Gaining a promotion when remote working: How to climb the ladder from afar
Typically, remote work is very popular among those who practice it. And it's easy to see why. No commute. More control over your day. And, when it's time for lunch, you've got access to your own kitchen. But to state the obvious, remote workers are a lot less visible than their office-based colleagues. So, it's common for remote staff to feel overlooked by higher-ups, particularly when it comes to job promotions and new opportunities. Getting promoted when working remotely can be a tough task.
Updated 21st May 2023
Does that sound familiar to you? Then keep on reading to discover our guide to effective career development for remote workers.
Stereotypes and the lack of WFH visibility
While remote work is more common than ever, some people stereotype those who do it as lazy or unfocused. Research shows that employees are often more productive working at home. And there are concerns that over 40% of remote staff are working longer hours than in the office. But, despite this, some managers still can't shake that mental image of you taking naps on the sofa and watching YouTube all day.
This can be exacerbated by the fact that remote workers are pretty much the elephant that isn't actually in the room. Compared to office-based elephants (also known as centralised employees), it's easy for remote staff to go relatively unnoticed. When people assume the worst of remote workers, it can seriously impede their career development. And their opportunities to overcome these assumptions can be few and far between, which makes things worse. So, how exactly do you go about getting promoted when working remotely?
Tips for getting promoted when working remotely
Be more active in group meetings
It can be tempting to coast through the morning video stand-up so you can get on with your work. But it's important to realise they're your time to shine. If you have any good ideas through the week, make a note so you can bring it up.
Just to be clear, we're not telling you to spend as much time being the one talking as possible. If you're waiting for the appropriate moment to speak up about something, you should spend that time actively listening to your manager and colleagues, and engage with what they're saying. Ask pertinent questions, support good suggestions, and offer feedback where you can.
Collaborate with your remote colleagues
Getting promoted when working remotely is much easier if you can make an impression on a lot of people. Working effectively with others is the first step towards being able to manage them properly. Even if you're in separate locations, there are plenty of tools to help you work together despite the distance.
Let's say you're screen-sharing in Teams, using Slack or Trello for idea generation, or working on a document together in Google Drive. Collaboration is a good way to build up important soft skills, like communication, emotional intelligence, and delegation. Remote staff often work by themselves a lot of the time. But being able to cooperate is still an important aspect of their career development.
If your organisation emphasises employee feedback, then you'll likely have the opportunity to recognise the accomplishments of your co-workers. For example, Weekly10's employee check-in has recognition-based questions. These allow employees to mention their colleagues by tagging them in their response. For one thing, effective collaboration means your teammates are more likely to highlight you in their feedback. But recognising your co-worker's achievements can show your employer that you have a good head for recognising talent and hard work.
Have regular 1:1s with your manager
Keeping the lines of communication open with your manager is doubly important when you work remotely. When working from home, the closest you'll likely get to a face-to-face meeting is a video stand-up. But even that can be enough to make sure they don't forget what you look like. In work cultures where people stereotype you as lazy, it's doubly important to be clear about your ambitions. And having your manager in your corner can make a world of difference in getting promoted when working remotely.
Regular performance conversations can make a lot of difference. 1:1s are as essential a part of career development for remote workers as they are for any other employee. They're a source of valuable feedback that can help you excel in your role. You should make it a point to bring up the topic of career development regularly in these meetings. As someone further along in the organisation, your manager will likely have insight into how to progress. They may even be able to help you network within the business. Managers can also help you to establish what skills you'll need in order to get promoted, and how you can develop them. A good manager will appreciate you showing an interest in prioritising your workplace education to enhance your skillset.
Be vocal about your interest in being promoted
Speaking of showing an interest, that's also essential in career development for remote workers. The thing is, not everyone wants to be promoted. So, if you don't seem interested, that can be a huge red flag for your employer if they're considering you for advancement. We're not telling you to nag, let's be clear on that. Ask what it would take to get promoted. Then follow up on that conversation later down the line. This lets your boss know that you're serious about progressing within the company.
That said, it's important to pick your moments. Brazenly asking for a promotion in the middle of a weekly team meeting probably won't go down well. As you might have guessed from the previous section, 1:1s are generally the ideal place for this conversation. If it's going well, you should prepare to highlight your strengths with some of your recent accomplishments. But don't just start tooting your own horn, or you'll seem arrogant. Remember, nobody can see how hard you're working. So, as a remote employee, it's especially important that your results can speak for themselves.
That's all the advice we have today. But it's also worth remembering that remote work has been having quite a renaissance this year. Hopefully the myths around it will evaporate completely soon enough.