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How to shine when working remotely

Written by: Rosalyn Palmer, Transformational Coach and Therapist
Published on: 13 Feb 2021

man at laptop at home

Pic: Tima Miroshnichenko, Pexels

The impact of working remotely or as part of a hybrid team during the pandemic is having an effect on career progression and development. 

By being remote and by being put into positions now where we are connecting online and effectively spending lots of time remotely, we’re missing all that nuancing, all that non-verbal communication that gives context and depth to our conversations. 15% of our communication is verbal and 85% is body language. And often they’re the ways in which somebody can shine, in which you get spotted and you can really enhance your career. From behind a screen, it’s difficult to show your energy, discuss ideas and standout. 

Remote working for younger employees will be more difficult by the fact that they’re unable to learn from colleagues without that face-to-face guidance, coaching and mentoring, and it’s impacting generations differently. 

It is impacting generations differently. Particularly for the younger generations, you learn on the job by watching others through osmosis, by picking it up and running with the ball. And if you’re not around lots of other people in an actual team environment, all under the same roof, a lot of those cues, that learning on the job, absorbing and seeing what other people are doing, is going to be so much harder. So, they are going to potentially miss out. 

With the reduction in face-to-face visibility, it can understandably be very difficult to prove your value in your role to your team and to the wider organisation. So how can you successfully prove your worth? 

With a lot of the interaction in remote team working and meetings, you must treat the meetings the same as you would if you were in an organisation and walking into a big boardroom, and you need to go in there prepared, shine and have everything ready. 

It is about making this new online presence work for you. Arriving on time is important. Take a few minutes before you click on that start button to just settle yourself and bring your attention. Just because you’re all remote doesn’t mean you can’t connect, so take the same time and trouble to greet whoever’s in the room with your full attention as you would, if you were literally physically in the room with them, because people like people who are present and who engage with them. 

And everybody worries about the impression they’re making and that’s why many people go into meetings and they can’t remember the person’s name because they’re not present at that moment about when that person actually says, “Hello, I’m Helen”, and face to face you’d actually shake their hand. It’s the same. So be present, turn up, settle yourself, and really take time to greet the person there. 

Obviously, there are things about how you look, but one of the big issues is resisting the urge to multitask. Behave the way you would if you were sat around a board table, you arguably would not be checking your emails as it would not be very career-enhancing. Also multitasking is really draining, it really leads to screen fatigue because you’re having to turn up in a new way. And if you’re then multitasking and not even concentrating on what’s being said, you’re just pulling yourself in so many different directions. 

Do make the effort to look professional, don’t hide behind your avatar, be present and be visible. 

How to communicate success and progress on projects to maintain visibility whilst working remotely? 

How you “turn up” is telling more than anything about who you are and your attitude. 

Be engaging, bring ideas, don’t be afraid to have your voice. And if you don’t really feel that you’ve got something amazing to add, then questions are the answer. If you’re asking a question that shows you’re engaging, it shows you’re thinking about it, it shows you’re wanting to learn more. So, you don’t have to think that you have to turn up and be able to say something stunningly exciting because you maybe don’t truly understand what’s being discussed or you don’t have that much to add, but you can always help the person leading the meeting or the rest of the team by engaging them and being engaging. And questions are the way forward, and that is a way to shine, asking good questions. 

Virtual meetings are our primary form of communication at the moment, how is it impacting professional relationships and affecting career development? 

Leaders and managers need to be very aware of engaging their people in many different ways to bring out the best in them and if you’re somebody going up the career ladder, you need to be asking for all those points of interaction. So along with team meetings, have one-to-one meetings, have smaller groups have breakout meetings because different objectives within the business or within your own career path, aren’t always going to be met in the same way, just as within an organisation, you wouldn’t always go into the boardroom with thirty people to discuss a very specific, small part of a project or a small part of what your career enhancement is. You’d probably have a one-on-one meeting with your line manager or with a peer or with a mentor. 

Replicate all these good business practices. And it’s a two-way street. If you’re the one who wants to progress, speak up.  Ask for a virtual coffee, making it a little less formal, and say,” I really feel that because of our present situation, I’m not really learning through osmosis or learning through being around people. How about we meet for a virtual coffee every other day, and maybe we can just talk about some issues that turn up within the business or how you would tackle things if you’d have been at my stage in my career?”.   This might be that time that you’d come away with some gem, that a formal agenda or meeting wouldn’t do. 

