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Being a Virtual Employee Means Being Proactive

‘JT & Dale Talk Jobs’ is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country and can be found at JTandDale.com. Dear J.T. & Dale: I have a really neat job with a start-up company. The company is run virtually, so I work from home. I love working from home, but occasionally I've been away doing something in my house like laundry or fixing a snack, and my manager has tried calling me. When I call back, he jokes about me taking a nap. I know he's kidding, but...on the other hand, I'm entitled to get up and take a break, just like people at regular offices, right? — Erin J.T.: I can relate. I run a virtual company, and at first I found myself wondering if everyone was really working or if I was paying people to sit on the couch and watch TV. But then I realized if they were slacking, I would eventually see it in the work. So I stopped worrying about AVAILABILITY and started focusing on ACCOUNTABILITY — if they met my expectations for the quality and quantity of work, then it didn't matter what they were doing at home. Dale: What makes the virtual office possible is, of course, the Internet...but also the cell phone. Surely you have one. Is it too much to ask to carry it along while you have a snack or do laundry? I don't think so, and I suspect your boss doesn't either. So, give him your cell number, forward your land line or at least get a wireless handset. Otherwise, unless he is as wise as J.T. and has given you quantifiable work goals and standards, he can't help but be suspicious; after all, there are cases of people who have held down two full-time virtual jobs simultaneously. J.T.: But there are times when you're away from even a cell phone. So here's what I suggest: Identify your tasks and the expected output. Then regularly update your boss on what you've done so he'll know you're meeting his standards. A little proactive effort on your part should do the trick. Dale: Speaking of proactive, when you have the conversation with your boss about his expectations, I would push it forward and say, "I love my job and want to be a star employee. Help me set some 'stretch' goals that would get me there." This is manager catnip. He'll see you differently, and if you come through, you won't have to worry about a few missed calls, because you'll be the last employee he'd want to lose. JT & Dale LogoJeanine "J.T." Tanner O'Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm, JTODonnell.com, and of the career management blog, CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com. Please visit them at JTandDale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019. © 2011 by King Features Syndicate, Inc. Photo credit: Shutterstock