The Massive Upheaval of COVID-19 to Your Professional Development
If anyone watches my Facebook Live series “Wednesday Work Wisdom” I have been discussing how we are in a state of massive transition when it comes to our careers. I also have been driving home the point that this massive shift to remote employment and the record levels of unemployment are reasons why this pandemic is the perfect time to consider your career and leadership development. Many have been left wondering as they transition to remote work due to the pandemic, what implications this will have on their professional development. Will this transition result in limited career and leadership advancement opportunities for those working remotely?
The Demand for Remote Work by Candidates
The capacity to work remotely has been an important job feature for many candidates. In Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work report, they found that 99 percent of respondents prefer to work remotely at least part of the time for the rest of their careers. Another survey released in February 2019 conducted by Staples asserted that 64 percent of employees work remotely at least part of the time. In addition, 67 percent stated that they would quit if their workplace became less flexible. Now, in this time of a pandemic, working remotely can make the difference of having a job- or not.
Increases in Remote Work
Remote has existed for quite awhile and for some, has been a favored way to work. According to BLS in 2019, remote work in any capacity had increased from 19 percent to 24 percent from 2003-2009. From 2009-2018 it has remained roughly the same. Research has always showed that remote work boosts positive outcomes, such as improved levels of performance, lower turnover rates, and increased levels of workplace satisfaction. Remote work outcomes are based on individual needs and suitable organizational fit according to that preference. Studies have found that fit between remote work preferences and workplace environments predicted outcomes, such as reduced stress, work/home conflict, and increased job satisfaction. However, it is not necessarily all a bed of roses for remote workers.
Many have been left wondering as they transition to remote work due to the pandemic, what implications this will have on their professional development.
Challenges Faced by Remote Workers
#1 Always On
Office Workers have the physical separation of an external workplace and the psychological cues of shutting down work and leaving the office while remote workers feel like they never leave work. This can lead to reduced productivity and burnout, and in a time when we have historically been under stay at home orders- it can make the issue even worse. The Buffer survey found that 22 percent of workers struggle with disconnecting from work.
This is where it is important for managers to keep subordinates accountable. For example, if you see an email has a timestamp of a late hour, ask them about it. It is one thing for employees to take advantage of flexibility in the afternoon and make up their hours later; however, if it becomes a habit then the employee should be questioned. Also, it is important to have processes and procedures set up regarding scheduling meeting and communication tools, such as Slack.
#2 Feeling Lonely or Disconnected
It is possible to feel a nonstop connection to work but feel lonely or disconnected at the same time. The Buffer survey from 2019 found that this is true for roughly one in five. If remote workers are left to their own devices, they will respond more negatively about work than their in-office peers. A study conducted in 2017 discovered that 52 percent of remote employees thought that they were not treated as equally by their colleagues. Forty-one percent of remote workers also believed that coworkers said bad things behind their backs versus 31 percent of in-office employees.
Videoconferencing can be an important part of corporate culture from meetings to virtual happy hours to employee celebrations. There is plenty of technology available to choose internal tools and to put the structure in place for communication to help all employees- those in the office and those that work remotely- feel like they are bonding on a regular basis.
#3 Missing Out on Strategic Insights
Remote workers may also feel like they are missing out on impromptu meetings and conversations that occur in the office. It is oftentimes in these meetings that important information can be exchanged. I have heard from clients that they fear this lack of knowledge of the important information will harm their career trajectories. To overcome the information gap, I have advised regular daily and weekly calls with team members. It is also important to consider when hiring new team members, that they are communicative in order to maintain the balance that has been established.
#4 Falling Off Their Career Path
Some remote workers do fear that out of sight can mean of mind when it comes to promotions and advancement. It has been found that remote workers are 40 percent more likely to be promoted within the last year. Also, they are 27 percent more likely to feel like there is an opportunity for growth in their current role.
This is why I advise my clients that it is up to them to ensure that they are doing all that they can do for their careers. Be informed of any performance expectations and any advancement opportunities that pertain to you. Take the time to assess and understand your own goals as well as those of your team members. This is key to retaining top talent and a win-win for your own career trajectory.
Also, be willing to take action outside of your organization. You do not always have to wait until coaching is provided to you in the workplace- be willing to seek it out on your own. During a time in which hiring will become competitive, it could make the difference in your advancement and your trajectory.