It's about consciously engineering these meetings that maybe we took for granted. So, it’s consciously engineering some of the less formal, more nuanced, learning through osmosis nonverbal communication. It is not missing the nonverbal communication in those moments that give context and depth to everything you learn and all of that is important for career enhancement. 

How important is strong written verbal communication to succeed when working remotely?  For example, is how you communicate via email and instant messaging platforms just as important as verbal communication? 

It is.  What email lacks is the tonality of voice because it’s just words and I’m sure that you have probably sent emails and it’s caused offence for somebody who’s taken it the wrong way, and you absolutely didn’t mean to do that, or you’ve received them. 

You miss that nuance; you miss that context, and it can be very easy to get offended or to cause offence on emails. So, you must be very careful about not trying to be nuanced in email, or you must literally spell it out. To literally say, “I am really delighted with what we’re doing” – and never used the word ‘but’, it’s a ‘but’ free zone – “and I would just like to drill down a little bit more on the following five points. Why don’t we jump onto a virtual coffee and do that?” So, you can use that communication. Of course, emails are great, you’ve got a record of something and you keep on top of it because it’s written down. 

How can you go about sharing your career goals with your manager and that you would like to be considered for a promotion? With the playing field going through quite a bit of change, with economies across the world struggling and priorities possibly lying elsewhere for businesses and managers at the moment. 

You have to be realistic that you might be going to have a conversation with a line manager who has their hands tied at the moment because of all of this uncertainty and difficulty. 

Go with the grace of saying, “Look, I realise at the moment, this probably isn’t possible or I realise that at the moment we are not in an environment where me being promoted and having a pay rise is even tenable, and I do want to say that when we do return to some normality or when things do change, or even if this becomes our new normal, I’m ready, I’m absolutely raring to go. I feel I have all of this to offer. And I would love to have this conversation again in two to three months’ time. I am going to use that to even add more skills and make myself even more valuable to this organisation. Therefore, I was thinking could I be trained in x or could I be trained in y? Or could I have a virtual coffee with you? Or could I have a virtual coffee with your boss once a month?” 

It is about showing that you are an asset and you’re valuable, but you do understand the realities of the situation. 

For many a big part of feeling motivated and engaged at work is the positive reinforcements that you receive throughout the day 

Absolutely, it’s hard to always be totally self-motivated on your own. 

Extroverts within an organisation get energy from being around others and can find it quite difficult because they lose that sense of connection. Whereas introverts typically need that time alone to build energy, to face the group situation. And neither preference is right or wrong, it’s just that some of us function in some way, some of us function in another way. 

Find all those ways to connect that you can, but the most important connection is your connection with yourself. A lot of well-performing people get burnt out because they are very busy being brilliant and connecting with everything, everybody and turning up, but there’s nothing left within them. 

Every day, more than ever, particularly because of the potentially draining nature of being in front of a screen or in online meetings repeatedly, connect with yourself. 

Ask, what makes me feel good about me? How do I fill up from the inside out? How do I nurture myself? 

How important is it to upskill to demonstrate your willingness to learn  

Using this lockdown time to learn and upskill, is a mindset. 

If you’re not commuting don’t just switch your commute for more work, use that time to work on you, to up-skill you. The skills that are going to take you to where you want to go. Now that might be within your organisation, or it might not be, it might be external to your organisation - always think about is what are my transferable skills. Again, this depends on your ultimate career path, your goals, and maybe the way your organisation treats you. 

Treat it as your trajectory and an opportunity. The other side of what seems to be difficult is what is my opportunity? 

Now is a crucial time to be building your personal brand too to maintain visibility. 

You must have consistency about who you are because you are your brand. 

It’s not just about how you look, be consistent and be professional. Dress, behave and look the way that you would like to be, maybe the level above where you are now. 

Keep your word about the little things and the big things. So, if you say you’re going to do something, do it absolutely before and ahead of time, or decline and explain why not.  Turn up early, always let people know you’re the reliable one, be consistent in what you say and do. That is important, that creates a brand.