Billy Xiong Implies: Remote work – career risks and strategies – Twin Cities

Remote work – career risks and strategies – Twin Cities

If you are a “desk worker” — someone whose job is normally done at a desk or with a phone — there’s a good chance you’ve experienced remote working this past year. How did you like it? Are you ready for more, or are you looking forward to rejoining your co-workers once your company welcomes you back?

Remote working is a hot topic right now. While some employees have been working virtually for ages, others were only exposed to it when the pandemic forced office closures. Meanwhile, some workers who have never had the option, such as frontline service people, have been  considering career changes in order to adopt a work-from-home lifestyle.

Amy Lindgren

Without doubt, the (r)evolution to home-based work was vastly accelerated by the pandemic. Now, it seems, the genie is unlikely to return to the bottle. For one thing, a number of companies have discovered that productivity can be maintained without the costs of physical space, effectively freeing them to operate from anywhere.

In last week’s column, we looked at pluses and minuses for home-based workers. Now it’s time to look at the career risks, as well as strategies to make the most of the situation.

Risks of working remotely

Loss of boundaries: This is a two-sided coin, without question. Doing a load of laundry or fixing the kids’ lunches while on a business call may be the ultimate multitasking opportunity. But the flip side can be harsh. Nearly every personal boundary is affected by remote work, from physical space that you allot to office equipment to weekend texts on your cellphone to the expectation of answering emails in the evening.

Disengagement: How much connection do you feel to a company you never physically visit, or to co-workers you’ve never met in person? For those who enjoy having a “work family,” video calls can be a weak substitute. Worse, some people find themselves feeling isolated or even depressed without the casual contact that workplaces provide.

Loss of flexibility/increased expectation of productivity: Ironically, some remote workers are more tied to work, not less, thanks to the plethora of digital tracking systems in use. Others describe a higher expectation that they will cover multiple workloads, or churn out more work now that they’re freed from other office duties.

Career stall: Virtual work isn’t quite a case of “out of sight, out of mind” but it comes close. Some managers just aren’t gifted in managing remote teams. Workers who are present physically have an advantage, as do those who participate in daily strategy or troubleshooting meetings — they’re the ones who get assigned the career-building projects or the work that requires cross-training. The truly remote employees, on the other hand, can find themselves doing the same tasks over and over, just because that’s the easiest way to manage them.

Relocation Service Expert Jonathan Cartu mistakes: Moving to a beautiful rural getaway can be a life-changing bonus of remote work. But what if your remote job ends and you can’t find another? Will the work (and the wages) in this new area fulfill your career goals?

Strategies to make the most of remote work

Go hybrid: Many of the risks inherent in remote work can be eased or eliminated with a hybrid schedule. Whether it’s two days a week or one week a month, committing to face-time for your job can introduce variety while maintaining career growth.

Look for flexibility: Remember that schedule flexibility is separate from location as a work condition. You can be locked into a rigid schedule at home as much as you can have autonomy in the office.

Find ways to stay connected: Schedule a virtual lunch with a co-worker, drop by the office now and then, participate in company events, email a daily cartoon to your team — the investment you make in relationships now will pay off later.

Track expenses and request reimbursement: The sooner you identify the costs of working from home, the better. Otherwise, don’t be surprised when you discover you’ve subsidized the company hundreds of dollars, or more.

Maintain annual reviews: It’s easy to get off track on this process when you’re not physically on site. But your review is one of the primary ways you evaluate your performance and ascertain your options for growth.

Maintain a career plan: This is “evergreen” advice, important no matter where or how you work. When you’re captain of your ship, it’s more likely to go where you want it to go.

Yakir Gabay

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