If an IT professional achieves a big win in her home office in the country, does it make a sound?
Perhaps you’re aware of the term “proximity bias:” the unconscious human tendency to favor what is closest to us. Veteran remote workers have long been aware of the predisposition for – and, in many cases, a clear cultural practice of – valuing more highly those employees who physically come into the office every day. People now navigating a hybrid work environment for the first time may also see this dynamic.
“It can be difficult to prove your value in a remote work situation because no one can see you and get a visual sense of how you’re performing,” says Cliff Milles, lead technical recruiter at Sungard Availability Services.
This can be a particular challenge for IT leaders. “In more senior positions there is more emphasis on relationship-building, stakeholder management, and leading by example, which then sets the tone and culture for others,” says Lars Hyland, chief learning officer of Totara Learning, a provider of enterprise learning, engagement, and performance management technology.
Now that more of us are working remotely some or all the time (many for the foreseeable future), it’s important to counteract this ingrained inclination in order to thrive in today’s IT organization. “I’ve seen two or three solid, experienced individuals cycle through that organization. Each left voluntarily, quite quickly, because they realized they couldn’t prove their value in that environment,” says Dr. James Stanger, chief technology evangelist for CompTIA. “In another case, I saw a worker do a fantastic job of establishing her value in an organization by clearly communicating technical solutions in business terms. She was able to show value to both sides of the organization.”
Remote work: 10 ways to demonstrate your value
So, how can you best demonstrate your worth when working from a distance? A few pointers:
1. Embrace the upside of WFH
One unexpected truth that many have uncovered over the last year and a half is that working remotely makes many individuals more effective. Use this. Those who have irregular work habits or prefer not to have live social interactions, but are impactful and effective, will do better, says Milles.
“As long as your goals and objectives are clear and in alignment with wider business priorities, then working remotely can provide you with the focus needed to make rapid progress and demonstrate your impact,” says Hyland. “The key is to ensure those goals are agreed with your line manager and stakeholders, which will then ensure your time and attention is protected accordingly.”
2. Double down on relationship-building
“It is challenging proving your value remotely without being able to build a rapport in-person,” says Maddie Harris, talent acquisition recruiter at security and privacy compliance assessor Schellman & Company. “Relationships are a huge part of success, both personally and professionally, and having to build those relationships virtually is always going to be more challenging.”
Make sure to connect with your team, peers, and leaders regularly not just for updates, but to connect more deeply. “Understanding your team and the needs of your team will help you be a better leader, always,” Harris says.
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3. Be "there" even if you're not there
“IT managers and leaders must always be available and responsive,” says Milles. To the extent possible, while making sure you have boundaries in place to prevent burnout, it’s critical for IT managers and leaders to make themselves available for communication.
“Some leaders become so inundated with work that they become hard to get ahold of, which can be detrimental to the success of others, especially remotely,” says Harris. “Being accessible is a key component to a successful virtual working environment.” Stay on top of these notifications, be precise in responses, and be clear about your meeting times and working hours.
4. Keep up appearances
Sure, you’re shuffling from your bedroom to your home office or squeezing in a ride on the Peloton between Zoom calls. These are some of the perks of working remotely. But don’t let the line blur too much if you want to shine.
“Don’t be too informal on video meetings or in your general interaction with others,” Milles advises. Wearing PJs or a baseball cap to a meeting sends the message that you don’t take work seriously. “Instead, wear a business appropriate shirt even when not meeting with anyone,” says Tony Zorc, author of Iconoclasm: A Survival Guide In The Post-Pandemic Economy. “Remember, you’re still at work.”
5. Turn your camera on
“Make sure that when having a virtual meeting that you have your camera turned on and you look presentable,” Zorc says. “If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video feed is worth 10,000 words a second. This shows you are engaged and listening to the discussion. Additionally, this also helps you read individuals and adjust your engagement. Being on camera has the extra benefit of helping you form better connections with other employees and managers, too.”
Let's look at five more tips to utilize: