Employees are spending more time working from home. According to Gallup’s 2017 “State of the American Workplace” report, one in five employees now works outside of the office full time. That number is up from 15% in 2012.
But working outside of the office full time has its challenges, especially for those who want to advance in their careers, the report found. Without regular interaction with coworkers and managers in the office, fully remote workers are less likely to feel a connection with others and have opportunities to discuss progress and development, the report found.
“The person’s not as visible, they might not be thought of when it’s time for important projects and it could be that they’ve become a bit out of sight, out of mind,” says Carrie Blair Messal, associate professor of management and marketing at the College of Charleston.
But short of relentlessly tooting your own horn–something virtually no one wants to do or hear–what can you do when you’re out of the office full time or nearly so? Remote workers who are getting ahead have found some strategies that work for them.
Know Your Manager’s Priorities
Jonathan Jenkins was promoted from SEO specialist to SEO manager at Thrive Internet Marketing Agency last year after working remotely for several years. Jenkins started as an in-office employee and advises those working remotely full time to understand what matters to managers in terms of how you work.
“Some work places are just happy if they know the work is getting done. If they see progress or the results that they’re looking for then they don’t necessarily care as much. We have a mix of that where there’s some accountability in terms of delivering the results, but there’s also a billable hours expectation every day,” he says. In other words, know whether your manager cares more about your response time to instant messages or hitting your weekly or monthly goals.
Maximize Connection Times
If you’re working remotely, you may have to be a little more outgoing and engaging than if you’re in the office regularly, Jenkins says. Be personable when communicating via email, phone, or other methods. Sharing updates so the team knows your work is getting done and taking advantage of team calls to share positive feedback from clients or other good news is also a good idea, he says.
“If you can package it in the form of a pointer or a tip, or a new strategy, then that’s a great way to make it look like you’re sharing information and you can just let it slide that you have seen some really fantastic results as a result of doing that,” he says.
Theresa McMillan, now operations manager at Environmental Resources Group, LLC has worked remotely since the company was taken over by new management approximately four years ago. She has taken on increased responsibility, including supervising other employees during that time, she says. Whenever she has a 10-minute window, she reaches out to connect with colleagues and employees. Part of her daily ritual is to look at where she needs to check in and use open windows of time during her day to connect with others so they hear from her regularly.
Prove Your Worth
Patrick Sciacca, editor in chief of Yachting magazine, was promoted from executive editor while working remotely. When the opportunity to take the helm at Yachting came up, Sciacca had already had a number of successes–coming up with new content ideas and new initiatives for the magazine, especially in the digital realm–which paved the way for him to take over the brand, he says. “I think some of those gains, some of those successes, helped pave the way for me,” he says.
While Sciacca says he didn’t go out of his way to point out his “wins,” it also helped that his team was so adept at remote collaboration. Having an employer like Bonnier Corporation, where out-of-office workers are common, is helpful because the team is in tune with how remote workers show their value and is supportive of their work, he says.
Master The Technology
Messal says it’s critical that remote employees be comfortable using the latest technology their teams adopt. With so many communication tools, it can be difficult to keep up at times, but if your team starts using Slack or adopts a new collaboration platform, learn it right away. The longer you lag in using it, the more you’ll seem out of the loop, she says.
Sciacca says that his team’s connected nature is part of what makes them able to put out a monthly magazine and all of the digital pieces they do each month. When he shoots an instant message to someone at the headquarters in Winter Park, Florida, he gets an immediate reply. The team does video calls each week and they call each other throughout the day. In many ways, it’s not different than when he was in the office and someone stopped by his office with an idea.
“You’re not on an island because you’re remote,” he says.
Schedule Regular “Reviews”
You may have regular performance reviews, but try to schedule additional time with your supervisor to check up on the remote relationship, Jenkins suggests. Quarterly check-ins are ideal, he says. Reiterate your commitment to the company and your interest in advancing. Ask for advice and demonstrate what you have done to move yourself toward those goals, he says.
And even if you’re out of the office most of the time, look for opportunities for face-time. Video calls can help, but it’s important to find time to connect in person, Messal says. Be sure you recognize the other person’s schedule and make the in-person time convenient for them, and you can reinforce the relationship with that type of connection, she says.