Working from home is incredibly popular, and growing fast. We know this. But would you enjoy it so much if you knew that choosing to work away from the office would slow your career trajectory, or at least make it less likely to get that next promotion?
That’s the challenge facing many remote workers, and the organizations we all work for. Sometimes it’s a conscious decision: the organization expects leaders to be aboard the “mothership” in order to get work done the way they want it to happen. More often than not, careers get derailed because of benign neglect. It’s not that they think you’re not qualified, it’s that they don’t think about you at all.
The boss needs someone to take on a high-profile assignment? In a perfect world he or she would look at the task to be done, carefully weigh the skills and gifts of each team member equally, and delegate based on capability and the person’s deep personal goals.
You know what’s more likely? The manager is in a panic, they see a qualified person across the cube farm, and voila, it’s delegated, and they can get on with other work. They didn’t decide not to delegate elsewhere, they just didn’t give it much thought at all.
So, what are some ways you can make sure this doesn’t happen to you? Don’t leave it up to anyone else to include you in the mix. Take charge. Here are 3 ways you can stay on the boss’s radar.
Ask direct questions about policy and opportunities.
One of the challenges with working remotely is nobody really planned for it. Many companies don’t have policies in place to account for this new way of getting things done. As a result, some companies have written and explicit requirements such as “above a certain level you MUST be in an office location.” Others just assume that if you choose to work remotely you’ve made a choice between lifestyle and career. Check with not only your boss, but HR to learn if there are official barriers to promotion or success. Usually it’s just benign neglect.
Don’t expect your manager to care as much as you do.
This isn’t because she’s an uncaring ogre, but odds are she’s all too human. Because time is so precious when working remotely, coaching sessions and one-on-one calls tend to be very transactional. You both have a list of items that need to be addressed, and then you get back to work. If you have questions about opportunities inside the company, or where you should focus your personal development to take that next step, make sure you have it on your list for your manager. Odds are it has slipped off theirs.
The only things that belong in silos are corn and nuclear missiles.
One of the unintended consequences of working remotely is that because you’re not part of the day to day interactions, you are “safe” from office politics and get left alone to do your work. Mostly this is a beautiful thing. What it CAN lead to—if you’re not mindful—is that you go down a rabbit hole and focus on your tasks, expecting the work to speak for itself. It won’t. Never has, never will.
The best way to stay on the career track is to be “ethically visible.” That doesn’t mean bragging and drawing all the attention to yourself. It does mean contributing on team meetings, volunteering for cross-function assignments, and reminding your boss and the organization that you are there, qualified, and eager to be part of the organization, no matter which chair you actually occupy. Be proactive and engaged.
When you work from home, it’s easy to be caught up in the blissful silence. But if you’re not hearing and seeing anyone else, odds are they can’t see or hear you either, and you may be left out unintentionally.
It’s your job to control your career. Get on it.
This is just one aspect of being a successful remote employee and teammate. Check out our new learning opportunity, 12 Weeks to Being a Great Remote Teammate. It has the power to transform the trajectory of your remote career.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.