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Work from Home and Still be a Part of the Office

Mar 11, 2013

Love your commute-free workday away from the glare of fluorescent lights?

Just don't get too comfortable. A recent study in the MIT Sloan Management Review found that bosses are more likely to attribute traits like "responsible" and "dependable" to in-office workers than those who work from home.

"This leads to lower performance evaluations for telecommuters," says Kimberly Elsbach, an author of the study and a professor at the University of California at Davis.

If you're among the 13 million U.S. employees who work remotely at least once a week, try these moves to seem as present as those who appear in the office every day.

Communicate constantly

Return calls as well as emails ASAP and make it easier for people to reach you by forwarding your office phone to a dedicated home-office line.

When you have to be out, make sure colleagues know in advance, and put an automatic reply on your email that says when you'll be reachable again.

"Telecommuters need to overcompensate for being out of sight," says Lynn Taylor, author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant.

Also, don't be shy about self-promotion. Make a habit of sending your supervisor a weekly update summarizing recent accomplishments.

Working hard on a project? Send some late-day emails to show that you aren't checking out at 5 p.m.

Get personal

When colleagues think of you as an integral part of the crew, they're more likely to praise your efforts on a past project or suggest your participation in a future one.

So carve out some time on phone calls to talk to your co-workers about nonwork stuff like family or weekend plans.

"You want to build relationships the same way you would if you saw them in the hallway every day," says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs.

These chats can also serve as your virtual water cooler, giving you the inside scoop on office sentiment and clueing you in on potential new opportunities.

Know when to show up

A flexible deal can be an advantage when you want to prove your loyalty.

In the face of a major deadline, however, turn up at the office and show your boss that you're willing to make an extra effort to get the job done, even when it's inconvenient for you.

Coming in for important meetings is also key, since your physical presence will make your contribution more memorable than participation by speakerphone.

Whatever your arrangement, if the company should hit a rough patch or you start to hear layoff rumors, haul your keister into the office as much as possible.

Says New York City executive recruiter Stephen Viscusi: "No matter what your performance level, it's a lot easier for a boss to let go of someone that he doesn't see on a regular basis."

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