Career SkillsCareers

Getting Ahead as a Remote Worker

By Julian Mercer

The jury is still out on the “Return to Office” push, with several recent studies finding that expected innovation and productivity gains are failing to materialize. Coercive return policies often negatively affect staff morale, with high-performing staff feeling alienated and seeking employment alternatives. My own experience as a manager working remotely and in hybrid offices with remote teams is that some degree of remote work is here to stay, and will become even more prevalent over time, as managers become better equipped to manage their remote workers.

Unfortunately, remote workers are also starting to note negative impacts of not working with colleagues “in-office.” Several studies have found that remote workers are lagging behind in-office workers for promotions and pay raises, a phenomenon that is explained as “out of sight, out of mind.” Clearly, remote workers face unique challenges in demonstrating their contributions, due to physical distance from their colleagues and supervisors.

As a remote worker, what can you do to overcome these challenges and stay “top of mind” with your supervisor and colleagues, to get the credit and opportunities you’ve worked hard to earn? Here are seven strategies to help you stand out:

1. Negotiate Clear Performance Goals and Metrics

Getting the credit you deserve starts with having a clearly defined statement of your role, responsibilities and key performance indicators. This gives you clear and quantifiable benchmarks that your supervisor can use to evaluate and recognize your performance. Take the time to document performance expectations and ask your supervisor to regularly revisit and update your goals to align with any changes to company priorities and objectives.

2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Maintain regular communication with your team and superiors through email, chat, video calls, and project management tools. Actively participate on the team’s collaboration platform. Make a habit of communicating the status of your projects and assignments, highlighting needs and outcomes, to demonstrate you are focused and working hard. This could also be a weekly report, a daily wrap-up email, or a notice of updates to a project management template.

3. Use the Corporate Lingo

In your communications, be sure to link your suggestions and outcome reporting to your company’s business plans, policy statements and organizational goals. Make sure it’s clear to the recipient how your work is advancing the organization’s goals and its mission and vision.

4. Manage Up

Try to put yourself in your manager’s shoes to anticipate their needs, and take the initiative to deliver unsolicited but useful work products that they can utilize to make their job easier. A manager’s life is typically hectic and filled with competing demands on their time. Most managers are regularly called upon to turn around updates and reports in short order, using whatever information they have readily at hand.

Anything that your boss can use to look good to higher-ups is going to get you noticed and put you in a better position for a pay raise or promotion. One way you can do that is by finding out if there is a weekly or monthly management reporting deadline and providing write-ups in advance that your manager can “cut and paste” into their reports. This will generate good will and help draw attention to your work. Try to determine what information your manager typically uses when reporting, and how they like to present it, to focus your input and increase your impact. Developing some skills in effective graphical representation of data will make your input even more impactful.

5. Maximize Face Time Opportunities

Even if your department runs on text messaging and collaboration tools, virtual face time is important to keep open lines of communication, build productive work relationships and build awareness of your work. Contribute actively during virtual meetings, share insights, and collaborate with team members. In virtual meetings, be sure to demonstrate that you are prepared and engaged. If opportunities to participate in virtual departmental meetings are limited, try to get face time through one-on-ones and small group meetings. And don’t skip the virtual social events or informal gatherings that can help strengthen connections with your work colleagues. Building virtual relationships helps amplify awareness of your achievements, while contributing to the organizational culture.

6. Document Your Achievements

Keep a portfolio or record of your accomplishments and contributions to projects, including success stories, testimonials, and positive feedback from clients, colleagues or stakeholders. Be sure to note the time you’re investing in continuous learning to acquire new skills. Highlight specific examples of how your work has positively impacted the team or the organization. Use this to inform your self-assessments during performance reviews, and share this with your supervisor in advance of your review, and as opportunities present, to build the best case for your impact on the organization.

7. Self-Advocate

Self-advocacy is uncomfortable to many, and we all would like to think our bosses keep close tabs to know what we’re doing and what we’ve accomplished. But that is not always true, particularly in the case of remote work. Don’t be afraid to be a self-advocate during performance reviews. Clearly communicate your career goals and aspirations to your supervisor. Discuss your contributions and make your best case for why you deserve recognition, pay raises or promotions. As they say, don’t “hide your light under a bushel.”

By proactively implementing these seven strategies, remote workers can demonstrate their investment in the job and their value to the company.


Julian Mercer

Julian Mercer is a retired executive, with more than 30 years’ experience in the technology sector as a leader, manager, consultant, and teacher.

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