Working remotely and the odds of promotion

Mar 19 2013 by Wayne Turmel Print This Article

If you are more productive than your coworkers, you'd expect to have a better chance of promotion, right? Not so fast. A new study says that remote workers might be working at a disadvantage compared to their coworkers in the office.

According to research done at Stanford University and reported in Talent Management Magazine, people who worked at home reported a 13% increase in productivity, but had a 50% smaller chance of being promoted.

This matters when, by some estimates, over 9% of workers in the US are now working at least one day a week from home. Is convenience trumping your odds of getting promoted?

The study showed that those who worked from home had a higher retention rate than those who commuted into the office, but had a 50% less chance of getting promoted. Now, this is not necessarily bad news. Many people will gladly take the convenience of working from home over playing office politics any day. But what does this mean for remote workers who covet promotions?

The article is careful to point out that this is a small study and individual company culture plays a huge role, there are some things that workers should do to keep themselves in line for promotions:

Communicate constantly (and proactively) with your boss and your coworkers. This doesn't mean being needy and sticking your nose in where it doesn't belong, but one advantage your on-site coworkers has is continual access and the ability to make small talk. Your bosses get to know them and get to value their input and accessibility.

Let your boss know you're interested in promotion. Many times people choose to work remotely for convenience, and we trumpet the benefits of that all the time. Very often, then, employers assume you enjoy working from home for convenience reasons and aren't interested in a real career path. When you have your one-on-ones with your boss (and you ARE having one on one conversations, right?) don't be shy about letting them know your goals and aspirations.

Visibility is key. Your boss is busy, and very often it's "out of sight out of mind". This doesn't mean you get all needy and clingy, but keep your profile high by contributing in meetings, volunteering for high-profile tasks, and interacting with your co-workers. People talk, and positive buzz about someone will reach the right ears.

Keep your eye on the company, not just on your team. One of the advantages of working remotely is you don't get distracted by gossip and idle chatter. Unfortunately, that buzz is very often where you hear about openings, potential reorganizations and other opportunities for advancement. If you're interested in more opportunities within your company, you need to know what's going on throughout the organization. Check the company blog, subscribe to its twitter feed and contribute to discussion boards.

Be willing to go into the office if you have to. Very often, a change in job means a change in the way you work. Are you willing to make that commute or travel more in exchange for a bit more money and promotion? Really? Be honest with yourself and your boss.

If someone is more productive and gets the job done, you'd think that would be a positive when seeking promotion—and it is. Unfortunately human nature dictates that those who are visible will get first consideration, and are often thought of as more appropriate for promotion.

If you want to be promoted, don't sit passively and expect to get noticed. Use the communication tools at your disposal - and your gumption - to stay on the career path you choose.