Getting Ahead Without Getting a Desk
In 2006 there were an estimated 4 Million that worked from home. Research from the same year – a study of more than 500 staff and managers on attitudes towards flexible working – attempted to discover the attitudes around remote working.
Aside from additional financial support, remote workers listed professional support as their primary concern. The study found that home workers had less communication with office staff, limited face-to-face interactions and, over time, found it harder to integrate with staff at the office. Reduced engagement, limited communication and a lack of opportunities for knowledge sharing stunted their professional progression.
Fast-forward to 2020 and home working is the new normal for everyone from small start-ups to silicon valley elite. But how much has actually changed?
With conditions at the time demanding swift decision making on full-scale, long-term home working models there was little time left for the consideration of issues that have traditionally plagued hybrid working.
But now, as we begin to trickle back into the workplace on a part-time basis, questions of progression and coordination begin to creep in. Can you get ahead without getting back to your desk? We sat down with a handful of business leaders to discuss.
Here are a few things you can do to stand out while working remotely.
Effective communication is important for every time, regardless of their location. But, where those in the office can rely on body language and other non-verbal cues, those working remote cannot.
Even when we’re co-located, the tone of a text or the formality of an email is left wide open to interpretation, to the point that even our closest friends get confused. These misinterpretations create anxiety that can become costly, affecting morale, engagement, productivity, and innovation.
Try establishing communication norms, like sharing core hours, when you’re available and open up more channels for people to reach you. Do consider your ‘virtual body language as well’ for when you get on the video call software. By this we mean take notice of your surroundings and your posture – a busy, cluttered frame will take attention away from you and towards your surroundings.
This one can go without saying but when remote teams communicate well and leverage their strengths, they can actually gain an advantage over co-located teams.
Clear Methods and Timeframes are Key
Oftentimes, unless completely business-critical, the work that a remote member of the team does can fly under the radar. Rob Curtis, Head of Delivery at wayfinding and mapping solution provider Living Map, agrees that although ‘it is a bit harder because you don’t have that immediate view of somebody’ you can still demonstrate your day-to-day impacts by putting ‘methods in to track your delivery and the timeframe you’re doing it in.’
Working closely with your direct report and line management to build out reporting structures that give you visibility across the entire team will help you stand out in a cluttered workspace.
Capitalise on your Flexibility
Luckily, as a remote worker you’re largely in control of your own schedule. You can take advantage of this flexibility by working around your other time commitments and focusing on doing your best work when your energy is highest. Then, you can use the extra energy you have to invest back into your career growth.
While others are spending their time stuck in traffic, you can be reading, studying and working towards your next developmental milestone. Demonstrating these milestones, by way of certification or by upping your performance in general, will stand you head and shoulder above the rest.
Of course, this flexibility doesn’t just have to be focused on career growth. A report from the Centre for Economics and Business Research, on behalf of digital workplace platform Citrix, measures the economic impact of adopting widespread work-from-anywhere policies across the U.S. The survey suggests that remote work arrangements aren’t just beneficial to workers, but they could also be good for business in more ways than one. In fact, that daily convenience, along with boosted productivity by avoiding the distractions of office life, could add up to an extra 105 hours of free time per year per remote worker.
Seek Out a Mentor
The new, larger remote workforce may inspire more organizations to adopt mentoring programs. In addition to targeting high-performing or high-potential employees, other factors could be a desire to better track worker challenges and problems, to increase internal communication, and to ensure productivity.
However, mentoring isn’t simply a methodological process, it’s an emotional one. The best mentor/mentee relationships are the ones where both parties can read between the lines, and not just understand their professional needs, but also their personal ones.
Mentorship, just like interviewing, is often more easily achieved while face-to-face. Without physical ques and a reassuring presence, it can be hard to ‘crack’ the relationship. But it’s certainly not impossible. Setting clear schedules, agendas and staying laser-focused during mentoring sessions are ‘must-haves’ when it comes to remote mentorship.
Extend Your Network and Build Your Tribe
Without the immediate workspace around them, remote workers often find themselves seeking out community elsewhere – usually, these come through digital channels like Slack and Social Media where they can find a wealth of diverse thought leadership.
Whereas the office can sometimes feel like an echo-chamber, those who have worked remote and spent time diving into communities will find themselves networking naturally.
Not only will this networking expose you to new ideas, but it will also put you in touch with the right people.
Business and career-minded individuals who have networked over time have been able to expand with minimal effort because of the avenue of newer opportunities opened to them through networking. Opportunities like meeting the right clients or even meeting people that are superior to your career path could be a stepping stone that could change your life for the better.
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