a single peep back. The Boss had become Invisible. By the 17th day, I was crazy with all kinds of doubt, anger, worry, and stress. Do they know I am working? Are they even aware I am out here? When I did hear back from him, it was a tense, angry call. It didn't help me or my situation at all. From that point forward, I made a point to keep in regular (several times per week at least) contact with the Boss. I had a discussion with both my Boss and my Boss's Boss about how keeping an employee in the dark is really not good for productivity or for the employee (me).

In another case, a new teleworker for the Company has completely dropped off the radar since he left the Office, because he has stopped communicating. The rumors and questions began to pop up almost immediately:
Is he really working?
Didn't he have a side job, that maybe he is now doing during his work day?
What is he doing all day?
Did you hear he took a sick day?

These kinds of rumors are hard to stop once you start working from home, but without communication, OWJ issues run rampant, and take a life of their own.
This employee was, in fact, working each day but had become Invisible to the Office, and that almost nullified the good things he was accomplishing.

Working from home can be isolating enough without Invisibility issues making them worse. Up-front discussion with your supervisor about the communication expectations you both have will help you feel less Invisible to them, and they to you. If your company is new to teleworking, suggest that they provide guidelines for you to follow to check in regularly so they can have a benchmark by which telecommuters are evaluated. Better yet, be proactive and offer them some guidelines of your own. You’ll show initiative and they will appreciate your dedication.

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