How to Prepare for Your First Work From Home Performance Review

In an office environment, your employer can literally see what you’re up to every day. But if your job went remote this year, your visibility has likely decreased — and that may have you worried over how you’ll prove your worth during your first working-from-home performance review.

As Kelly Virginia Phelan, Ph.D., a career coach and founder of Winning Six Second Resumes, points out, that employers may not have had a chance to thoughtfully transition positions from in-office to remote during a pandemic — and that could mean your boss hasn’t been trained to supervise or evaluate your work now that you’re working from home. “This lack of intentional planning can make both parties anxious when it comes to performance reviews,” Phelan says.

But with planning and preparation, you can knock your performance review out of the park from behind your computer screen. Here are nine expert tips for setting yourself up for review success.

Show, don’t tell.

Now that you’re working from home, you’ll need to find creative ways to “show” your employer what you’re up to all day. Phelan suggests using the tools available to you, such as your Outlook calendar, to share what you’re doing each day. “This doesn’t have to be detailed,” she says, “but simply blocking out hours of the day and noting something such as ‘invoice reviews’ can show what you’ve been doing to fill your 40 hours.” Or sign into other online apps — such as Slack or Zoom — at a consistent time each morning, she says, to show when you’re starting your day. 

Amy Quarton, the associate instructor for the online organizational leadership program at Maryville University, suggests sending a summary of your accomplishments to your boss regularly. “Be concise and focus on the most relevant examples,” she says. “Use a daily work log to help you keep track of the effort you invest, the tasks you complete, and the goals you reach.”

Check-in regularly with your boss. 

Phelan and Quarton both recommend scheduling regular check-ins with your boss, “even if it is a five-minute chat with your supervisor or a quick email clarifying a question,” Phelan says. “This keeps you front of mind and makes sure you don’t go days flying under the radar before someone asks, ‘Has anyone heard from Bob? What’s he up to?’”  Use the time to highlight the work you’ve done, as well as confirm your boss’ expectations moving forward, Quarton says.

Add value to your interactions.

Everyone needs to blow off a little steam during the workday. “There are a lot of memes and goofy videos being shared by people locked down, struggling with homeschooling, and much more,” says Phelan. But “while it’s fine to share these anecdotes occasionally, make sure you don’t become the office clown,” she warns. Keep most of your communications professional. And “if you are going to share something unrelated to your job, try to make it something useful,” Phelan says, such as an article related to your industry or a new app that could help with work.

Lean on your past performance reviews. 

In the days leading up to your performance review, read through your past reviews. “Look for trends as to how your performance was measured in the past,” and dive into why you received past ratings, says Jennifer Fonseca, career coach and assistant director of career development at Palm Beach Atlantic University. “This will help you to identify how and what you will be measured again” and how your performance may have been impacted by working from home.  

Test your tech.

Ahead of your review time, test your technology to ensure you won’t be interrupted. Update your systems, troubleshoot a poor internet connection, and make sure your batteries are charged. Then, “ensure you have the correct phone number or link and passcode to access the system, and practice sharing your screen, uploading an attachment, or chatting with the facilitator,” Quarton advises. “This reduces the likelihood that the technology will interfere with your review and allows you to focus on more important preparations.”

Quantify your value. 

“Don’t wait to be asked to prove what you accomplished,” says Fonseca. “Come prepared.” And one of the best ways to do that is with numbers or other quantifiable results. “I suggest determining what your top five functional areas are of your job description and finding data to back how you met those areas,” she says. “It helps if you have benchmark data from the past to compare it to.” Data can come from anything or anywhere, as long as it’s reliable — think: your calendar to quantify time spent, for example, or official office reports to show sales increases.

Gather supporting evidence.

But showing your worth isn’t all about numbers. You’ll want to show your work in other ways, too — such as “testimonials from colleagues or clients that support the results and outcomes of your work,” says Fonseca. “Finding written support from others to validate your service can be helpful supporting evidence of your performance.” And if you don’t have these at your disposal already, consider asking colleagues to write reviews of your work ahead of your performance review. Such notes “can be helpful and first-hand evidence of work performed well,” she says. 

Record your challenges, too.

In addition to discussing your positive performance, “you will definitely be asked” about how you can improve, too, says Phelan. And you’ll need to have some good answers prepared. “Similar to the job interview question, ‘What are your greatest weaknesses?’ you should mention challenges and then be prepared to explain what you have been doing to fix them,” she says.

Think about what would make you happier.

 Of course, you’re hoping for a raise. But outside of a bump in salary, Phelan encourages you to think about what other outcomes of the performance review might make you happy — especially in the context of working from home. For example, “do you need an ergonomic chair for your home office?” she asks. “If your supervisor starts talking about working from home and future plans, would you like to work from home a few days a week? Or would you prefer to return to the office as soon as possible? People will be all over the spectrum, so be prepared to ask for what you want within reason, and if it is in your company’s power to make it happen, they likely will.”

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