Thanks in part to the evolution of technology, 50 percent of American employees do some type of remote work, while 20 to 25 percent are teleworking regularly. The benefits that come with remote work are plentiful — there’s no commute, you have control over your environment, you can work in silence, and, for the most part, you can avoid office politics. Unfortunately, there is one major downside: it’s much harder to move up in the company when working from home.
A 2013 study found that remote workers are 50 percent less likely to receive a promotion than their in-office counterparts. Why? Because, despite evidence to the contrary, many supervisors still labor under the misconception that remote employees are more inclined to shirk their responsibilities. What’s more, “out of sight is out of mind” seems to be a major factor when it comes to promotions.
Ultimately, as a remote employee, you’re responsible for your own career development. However, advancement may need to be approached a bit differently than it would were you working in the office every day. If you’re looking to move up in the company while working remotely, here are a few things you can do to get results:
Amp Up Your Productivity
One of the greatest benefits of working from home is being able to avoid the constant distractions of an open office. When you’re at work, the perpetual noise and interruptions from your coworkers can pose a serious threat to your productivity. However, at home, it’s fairly easy to give into self-imposed distractions (e.g. Netflix, cooking, chores, etc.). When no one’s watching, you may not feel the pressure to get your work done — which is why it’s important to set yourself up for success from the very beginning.
Start by setting expectations with friends and family. Explain that just because you’re at home, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a job to do. Be clear that you have responsibilities and deadlines to meet, and even though it may look like you’re hanging out at home, you’re still very much engaged in your work.
Establish a designated space in your home to serve as your work area. Make sure there is a distinct boundary between your workspace and the areas where you sleep or spend time with your family. If you fail to do so, you may find it harder to disengage from work and enjoy your downtime. If you find working from home every day to be too isolating or distracting, consider setting up shop in a library, coffee shop, or co-working space for a day or two. You’ll be amazed to find how reinvigorating it is to get out of the house every so often.
Know when you’re most productive and plan your day accordingly. Maybe you get more done in the morning, or find yourself refreshed by an afternoon nap. Perhaps the calm of midnight is when you really get into your groove. Find what works best for you and base your “business hours” around that. Just ensure you’re still available to answer questions and attend meetings when the need arises, and that your supervisors know (and approve) your schedule.
Finally, it’s important to know that it’s okay for you to take a break when you need it. A 2014 study from DeskTime found that the most productive employees focused on their work for 52 minutes, then disengaged for 17 minutes. These periods of rest allowed workers to approach challenges with a refreshed mind. Take 15-minute breaks after every hour of work to really boost your productivity. You can stop to get coffee, do some laundry, exercise, chat with a coworker, or go for a quick walk — whatever you find to be the most rejuvenating.
If this seems a bit excessive and you prefer fewer breaks throughout the day, the least you can do is stick to the 20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes look away from your computer screen and focus on something off in the distance for 20 seconds. This gives your eyes a rest, allows them to re-adjust, and avoids eye strain.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Regularly checking in with your manager is an absolute necessity when working from home. Set up weekly phone calls, Slack chats, or emailed reports — the more your manager knows about your daily activities, the better. If you’re local, you should make time for in-person meetings with your manager at least once a quarter (once a month is better). Nothing beats these quality, face to face interactions.
You’ll also need to make a serious effort to ensure you’re still in the loop. Ask your manager to update your team when big events happen, whether it be a meeting with a new client or the implementation of new policies. It also doesn’t hurt to ask for a write up of meeting minutes so you have a hard copy of any information you may need.
Build Relationships With Fellow Employees
It’s a lot harder to build relationships with your coworkers when you’re working from home. You can’t pop by their desk or meet them in the break room for a quick chat. You have to put forth a lot more effort. Working remotely means being deliberate and dedicated when reaching out to and connecting with your colleagues. Here are just a few ways you can bridge the gap:
- Make time each day to check in with your team members and see how they’re doing.
- Schedule virtual lunch dates with your work friends.
- Jump in on team calls a few minutes early to chat.
- Skip the conference line and do a video chat at your next meeting. Seeing your colleagues’ faces will help create a sense of togetherness.
These little acts add up, and before you know it, your relationships with your coworkers will be stronger than ever. Don’t wait for your colleagues to reach out to you — step up and initiate the conversation and it will all pay off in the end.
Put Yourself Forward
Here’s where we get to the real nitty-gritty. If you want to advance your career, you have to be seen. This doesn’t mean showing up to the office every week, it means making your presence known through contributions to company culture and innovation. You can do this in a few different ways. First, volunteer for opportunities to help out whenever possible. By offering assistance when the company is in a jam, you’ll end up on the radar for other opportunities, and ultimately prove your value as an employee.
Second, form or join groups and committees that promote and expand company culture. Professional organizations, gaming clubs, forums where employees can connect and network, charitable groups — all will help you build relationships and become an integral part of your company’s ethos.
Get involved in team and departmental chats. Mentor new employees. Speak up when you’re aware of ideas or tools to help your colleagues work smarter. Knowledge sharing is incredibly important in virtual teams — mutual understanding, effective collaboration, and successful communication are necessary for successful team performance. The more you put yourself forward as an information source, the more your supervisors will see you as an essential member of the team.
Unfortunately, when working remotely, doing good work and being a great team player might not be enough to get noticed. It’s up to you to be direct about your accomplishments. Make your voice heard and ensure your managers and the higher-ups in your company know your worth. Be your own advocate.
Though remote work is a dream come true for a lot of us, it does come with its own challenges, especially when it comes to promotions. To advance your career while working from home, you have to set out to be productive, communicate openly and often with management, make a concentrated effort to build relationships with your colleagues, and spend a lot of time putting your best foot forward.
Do you work remotely? How have you advanced your career from home?
Also by Liz: Millennials, Here Are 7 Things You Can Do to “Adult” Better in 2018
Related: Does Working from Home Really Boost Happiness?
How To Deal With Difficult Coworkers & Protect Your Positive Vibes
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