There is little doubt that distributed work models are here to stay. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was estimated that some 5 million employees, or 3.6% of the U.S. workforce, worked at home at least half of the time. Post-pandemic, work-at-home rates are predicted to skyrocket, reaching 25% to 30% of the workforce by the end of 2021, according to Global Workplace Analytics.
An increase in people working at home will serve to help normalize the practice, putting office employees and those working remotely on a more even playing field. However, previous research out of Stanford University has suggested that working at home can result in employees being 50% less likely to receive a promotion than their office-working counterparts. This is despite the same study finding that remote workers were 13% more productive.
Further research published by the Association for Psychological Science suggests the root of this discrepancy may be caused by a combination of professional isolation, weaker workplace relationships, and less knowledge sharing between coworkers and management. This means that remote employees bucking for a promotion need to work a little harder to compensate for a lack of personal interaction.
As the leader of a successful 100% virtual company, and previously as a remote worker myself, I’ve learned a thing or two about what indicates leadership potential in a virtual work environment. By incorporating these behaviors into your remote work style, you will increase your visibility, improve your work relationships, and enhance your opportunities for advancement into leadership positions:
1. Meet your deadlines.
One of the greatest benefits of working remotely is having a flexible schedule; however, when you aren’t judged by your time worked, there is a greater emphasis placed on your deliverables—and meeting deadlines takes on greater importance. You can’t be a leader without taking care of your work first, so show your supervisors that you’re self-disciplined by turning in high-quality work on time, every time.
2. Pay attention to the details.
Whether you’re working from home as a tutor or a nurse, you can’t afford to skimp on the details. Remote work increases reliance on asynchronous communication, and it can take time for your supervisor to review your deliverables and communicate any necessary changes or corrections with you. This means the fewer mistakes you make, the more time you’ll save yourself and your managers.
In addition, attention to detail can be a good indicator that an individual holds themself to a high personal standard, and has the self-motivation required to independently deliver high-quality work. If you want to get on your manager’s radar, make sure all your i’s are dotted and your t’s are crossed.
3. Be a team player.
Being able to work with a team is a must if you want to find yourself in a remote leadership role. Teams who work together build trust, and without trust, it can be hard for distributed teams to effectively complete assigned tasks in a timely manner. This can lead to conflict, which is often more difficult to resolve in a remote environment, as well as duplication of effort, not meeting project milestones, and even lower levels of innovation. Going above and beyond to build positive relationships and support your teammates won’t go unnoticed, so don’t be afraid to make a conscious effort for the good of your team.
4. Provide solutions, not problems.
Independence and resourcefulness are prized traits in remote workers. Employees who embody these traits are able to resolve difficulties encountered in completing their own work, such as troubleshooting technical problems, as well as develop solutions to challenges experienced by their team or the company as a whole. Either way, you are guaranteed to make a positive impact on your manager by reporting on a resolved situation or presenting potential solutions to problems than simply bringing up the problem itself and waiting for direction.
5. Engage in proactive communication.
As suggested above, communication is at the heart of many challenges faced in the remote workplace—but there are steps you can take to mitigate misunderstandings and impress your bosses in the process. When I worked in one of my first remote roles, I took pride in anticipating what management would need and made sure I had that information on hand ahead of our meetings.
Being proactive when discussing projects and reporting progress to your managers and colleagues can also be extremely helpful when trying to build relationships and stay visible. Communicate with your manager often to keep them up to date on all the ways that you are contributing to the success of the team for best results.
Although remote employees may face an uphill battle when working toward a promotion, there are many steps you can take to put yourself on the map. By employing the strategies above, you are sure to be noticed for your excellent work, meaningful team contributions, and positive relationships with your boss and coworkers.