How Remote Workers Can Keep Their Careers On Track in a Back-to-the-Office World

As organizations start encouraging back-to-the-office, many employees will have the option to remain remote. Here's how they can keep their careers on track even if they aren't having in-person time with the boss every day.

Jessica Davis, Senior Editor

March 9, 2022

5 Min Read
Successful businesswoman working at computer in her kitchen at home.
Vladimir Fedorov via Alamy Stock Photos

Now that the Omicron surge has ended and cities and states are ending their mask mandates again, tech giants such as Microsoft, Apple, and Google have been announcing plans for how employees will return to the office. Yet some companies, such as Twitter, have said that the employees can decide whether they want to return full time, part time, or stay fully remote as we head into a new post-crisis era of the pandemic.

Plenty of workers, if given the option, are expected to stay remote. A recent Pew Research survey revealed that 60% of workers with jobs that can be done from home say that when the coronavirus pandemic is over, if they have the choice, they’d prefer to work from home all or most of the time.

What’s still unknown is how the dynamic between managers, onsite employees, and remote employees will shift over time as we settle into a new normal that includes remote work. Will onsite managers favor onsite employees either intentionally or unconsciously? Will onsite employees, who are in front of the decision-makers all the time, be more likely to get the best assignments and projects and promotions? If you are a remote employee in this kind of a mixed workplace, how can you ensure your career doesn’t stall because you are missing those same interactions that onsite employees get?

InformationWeek spoke with a few recruitment experts about what remote employees should do to stay relevant and engaged during this new era of remote work. Here are a few of the ideas that they shared.

Document Your Successes in Writing 

Whether you are back at the office or plan to stay remote forever, this is a good idea. Marc Cenedella, founder and CEO of $100K-plus job matching platform The Ladders says that every six months you should document two or three things that you have accomplished and provide the quantitative metrics to back them up, and share that with your boss. This is absolutely essential, he says, because your boss won’t be seeing you every day. “Productivity will be based on what you produce,” he says, “and documenting your successes is absolutely required. Most people don’t do it now. Twenty years from now everyone will do it.”

Stay Visible/Don’t Disappear

Over-communicating can be helpful when you are remote, says Ellen Jones, director of account management at custom software development and tech recruiting firm, Soltech. When nobody knows if you are at your desk or not, it can be helpful to over-communicate about where you are and what you are up to, she says. Don’t let your productivity lag, and make sure you maintain your schedule.

Particularly if you were working in the office before the pandemic and now you are remote, it’s important to demonstrate that you are contributing just as much while working remotely. “Continue to put yourself out there,” Jones says.

Use Those Collaboration Platforms to Their Fullest

Whether your organization uses Zoom or Microsoft Teams of Cisco Webex or Google Meet, make sure you are fully engaged in the collaboration platform. Your organization may have a cameras-optional policy, but experts disagree on whether that really means that it’s ok to keep your camera off all the time. Cenedella says it’s “totally up for grabs” whether it’s important to keep your camera on or if you can turn it off. “Being on Zoom 40 hours a week is more tiring than in-person meetings 40 hours a week,” he says.

On the other hand, you do want people to see your face. It’s probably a good idea to turn your camera on, at least once in a while. “Let them see your face. Let them see your smile,” Jones says. “You won’t be able to walk by someone’s desk to say you like their shirt or their haircut,” she says, so it pays to make the most of live video conferencing capabilities.

Speak Up on Culture

Jones says corporate leaders are looking for help on how to improve culture in this new hybrid and remote age of work. Bring ideas to the forefront. She’s heard several ideas from organizations to keep employees in touch with each other, such as a “sandwich of the week” that everyone receives via delivery service and can enjoy together during a shared video lunch. Another idea is home office tours that include introductions to your pets. It doesn’t matter if you’ve set up a large office or if you are just working at your kitchen table. “Leadership loves that, they are craving it, and it highlights your ability to stay creative and adapt to whatever comes your way.”

Do Great Work

“If you are performing -- hitting or exceeding your goals -- it’s going to be noticed. It’s going to be recognized,” says Mark Sasson, managing partner at Pinpoint Search Group, a cybersecurity recruitment firm.

Sasson also says that workers should think of themselves as entrepreneurs, providing a skill or service to an employer and trading the value they offer for the opportunity to expand their skillsets. “Next time around you can provide another client or employer with a higher level of service which will earn you more money,” he says.

Advice for Employers

Is it just employees who need to be concerned about remote work hurting their careers? Not at all, says Sasson. “Remote work has become standard. It’s hard to demand that employees return to the office if you want to attract the best talent.”

Instead, Sasson turns the problem around the other way.

“It’s the employers, the executives, that need to do a better job staying in front of their people and keeping them engaged.”

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About the Author(s)

Jessica Davis

Senior Editor

Jessica Davis is a Senior Editor at InformationWeek. She covers enterprise IT leadership, careers, artificial intelligence, data and analytics, and enterprise software. She has spent a career covering the intersection of business and technology. Follow her on twitter: @jessicadavis.

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