Strategies for Thriving in Remote Work

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If your goal is to have a better work-life balance, remote work can provide that. It offers greater flexibility and autonomy, empowering you to manage your personal commitments more effectively. By eliminating the need for a commute, remote work also has the potential to decrease your expenses and stress.

If your goal is advancing your career, however, remote work presents unique challenges. According to a recent report, working from home puts you at a disadvantage when securing a promotion. The report reveals remote workers were promoted 31 percent less frequently than those working either hybrid or full-time in-office schedules.

Problems with proximity bias

Proximity bias was cited as one of the key drivers leading to the imbalance in promotions between in-office and remote workers. Essentially, proximity bias means workers who are out of sight will be workers who are out of mind when managers are handing out promotions.

The limited visibility remote workers have in the workplace has resulted in them being overlooked for the types of assignments that can lead to promotions. A 2021 survey revealed the reality of proximity bias when it found that 42 percent of supervisors simply forget about remote workers when assigning tasks.

In-office workers also benefit from regular, casual engagement with their supervisors, which provides them more opportunities to build positive relationships than remote workers. Those relationships can lead supervisors to subconsciously prefer in-office workers, offering them more advantageous assignments and elevating them to the list of those vying for promotions.

In the post-Covid work landscape, proximity bias is also affected by the perception that remote workers are less productive than their in-office colleagues, even when statistics don’t support that view. A recent survey of nearly 1,000 business leaders found that nearly half believed employees working “out of sight” weren’t putting in the same effort as those in the office, despite stats showing increased participation among remote workers.

While proximity bias poses a significant challenge for remote workers seeking to advance their careers, it can be overcome. The first step is recognizing that proximity bias puts remote workers at a disadvantage. The next step is identifying and adopting a strategy to neutralize its impact. The following are some remote career growth tips that can be incorporated into an effective strategy for standing out and succeeding as a remote worker.

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Maximizing your visibility

Maximizing your visibility is critical to career growth. This involves helping your supervisor see not only your presence in the workplace but also your work’s volume, quality, and positive impact.

For many remote workers, attendance at virtual meetings represents the bulk of their “face time” with supervisors. Standing out during those meetings is important. Participating by asking thoughtful questions and offering helpful insights can keep remote workers “top-of-mind” with supervisors. If you fail to participate, you may fail to appear on the top screen of the Zoom meeting, which essentially renders you invisible.

Remote workers can ensure they stand out during virtual meetings by maintaining a professional appearance. This includes both dressing professionally and ensuring that your work location is professional. If you regularly attend video meetings while in the car, you can easily lead your supervisor to believe you are spending a lot of time away from your desk.

Demonstrate proactive communication

Beyond meetings, remote workers can maximize visibility with proactive and effective virtual communication. This includes regular check-ins with supervisors to share progress and ongoing engagement in online platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Discord, where employees connect.

Responding promptly to emails and other messages is one impactful way to demonstrate proactive communication. Failing to respond in a timely manner can lead supervisors and other colleagues to assume you are away from your desk for extended periods. Providing prompt and thoughtful responses shows you are present and engaged.

Proactive communication also involves initiating and investing in relationships in the workplace. This can involve sending messages to show appreciation for or interest in colleagues’ work. Being active on LinkedIn offers opportunities for enhancing relationships with coworkers and sharing the work you are doing on behalf of the company.

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Seize opportunities for engagement

Remote workers can make significant strides toward advancing their careers by identifying and seizing opportunities for deeper levels of engagement. This step not only improves visibility but also communicates that you bring added value to the organization.

Volunteering for cross-functional projects is one way to engage on a deeper level. This shows your willingness to offer your skills outside your designated area of responsibility and develop new skills that serve the organization. Getting involved with collaborative projects also provides added exposure to supervisors and other leaders, including those outside your regular department. Overall, cross-functional projects are an opportunity to position yourself as someone who is proactive and motivated to go above and beyond to support the organization’s goals.

Volunteering to share your expertise and experience is another way to boost your engagement and your visibility. This can include offering to provide training during departmental or organization-wide meetings. Training can also be recorded with tools like Loom to make them available to coworkers in an on-demand format.

Take ownership of your career advancement

As a remote worker, the most important element of your career advancement strategy will be taking an active role in promoting yourself and the work you do on the organization’s behalf. You’ll need to put yourself on your supervisor’s radar screen, proactively pushing back against the proximity bias that threatens to keep you out of the running for promotions.

If your supervisor doesn’t provide regular opportunities for you to connect and share your progress, request them. During those meetings, share the work you are doing and the skills you are developing, and seek out information on opportunities for career advancement and the requirements for qualifying for those opportunities.

Your in-office colleagues have the benefit of increased visibility, which can give them an edge in career advancement. You can overcome that edge by taking ownership of your professional development and taking every opportunity to communicate your worth. 

Maximize your visibility, be proactive with your communication, and seize opportunities for enhanced engagement, and you will dramatically increase your chances of thriving in remote workplaces.

This guest post was authored by Shiela Mie Legaspi

Shiela Mie Legaspi is the President of Cyberbacker, the leading provider of virtual assistance and administrative support services from anywhere to anywhere. Legaspi is an expert on career coaching in the remote workplace, and she leads the company to organizational excellence through her work centered around workforce experience.

Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.