How to develop trust with your boss while working remotely

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Broadside writer Kristine Gill offers advice from remote workers on how to establish trust with your supervisor to make remote work a breeze. Then, scroll on for job opportunities from Uber, Mapbox, Instacart and more. (Yes, despite the economic downturn, places are hiring!)

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I got a taste of my dream this week when our office switched to remote work in light of social distancing guidelines. I’m a fan of working from home, myself: Swapping my makeup routine in favor of a quick morning walk has been great, plus my dogs love that I’m around. The best part? I’m better able to focus while working. No wonder remote workers are reportedly happier.

My work-from-home situation is temporary, but I was already able to implement some tips I received when compiling this newsletter before the pandemic struck, and I’ll be able to use them when we return to the office.

What I learned from experts is that trust is key.

“There’s a good body of research that shows when someone is in the office at least half the time, their relationships don’t suffer,” says Marissa King, a professor of organizational behavior at Yale School of Management. “But when someone is completely remote, that’s when that trust in their relationships that are really foundational for work start to deteriorate.”

Whether you’re working from home for the short term or it’s business as usual in your home office, these tips can help you work well and keep up work relationships.

Introduce your coworkers to your family (maybe).

Remember BBC Dad, the guest commentator whose children busted into his home office during a live interview on air? How about the parodies?

In the original clip, Dad kept the interview flowing, doing his best not to look away from the camera as his wife dragged the kids back out the door. In a parody, Mom welcomes baby onto her lap and continues with the interview, simultaneously steaming a blouse, scrubbing a toilet and diffusing a literal bomb.

BBC Dad became a viral sensation and remains a guest commentator whose children have been featured on air again and again. A lot of companies have cultures that welcome you to pull back the curtain on your living, breathing family. But it also depends on where you work.

“There are some companies where that can be the death knell for your career,” says Teresa Douglas, co-author of Working Remotely. More and more mothers and fathers are filing lawsuits for parental discrimination in the workplace. In one instance, employees sued their tech company on behalf of over 3,000 female workers for gender discrimination, including motherhood discrimination.

Mothers already experience workplace bias, but Douglas says it’s exacerbated when you work remotely. Male and female bosses alike sometimes assume their female remote workers are handling laundry, childcare and cooking while on the clock. “When there is a period of silence or a gap of interaction, we fill that in with all sorts of biases and expectations about what women should be doing,” King adds.

Of course, during COVID-19, all bets are off. FlexJobs offered a list of tips this week to remote workers suddenly juggling childcare as schools have shut down. The most important point seems to be about having a related convo with the kiddos, if they’re old enough.  

“Try explaining to your children that working from home means you really are trying to do work,” says Sandra Sutton, founder and CEO of FlexJobs, While it may seem like a regular weekend or a vacation day because you are all at home, it’s far from it. 

Say hi to your boss in the morning.

Ever gotten one of those texts/calls/Slacks/emails from your boss asking what you’re working on at the moment? They can sometimes feel accusatory: What are you up to? Avoid it all together by being proactive. Sometimes that’s as simple as a morning check-in.

“Before my company went remote, we held a standing meeting each morning for 15 minutes,” says Douglas. “We’d talk about what’s going on in our days and what we needed help with.”

Do the same with your team remotely. If this is new territory, Zoom is offering tips for everyone from educators to temporary remote workers on how to host virtual calls during the pandemic.

If your remote work situation is long-term, Douglas suggests sharing a calendar with your boss. If it’s a priority for both of you, keep her up-to-date on your scheduled meetings for the day, or the afternoon dentist appointment you’ll have to step away for. If you’re logging into your computer each morning, it doesn’t hurt to say so. And if you’re done for the evening, a simple sign-off can help you officially end your day without email stragglers interrupting your evenings.

If you’re a manager keeping tabs on your remote workers, your job will require mental gymnastics. That means making the switch from evaluating employees’ time on the clock to the tangible outcomes they produce.

“It’s being clear about what you expect but also looking at how people are delivering the work,” Douglas says. “Is it quality? Is it on time? Focus on that because you can see results of that labor instead of texting or calling randomly just to see if they’re there and working.”

Take time away from work, too.

Working remotely means you get to skip your commute! But it also makes it easy to go straight between work and home life without a break.

Working from home can easily turn into working around the clock, which is why it’s also important to establish boundaries with your clients and coworkers.

“It can be really easy to say, just one more email, especially if you’re working with clients across timezones,” Douglas says.

But sticking to a set of hours is better in the long term, and especially while working from home during what can now be a chaotic, stressful time.

“Create a daily routine—but don’t be afraid to tweak it,” Douglas says. “The important thing is to give yourself a definite time to wake up, get your work done, take breaks, and log off for the day.”

King suggests starting an evening routine that lets you end your work day and start your personal time. Maybe it’s a walk around the block. Or perhaps it’s making a show of turning off your laptop, shutting the door to your office and turning on some music. Maybe you leave to head to the gym. (Post-social distancing, of course.)

“From an employee perspective, you can do a lot of things to try to demarcate when you’re working or not working,” she says. “Creating those mental barriers can help maintain work life balance.”

Ask your coworkers how they’re doing.

King says that remote work usually eliminates small talk among coworkers, and you won’t know you miss it until it’s gone.

“It can be really difficult to develop trust in a remote environment,” she says. “It’s certainly doable but you have to invest the time in creating the equivalent of watercooler interactions with people who are working virtually. That’s the foundation of trust.”

Plus, to go back to biases for a moment: “[Increasing] a sense of truly knowing the other person is really helpful for reducing bias.”

King says you can start by structuring unstructured time at the end of a virtual meeting to talk about what everyone did over the weekend, or even chat about the weather. If you already know your colleagues well, and you’re dealing with this during the pandemic, it can be as easy as sending a group message checking in on everyone, or a friendly GIF, if that’s appropriate where you work.

Even if you don’t necessarily miss your coworkers, Douglas says you should be wary of missing out on human interaction, especially during the pandemic. 

“Social distancing should not lead to social isolation,” she says. “Make plans to call someone after work, join an online group, or find another way to be social. You may feel too frantic to take advantage of that social circle very much now, but you will be happy to have it in the days ahead.”

— Kristine Gill

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