Remote work -- whether it's full-time or flex -- has become incredibly common. But many entry-level employees who've only worked remotely miss the opportunity to learn professional norms and expectations that their more established colleagues (and bosses!) had access to in the office. And those farther along in their careers often find it's a lot harder to prove their worth to their boss and colleagues without that valuable face time, which makes getting a raise or promotion that much harder. But remote work is here to stay, and you can absolutely grow professionally without ever setting foot in an office. Here's how:
Communicate regularly. Just because you’re out of sight doesn’t mean you have to be out of mind. Make sure you communicate with your supervisor regularly, especially if you work remotely full-time. You don’t want to send an email every time you complete a task, but you should find a way to make sure your boss and team can track your work. Depending on your office culture, this might be updating a project management tracker like Airtable and/or sending daily or weekly highlight emails with a 30,000 foot version of what you've accomplished. You should also set recurring one-on-ones with your supervisor. Make sure you reply to any emails that are sent your way in a timely fashion and ping your boss when you complete a big project. One of the advantages of working remotely is the flexibility to pop out for a daytime appointment or errand, but when you do this, let your boss know if you'll be out of pocket for an extended period of time, so they don't panic when they can't reach you.
Meet all deadlines...early. When you work remotely, it’s critical that you deliver all of your work on time. Meeting a deadline is the sign of a diligent employee. If you truly want to impress your boss, though, do your best to turn big projects in ahead of schedule. Without the distractions of officemates, it should be easier to focus. Since you don’t have access to your boss to pop into her office and let her know your ETA for a deliverable, turning work in early will ensure she never even suspects you may be late. Of course, some assignments take the full amount of time allotted (and some deadlines are unreasonable), so you won’t always be able to turn your work in early. Don’t worry -- just shoot your boss an email along the way confirming you’re on the right track so she doesn’t get nervous, especially if she’s a micro-manager.
Keep to a schedule. This tip is more for your mental health than your work output -- but a happy employee is a good employee! It’s easy to let your time slip away from you when you work remotely full-time, and you may find yourself working all day and all night. Or you fill your day with non-work activities until suddenly, it’s 9:00pm on Thursday and you haven't started on the big project you promised to turn in by the end of the week! To avoid this pitfall, make a schedule and find a dedicated workspace. If you can get all of your work done in 5 hours a day, there’s no need to work 8. As long as you’re available during normal business hours for emergencies, you can build a schedule that has you working half the morning and half the evening, with the afternoons free for whatever else delights you. The important thing is to block off work hours in your calendar and find a place to do your work that’s free of non-work distractions. Bake some exercise into your day too -- it’s easy to be dormant when there’s no real reason to go anywhere, and your mental health will suffer if you don’t move around. You don’t need to join a gym if that’s not your thing, but you should at least let yourself outside for a walk like you would a golden retriever.
Take initiative. You want to show your team that you're invested in the work and showing up with your full self, rather than coasting. This is true in the office, too, but it's more important when you're working from home. You should engage with your colleagues in meetings, whether that's by having your video on during calls or sharing ideas during brainstorming sessions. If there's an opportunity to take on a new project, complete a one-off task, or lead a meeting, volunteer! This is especially true if part of your team works in the office while you're remote -- you want access to the same opportunities they have to grow. You may have to ask your boss for more responsibility (a good thing to do in your one-on-ones!) if nothing is offered to you, but make sure you're also stepping up to take on the projects that are being handed out.
Don't ghost your boss. This one seems obvious, but trust us: It’s not always that obvious. Remote freelancers sometimes move on to new projects and assume no one will notice that they’ve stopped turning in work. Your boss notices, and if you ever want to resume freelancing at that company -- or if a future employer calls for a recommendation -- your ghosting will come back to haunt you. It’s totally okay to quit a job, but you should do so courteously. Email or call your boss and give your notice. You may not need to give a full two weeks if your position was on a rolling basis or freelance, but you should give your boss a heads-up and offer to finish off any outstanding work. Let your boss know exactly what you’ve completed and what you haven’t and turn in any documents, data, or login credentials that your replacement might need.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan