Here’s a tough question — what’s the greatest innovation in the history of business?
The computer? Don’t make me laugh. The cellphone? Ridiculous.
No, the greatest business invention is the jacket.
Not the jacket you wear, but your other jacket, the one you leave on the back of your chair when you sneak out of the office and don’t want anyone to know.
The identity of the brilliant person who invented the “jacket on the chair” gambit has been lost to history, but we can certainly understand their motivation. Everyone who works in an office setting knows the horror of the executive pop-in — the unscheduled visit that has no real purpose or importance, unless it shows your boss that you’re AWOL.
The jacket on the chair keeps this from happening. It actually makes it possible for a hardcore slacker to stroll out of the office any time of the day, unseen and unpunished. The jacket stays. You go.
Hocus-pocus! The jacket exists, and you have disappeared.
Today, with so many people working from home (WFH), being invisible in the office is not really an issue, but a serious problem can arise when your co-workers are back in the office, visible as heck, and you truly are invisible, WFH in your pajamas.
This is serious stuff. After a career of being unknown and unnoticed, you don’t want the loving, supportive colleagues who are back to stab you in the back.
Marketing strategist Dorie Clark has four strategies to deal with this dilemma in “Staying Visible When Your Team Is in the Office … But You’re WFH,” a recent article in the Harvard Business Review.
No. 1. Overdeliver.
To make your presence known, you will have to do more work and do it faster, too. It’s the opposite of your in-office style of doing less work and doing it really slow.
If you are going to add actual work to your daily schedule — and I would definitely check with your physician before making such a drastic change — don’t be shy about letting your manager know. Clark warns against tooting your horn too loudly “if you don’t want to come across as a brown-noser.” Of course, a brown-noser is exactly what you want to be. The more your boss can count on you to slavishly support whatever nonsense they happen to be spouting, the less likely you are to find yourself in an HR death spiral to unemployment.
Want to make a real impression? Start taking on projects given to others on your team. In fact, to show what a superstar you are, turn in projects assigned to people at other companies.
For example, I have to write a report on how to increase the sales of Popsicle sticks in Siberia, which you can start working on right now. It’s due tomorrow.
No. 2. Develop ambient awareness.
To reestablish the “social glue” that keeps workplace friendships alive, resolve to go to the office one day a week, but make the day a night and don’t tell anyone you’re coming.
Use your visit to go through your co-worker’s desks and garbage cans, perusing the top-secret notes they pass back and forth when no one is looking. Interrupting a meeting to tell a team member that you “see they are getting hot and heavy with Terry from accounting” can reestablish that wonderful relationship you had with your colleagues when you all worked side-by-side and everyone was terrified about what your big mouth might reveal next.
No. 3. Make yourself physically visible.
Our expert recommends turning your video camera on during Zoom meetings, even if it’s not required. I recommend you keep your camera on all day and — why not? — all night, as well. Let your co-workers see you sleep and eat and take baths. Just don’t use too much lavender foam bath salts; it’s difficult to see you behind all those bubbles.
No. 4. Be easy to work with.
Being home, you’ll want to make extra sure that the infinitesimal amount of work you do produce is noticed.
Follow up each email to your manager with a phone call to confirm receipt. Make sure you call at least three times a day during the workweek and four times a day on weekends, with at least one phone call between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. It shows that you are working 24/7.
In the next Zoom call, if your manager isn’t on the screen, but there is a jacket on their chair, you’ll know you’ve succeeded.
Hocus-pocus! You exist, and your manager has disappeared.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.