By Gina Belli
An increasing number of Americans telecommute, at least part of the time. In 2014, 23 percent of the employed population did some or all of their work from home on days that they worked, according to the American Time Use Survey. Technology has freed workers from the need to constantly toil away at the office, but that flexibility is not without its challenges. For one thing, it can be hard to get ahead when the boss never sees your face.
Making sure you continue to stand out among the crowd even while telecommuting is a challenge. But, with some extra attention to a few specifics, you should be able to advance professionally, even though your office is just down the hall from where you sleep. These are just a few key things to keep in mind.
1. Be available.
Have you ever needed to speak with someone about something urgent and not been able to get hold of them? It can be frustrating and irritating, and this is not the way we want to make our bosses feel. As a remote worker, it's important to find a way to show that you're reliable, and it's crucial that you're able to be reached when someone from the office needs you.
A study published in the MIT Sloan Management Review showed that "face time" is important in terms of managers' perceptions of their employees. It's especially beneficial to be spotted around the office after hours, according to the study. Remote workers lose out on that benefit, and that's why it's especially important that they be available and easy to reach. Even though you're not in the office, you want to be perceived as reliable and committed.
2. Keep extra close track of what you do and when you do it.
A major hurdle that remote workers face when it comes to getting promoted is that they simply aren't observed while doing their jobs. The best way to counter this lack of face time is to keep extra close and careful records of how you spend your day.
Keeping an inventory of what you accomplish each week might just be enough to do the trick, but you could even go a step further and keep a daily log of your activities and hours worked. You may never be asked to show these records to your boss, but chances are you'll find them valuable in some way, even if just for your own information.
Your records will likely come in pretty handy when it comes time to discuss your future with the company. Use them as a way to discuss your specific contributions to the business and your commitment in general.
3. Find the right time to negotiate.
Often, the first step in getting a raise or a promotion is asking for one. It's essential to self-advocate and to ask your boss for what you want and what you deserve. PayScale's Salary Negotiation Guide has tons of great tips for helping you prepare for this conversation. Determining the timing and structure of this meeting, as a remote worker, comes with its own challenges. Try to arrange for an in-person meeting or a conversation by video, if possible.
Even when you work from home, there are still plenty of opportunities to show the boss that you are indispensable. Don't let the cozy relative isolation of your home office lull you into a false sense of security, because the truth is that you may have to work even harder to earn a promotion. It is more than possible, though, and a little care and planning should help you get there.