Right now attracting talent is a key priority (and challenge) for many employers, which means that flexible work opportunities are now viewed as an expectation for jobseekers across many sectors.
But, while there are many benefits to remote working, there is also often a trade-off.
Especially for those whose company office is not easily accessible, for those who live (and work) alone, and for those with complicated home lives. Those at the beginning of their career and those who are new to a company and don’t know anyone. And what about our neurodiverse workforce and those who live with different abilities and mental health challenges?
The ‘soft’ costs of working from home.
Understandably, there are concerns about unconscious bias, a lack of representation and career progression when it comes to working from home.
As an example, a survey by Hays found that while 61 per cent of tech professionals said they do not believe that flexible working limits career development, that belief varies depending on how senior they are. The same survey found that just over half of tech graduates are worried about the effect on their careers.
Reading between the lines? If you’re in a position of privilege, the impact of working from home may not have crossed your mind. If not, it may be an additional mental load you carry.
The old-school will say spend more time in the office or get forgotten. Yet the forward thinkers and change makers will say it’s all about adapting.
Employers have a duty of care to their people and to ensure the inequality gap doesn’t widen. The biggest question they’re facing right now is how.
- Create a quality remote working policy. Create work options and set clear expectations for employees to ‘choose their own adventure’. Review how performance is measured, how development opportunities are communicated, and how internal promotions are awarded to ensure they’re fair and equitable.
- Educate your teams. Working from the office/on location has been the norm…since forever! It’s only natural for behavioural change to take a little time. Start by addressing stereotypes and biases that ensure a lack of physical face time does not equal a lack of commitment or opportunity.
- Consider how you facilitate connection, whether than be in the office or with collaboration offsites etc. Look at your employee experience through a DE&I lens so that everyone feels they belong. Advocate for regular and consistent one to one and team meetings, and for colleagues to check in with each other.
While we are now experiencing it on a larger scale, remote working and digital collaboration is nothing new. Rather than resisting hybrid and remote work, look at how you can flow with the tide.
What we can do
While I acknowledge there are many layers of complexity, we do all hold a level of responsibility for the progression of our careers. It requires creative thinking and the courage to speak up.
- Visibility is important, but it doesn’t require you to be physically in the office. Be intentional with your networking, put your hand up for ‘high profile’ work opportunities, ensure you share positive feedback with your manager and voice your career goals.
- Add an element of strategic thinking to your career progression. Consider the quality of your working relationships, build trust and take time to connect with ‘water cooler chat’. It’s the secret sauce to connection. Develop your brand and work to build credibility across the business.
- Set boundaries and share your communication expectations with your stakeholders. They aren’t mind-readers! This will help to ensure they keep you in the loop with updates or outcomes from spontaneous chat’s you may not have been present for.
In short? Working from home doesn’t have to jeopardise career progression. But it does require some effort from both employers and ourselves as individuals to help ensure it doesn’t happen.
Every situation is nuanced. There is so much grey that will influence an appropriate course of action. Please note that I share these high-level thoughts, not as a blanket solution but to inspire reflection and action.