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Telecommuters risk career advancement, according to study

This isn’t the life for everyone.

It’s a solitary pursuit, one with the potential to miss human engagement for days in a row.

While a telecommuter might have regular meetings with teammates or a boss, she’s pretty much on her own.

She must be independent, motivated and organized.

And she must be also be prepared to deal with a halt in the progression of her career.

You see, even though all surveys and statistics point to increased productivity and employee engagement, there’s a stigma that comes with remote work.

Because the boss can’t watch us perform our tasks.

women working at computer

Telecommuters are invisible

“While working at home can be beneficial for both companies and workers, it can also lead to ‘invisibility’ that can limit opportunities for career advancement,” Ana Dutra, CEO of Korn/Ferry Leadership and Talent Consulting, told the IMT Career Journal in April. “It is important for telecommuters to remain networked as closely as possible with peers and leaders in the office.”

As telecommuters, we sometimes fear we’ll get passed over for the next promotion, in favour of the guy who spends time in the boss’s office.

An MIT Sloan Management Review study shows that managers often choose in-house workers for career advancement.

“Employees who work remotely may end up getting lower performance evaluations, smaller raises and fewer promotions than their colleagues in the office — even if they work just as hard and just as long,” the study review says.

The study reveals the way managers view telecommuting:

✓ 56 per cent say remote work damages employee’s promotion opportunities

✓ 60 per cent of companies prioritize subjective writeups over hard data for performance reviews

✓ Workers seen at their desk during regular hours are viewed as ‘responsible’ and ‘dependable’

✓ Workers seen at their desk outside regular hours are perceived as ‘committed’ and ‘dedicated’

We could remind the boss how our desire to work from home cuts his budget significantly, particularly in office real estate, utilities, equipment and supplies.

Or we could remind her how we’re putting our best foot forward to helping the environment by reducing the number of people telecommuting.

More importantly, we have to go out of our way to make ourselves ‘visible’ and ensure the boss and our teammates that our butts are in the chair without fail.

Here’s how:

Check in regularly

This means using the technology that gives us the ability to work from home. We must call or email often, send regular progress reports, and participate in conference calls, web conferences and update meetings. Have an occasional chat with the boss to chat about your telecommuting, your goals and your progress.

Make yourself available … whenever

OK, hang on. That one needs a caveat. Not necessarily ‘whenever’ but ‘whenever’ during the work day. Keep an eye on your email make sure you respond as quickly as possible. Do the same for any phone calls. If you can’t pick up for whatever reason, attend to that message ASAP.

Make yourself known

Your teammates and supervisor should know who you are, by the quality of work you do, by the efficiency with which you do it, and by your dedication to your job, a dedication that equals or surpasses your colleagues. When it comes time for your performance review, the people who matter will remember.

Keep a ‘happy file’

We often get emails and messages from clients and customers, praising our work. Keep them. Share them with your boss. Let him know you’re representing the company with quality work and true professionalism.

There’s a perception out there. We’re out on the deck sunbathing, or lazing on the couch in front of the TV. Or shopping, sleeping or staring at the walls.

It’s up to us to ensure that perception is erased, and the benefits of telecommuting are recognized.

Your turn

Do you feel like you’re getting passed over for promotions because you’re teleworking? How do you make yourself more ‘visible’ to your boss and your team?

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