Remote work has many benefits, but one downside is that it can be harder to climb the career ladder. Here’s how you can change that.
Working from home was once a rare luxury reserved for employees of progressive tech companies and digital nomads.
Fast forward a few years, and the shift to working from home during a pandemic, and it is commonplace among workers from all walks of life.
Tina Monk, career consultant at Sydney Career Coaching, said many people are thriving in the new landscape of work. Recent research revealed that 70 per cent of people who worked remotely throughout the pandemic want to continue doing so.
Many of Monk’s clients love remote work for its flexibility, freedom to use their time better, saved time and money from commuting, better productivity, and greater happiness and satisfaction.
For others, it has been a different story.
Extroverted employees reported feeling isolated and disengaged. Women had a harder transition to remote work than men, often finding themselves busier and more overwhelmed than before.
“Women may be more likely to want to work from home than men,” said Monk.
“They have, however, had a harder time doing so, reporting higher rates of stress, depression and sheer number of hours worked, especially if they have children.”
True workplace flexibility is being thwarted by antiquated corporate ideals and values, evident by many businesses racing to ‘get back to normal’, meaning a full return to the office. Some are even forcing their staff to return in person, accusing any who refuse of simply “pretending to work” from home.
Blindly returning to business as usual represents a wasted opportunity to build resilient, flexible workplaces that suit a diverse range of people. It also falsely assumes that employees don’t work as hard from home.
If anything, the opposite is true. Monk explained that remote and hybrid working arrangements can lead to burnt out, overworked employees if left unchecked.
Despite returning great outcomes, remote employees face greater challenges to recognition for their contribution. So how can they even begin to pursue career progression from home?
How to land a promotion while working remotely
Working partly or fully from home should not exclude you from progressing in your chosen profession. However, Monk said that fewer physical interactions can pose barriers to promotion.
“For employees wanting promotion in the new landscape, the rules and conventions are murky at best,” said Monk.
“A manager might feel less accessible via video link, or the distance might make it harder to demonstrate success. It’s also difficult to gauge the state of the company when you’re out of the office.”
Not having the ability to wander past your colleagues’ desk to share information, ask for advice or simply catch up makes it more difficult to form and maintain professional connections.
Challenges aside, Monk affirms it is possible to make your mark while working from home. For many, this begins with a mindset shift regarding productivity and success and asking difficult questions.
“I see clients who limit themselves all the time by making assumptions about how the company is doing,” said Monk.
“It is true that due to the pandemic, many companies are struggling or have gone under, but many are thriving. Until you’ve had conversations with higher-ups and looked at job postings, you won’t know whether or not a promotion is feasible.”
Monk suggests finding creative ways to use remote working arrangements to your advantage. Highlight your strengths to your bosses and demonstrate the valuable contributions you make while working from home.
How to stand out while working from home
Working from home has fundamentally changed how we communicate at work, but it doesn’t have to be to the detriment of your career trajectory.
Here are some of Monk’s top tips for standing out and getting promoted while working remotely:
Keep lines of communication open
Remote communication doesn’t come as naturally as stopping for a chat in the hallway. That said, working remotely doesn’t mean you can’t maintain good working relationships.
Being a team member is about productivity, but also about contributing to the team’s culture. Tackle your fear of making impromptu video calls when you need help, maintain a meticulous calendar so your colleagues know when and how to reach you, and do your best to show up to social functions where feasible.
Find ways to share your successes
Now that you aren’t being assessed by how many hours you clock at your desk, think of ways to demonstrate the value you bring to your workplace.
Organise a virtual coffee catch up with your supervisor to celebrate a recent win, or ask to be put on the team meeting agenda to share your successes.
This may be uncomfortable at first, but without physically being at work, you need normalise singing your own praises.
If you choose to work from home, you need to demonstrate that you are great at doing so.
Become proficient at setting up conference calls, always be punctual, and dress professionally (at least from the waist up).
Mastering communication technology has become an unwritten but essential part of most remote job descriptions, so make a point of upskilling in this area.
It will help you make a good impression and reassure your manager that you are well equipped to take on more responsibility from home.
Be upfront about your desire to progress
Working hard isn’t always enough.
It is important to voice your desire to progress within your current company. Make your aspirations clear, and don’t be afraid to ask direct questions about future promotion opportunities.
“If you’re not getting the answers you want at your current position, consider changing companies and moving up a different ladder,” said Monk.
“It may seem risky and difficult during a pandemic, but it is a candidates’ market so don’t assume that it can’t be done.”
The landscape of work has changed forever. For many, including those who live in remote areas or who have physical or psychosocial disabilities that inhibit daily commuting, working from home has been liberating and empowering.
With life slowly returning to a semblance of normality, we have an opportunity to find new ways of working that enable greater work-life balance without sacrificing professional fulfilment and purpose.
There are many ways to be a great at what you do, and not all of them require your physical presence.