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Remote Career Challenges: Issues Uniquely Impacting Remote Workers

and how to make the most of them!

Remote work challenges can arise frequently, but figuring out how to handle the issues can make you a better virtual employee or freelancer.

If you work remotely or are considering it, you will still encounter many of the same career challenges as your traditional office counterparts. However, as a remote employee, the best strategies with which to approach these challenges may differ. This article explores the most common remote career challenges and offers advice on how to rise to the occasion.

 

All of us face challenges throughout our careers. But despite the change in scenery, challenges are often the same for both office employees and remote workers. These include promotions, job changes, and transitions into leadership positions. However, it is not an even playing field. The most effective ways to address remote career challenges may differ greatly from those employed by our office-bound colleagues.

Accessing Advancement Opportunities

The ability to advance in your current position via promotions or raises is probably the most common and important of the remote career challenges you will face. While working remotely is quickly becoming more commonplace, that doesn’t necessarily translate into your company or boss being prepared to effectively and fairly manage a remote workforce. There are many evaluation processes and unconscious biases that may limit the advancement opportunities of remote employees.

Face time is surely an issue. But it’s not the only obstacle involved with the advancement of remote workers. Isolation from company culture and fewer informal networking opportunities also limit remote workers’ chances for career growth. While one of your reasons for working remotely may have been to escape office politics, it may also be one of your most significant remote career challenges. Because you lack a physical presence in the office, supervisors may not think of you for special projects and you may not hear about the same opportunities as on-site workers.

Strategies to Improve Your Access to Advancement Opportunities

The good news is that as more employees telecommute, the better companies are becoming at implementing strategies to improve communication with a remote workforce. Yet that doesn’t mean you should sit back and wait for things to improve. Here are a few easy ways to keep yourself in the loop and at the top of your boss’ and colleagues’ minds.

  • Technology
    • Take full advantage of all forms of distance communication available within your organization. This is where you can shine! Stay involved with any company-wide communication channels like intranets or chat applications. Use your online content, customer, and project management systems to document your work progress.
  • Communicate with Management
    • Stay in frequent contact with your supervisor. Check in as much as possible without being a pest. This could translate to once a day or once a week, depending on your situation. Time it so that your communications are first thing in the morning or late in the evening to subtly indicate that you’re keeping good office hours. Ask questions to engage and build a relationship.
  • Be Present in Your Own Way
    • Spend some time in the office or on video calls, if possible. Try and make your relationships with your boss and colleagues as personal as possible. Spending time with your team in person, or at least by video call, can help establish trust and make sure they see you as a person, not just a worker.

The bottom line is that having a good communication strategy is critical to overcoming obstacles to advancement as a remote worker. By implementing these strategies, your supervisors and co-workers are more likely to have recent memories of you and up-to-date information on your progress and achievements the next time you lobby for a raise or apply for a promotion.

Job Loss/Changes

Losing a job is challenging no matter what the circumstances. Communication problems that can cause a lack of advancement opportunities for remote employees can also cause conflict and make it easier for management to cut you. Whether you were fired for cause or blindsided by a layoff, job loss is a difficult time for both you and your family. However, the challenge of job loss has both advantages and disadvantages as a remote worker.

As a remote worker, you don’t have to say goodbye in person, and you are only a few feet from your freezer and that favorite pint of ice cream. All joking aside, because you have built a life that is not dependent on traveling to and from work every day, job loss may have relatively little impact on your schedule. This can help to minimize disruption to your daily life. Your remote job may also have given you the flexibility to hold down a couple of side jobs that you can focus on while looking for another position.

The disadvantages—besides the obvious financial challenge—can include an increase in loneliness and loss of self-esteem. Even though disruption to your physical life may be minimal, loss of daily contact with co-workers and any friends you made at work takes a toll. This unexpected job loss can lead to greater isolation and a distorted view of your skills and accomplishments.

Before you move on, evaluate the situation for what you can learn. This is a great time to reassess. You may decide the job you had was not right for you, and now is the time for a career transition. If so, pick up some online training courses to get you started.

How to Cope With the Loss of Your Remote Job

If you don’t take steps to mitigate the effects, the loss of a job can sometimes send your life into crisis. A few tips to help you breeze through inevitable periods of unemployment include:

  • Stay positive. Beyond identifying the causes and learning necessary lessons with your job loss, stop thinking about it. It does no good to dwell on the past. Focus on the future and what you hope to accomplish there.
  • Connect. If you don’t have a professional support network already, get one! Join a professional organization, go to a meet-up, and establish new connections. Try to incorporate both in-person and online activities.
  • Pamper yourself. Don’t expect too much of yourself, especially initially. Grieving and recovering from losing a job takes time. Making yourself feel bad for how you feel will only make things worse. The best thing you can do for yourself, and anyone who depends on you, is to focus on getting yourself fit, healthy, relaxed, and ready to go again.
  • Job search like it’s a job. Make finding a job your new job. Help maintain your daily structure and give yourself purpose by replacing the time you normally devoted to your previous job to finding work.

By applying a forward-looking perspective and being kind to yourself, you undertake your new job search in a productive and positive way.

New Leadership Positions

In many careers, advancing to a management position is a natural progression that comes with experience. When you work remotely, this common opportunity is difficult to achieve. And with it comes additional pressure to succeed. This is in addition to the built-in remote career challenges of being a team leader or manager.

On the professional side of things, you now have a group of people whose jobs depend on you. It is up to you to address all the communication challenges that come with being a remote employee. Apply your own experience when deciding what kind of leader you want to be. What processes will you improve? How are you going to build a productive team?

On the personal side of things, you may find your new role more demanding of your time and see it impact your family relationships. Furthermore, you might need to agree to work odd hours or complete overtime to meet your additional commitments. In the early days, you will ride a steep learning curve as you establish relationships and get to know workflow processes with your direct reports and virtual teams.

Advice for Being a Good Virtual Leader

Being a good virtual leader requires a different communication skill set than your onsite counterparts. You must employ extra vigilance when communicating with your staff members to ensure both fairness and clarity. Make the most of your new opportunity by applying the tips below:

  • Communicate – Establish a schedule of regular communications with your staff members—both one-on-one and as a team—using video calls and conferencing. As a result, this will clarify communication expectations and maximize face time. Occasionally, meet in person to help build team relationships.
  • Document – Review or create detailed documentation regarding the responsibilities of your position, your staff members’ positions, and the goals of your team or business unit. The more comprehensive and complete your documentation is, the easier it is for your staff to meet your expectations.
  • Track Goals and Progress – Implement transparent reporting opportunities to track employee and team progress. Develop clear key performance indicators (KPIs) and/or project goals. By making success dependent on actual performance, it evens the playing field and prevents reliance on “passive face time.”
  • Provide Tools – Make sure your employees have the tools necessary to work remotely and meet your communication expectations. This can include requiring or providing home office equipment, fast internet connections, and collaboration and communication software applications. These tools will help you avoid disruptions and downtime, while also optimizing communication flow.

Taking on a leadership role as a remote employee will provide you with an opportunity to contribute to the development of a positive and productive remote work culture. Remember the importance of modeling the communication behavior you want to see in your employees. In short, practice what you preach!

A Final Word on Remote Career Challenges

Career challenges for remote workers are similar to those encountered by your on-site colleagues. However, the addition of communication issues with a remote setup can exacerbate an already stressful situation. By incorporating a little forethought and preparation, you can overcome remote career challenges when they arise.

 

Have you ever overcome a remote career challenge or faced one of these issuesConnect with Virtual Vocations on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn to share your advice. We’d love to hear from you! 

iStock Image: NataBene

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