- Remote work isn't going anywhere anytime soon, as some companies are extending their work-from-home status for several months and others are embracing remote work permanently.
- Employees can still progress in their career while working remotely, but it will take a bit more effort.
- In order to prove themselves, remote workers should make an effort to stay engaged, over-communicate, and focus on results rather than being present.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Prior to COVID-19 uprooting the nation's workforce, remote work was already trending upward. From 2010 to today, the number of people working remotely increased by almost 400%, according to a survey conducted by GetApp.
While many workers are starting to trickle back to the office, some employers, like Microsoft, are enforcing working from home until the situation's more certain. Others, such as Twitter, announced that employees now have the option to work remotely permanently.
And though remote work certainly has many benefits, transitioning to this lifestyle, even if only temporarily, is a big adjustment for many. Even when you become accustomed to this new way of working, a brand new question poses itself: When working from home, how can you prove that you're doing your job well and deserve a promotion?
Though the value you bring to the table isn't really tied to whether or not you share a physical space with your coworkers, there can be the false illusion that, if your boss can't see you, you're not doing your job. But rest assured, you can still climb the corporate ladder when you're working remotely — it just might require you to do things a little bit differently than before.
"No one cares more about your career growth than you," said Jenny Foss, career consultant and founder of career website JobJenny.com. "You need to take radical responsibility for what does or doesn't happen to you career-wise."
So, if you've got your eye on that next rung of the ladder, here are some steps you can take to get there.
Show that you're still engaged with and passionate about your work, your team, and the company
In the office, you can participate in spontaneous banter with your colleagues, whether you're stopping by their cubicle or convening in the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee. These simple, everyday occurrences don't happen as easily when you're working from home, but they're just as important. Your contribution to a positive team dynamic matters.
And again, there's that weird phenomenon where people incorrectly (and sometimes unknowingly) assume that if they can't see you, you aren't working hard — or at all. So, like it or not, you'll need to put a little extra effort into showing that you still care.
That includes responding to messages in a timely manner and showing up to meetings (or at least giving ample notice if you can't attend). And if there's a group chat, try participating regularly.
"Work like mad to stay engaged," Foss said. "It can be easy to come across as dialed out on screen, especially if you're late or absent from virtual meetings. Log into those meetings a few minutes early, be rested, be ready." With just a few simple steps, you can show your boss that, not only are you still playing the game, but you're in it to win it.
Communicate often and intentionally
Good communication is wildly important, especially when it comes to your career. And when you work remotely, the need for it skyrockets.
"The most important thing I've learned is to be very intentional about communicating," said Darren Murph, head of remote at GitLab, a fully remote software development company. "Choosing the right medium and timing of communication is critical."
Murph added that it's important to know the difference between asynchronous and synchronous communication. With asynchronous, you can share information whenever is good for you, and the recipient can read and respond at the best time for them — like in an email or project management system, for example. Synchronous communication happens in real time, when people need to discuss something and make a decision together. Only in the latter situation should meetings occur.
Here are some simple ways you can improve your communication.
Send regular updates to your manager and team
Maren Kate, author of "Going Remote" and cofounder of Inde, the first remote-focused professional network, suggested sending an end-of-day email to your team (including your supervisor) with the goal of bringing extra visibility to what you're working on and making sure everyone's on the same page.
After a few weeks, you can transition to a weekly cadence. "I send an end-of-week report to my direct reports, they send one to me, and there's a company-wide one," Kate said. "So everyone's able to get an eyeball on what everyone else is doing."
If you've already been working remotely for a while, provide context the first time you do this. You could begin with something like: "Hi, [manager's name]. I'm planning on sending you a progress update each day. I'd love to share with the rest of the team, too."
Speak up when something isn't working
When something's just not working, don't hesitate to say something, either during a team meeting or one-on-one with your manager. Change can't happen if no one knows it needs to.
"I'm a big believer in 'fortune favors the bold,' but with the asterisk attached that says, 'bold with authenticity, gratitude, curiosity, and strategy,'" Foss said. "No one wants to help the person who just steamrolls her way on in." Make it clear you want to help find the best solution and don't point fingers.
Marcus Wermuth, engineering manager at Buffer, believes speaking up helped him get promoted. Before, he was an individual contributor on the team, and they didn't have a supervisor. So, Wermuth took charge, continually informing all stakeholders that they needed a leader.
"Never shy away from raising your hand. Not everyone can see all the problems," Wermuth said. "I grew because I stepped out of my comfort zone and brought up a topic that was normally outside of my responsibilities."
Comprehensive and regularly updated documentation will facilitate more seamless collaboration. "It's critical that everything's documented," Murph said. "Doing so enables others to pick things up where they [or you] left off, as well as get context on what they may have missed."
Document both your progress and your processes. Your progress — such as a change you made to a document — will allow your team to understand a project's status. For your processes, include screenshots, relevant links, and examples. Imagine you're explaining the task to someone with no experience in your field or knowledge of your company.
And remember: Be thorough. Include even the obvious steps. You want to trust that a teammate can step in and take over without any issues.
Focus on results and advocate for yourself
"What matters more than anything is results," Kate said. "When you're in the office, your boss sees you and assumes you're working. When you're remote, you could be working all day, but if there's no way to quantify your results — it makes [measuring your performance] really difficult."
She said you should take extreme ownership over your job. In fact, this is a professional quality all workers should have, especially those working from home. Because no matter how great of a boss someone is, managing remotely is tough. Do everything you can to proactively and consistently show your manager the great job you're doing.
Here are three easy ways to track your accomplishments and make sure your boss sees and acknowledges them.
Create a 'brag book'
"The biggest battle to getting noticed," said executive career strategist Jena Viviano, "is noticing yourself what you're capable of and what you're celebrated for."
A "brag book" is a document where you keep a running record of all of your big and small accomplishments, all the way from a single piece of positive feedback you receive to the launch of a product you manage. Got a rave review from a client? Take a screenshot of the email and include it. Increased website traffic by 25%? Make sure to jot down that data.
"Typically, employees will wait until the last minute to create their brag book or update their resume for a promotion," Viviano said. "Instead, get in the habit of identifying your work wins on a weekly basis. This will make it a lot easier to sell yourself in the future."
Keeping track of all the good things you do will help you increase your self-confidence, update your resume, and share your results with your supervisor. When it's time to ask for a raise or promotion, this document will help you strengthen your case.
Seek out education that will help you achieve your desired results
Once you figure out the milestones you need to surpass, see if there's any additional learning you can do to help you get there. This doesn't have to be a completely new degree, though that's certainly an option. It could be a certificate, an online course, a webinar, or a professional development opportunity your company offers.
Wermuth, for instance, is confident that seeking out education is one of the main reasons he got promoted.
"Management was something that interested me," Wermuth said, "so I started to read everything I could related to that topic." Some books he found really helpful during this time were "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable," "The Manager's Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change," and "Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager."
And of course, add anything that you do to your brag book.
Set up regular time to discuss your performance with your manager
If you don't already have a recurring one-on-one, ask for it. In each one, discuss what you're working on and how it's going, share recent accomplishments, and ask for performance feedback.
"Feedback used in the right way can be a real turbo when it comes to career growth," Wermuth said. But, "you need to practice reflection before you act on [it]. Understanding where the person is coming from and why the feedback was given is key for you to really use it in the right way."
In addition, Viviano suggested scheduling quarterly meetings with your manager to discuss your performance and development goals. And, when it's time for your annual review, "come to the table equipped with all of your accomplishments," she said. "Don't be scared of a little self-promotion. The only person you can count on to be your career advocate is you."
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