How Remote And Hybrid Work Changes Career Paths

Do virtual organizations throw the traditional paths of career advancement out the window? Sort of — some say remote work requires special attention, others say it actually helps boost opportunities.

There is data that suggests businesses are now struggling with the issues affecting access to career advancement opportunities. A recent survey of 500 executives by Robin Powered, Inc., finds. When asked if in-office visibility is an important factor when conducting employee performance reviews 61% of employers say “it did not factor into their decisions and does not affect the overall performance review.” Still, 62% also say that in-office time was either a “something” or “very important” factor in an employee receiving a promotion or salary increase.

A study by Alliance Virtual Offices found that remote workers were 38% less likely to receive bonuses than their office-working counterparts, worked nearly 50% more overtime, had worse performance reviews, and mostly lived in areas with higher-than-average costs of live.

“The jury is still out on this question,” says Darryl Rice, PhD, assistant professor of management at Miami University. “It depends on what type of career development we are discussing. For example, if we are discussing career development which can be completed via online modules, there is no difference between virtual organizations and in-person workplaces. However, if we are discussing career advancement, sponsorship becomes very important and key decision-makers typically have a higher level of trust with employees they have worked personally and intimately.”

The prevailing risk with remote and hybrid career advancement is the “unintentional inequity” that comes by not establishing a proper infrastructure, says Dan Manian, CEO and cofounder of Donut, a collaborative platform provider. “It can be easier to form organic relationships in an office environment, with lots of touchpoints for casual conversations. Employees working from home don’t get the same amount of facetime, especially for non-work related conversations that lead to close personal relationships.”

Still, others believe remote and hybrid work may help boost careers in new ways. “When it comes to career advancement, we’ve found that working remotely levels the playing field,” says Diana Brown, head of people at Eco, a personal finance platform. “Opportunities for bias that exist in-person — dress, weight, height — just aren’t as present in a remote environment. With everyone working different hours in different cities—including our leadership team—work cliques became essentially nonexistent. And no one is receiving extra benefits from facetime or proximity bias. Most importantly: because we don’t know when people are working, we’re not rewarding effort or long hours. We’re rewarding output and outcomes.”

There are proactive ways companies are addressing issues around career advancement. At Globalant, purposeful efforts to bake advancement opportunities into the corporate culture help provide more equal access to advancement opportunities. “We allow all our teams to be autonomous and employees to decide how they want to handle their careers inside the company,” says Patricia Pomies, chief operating officer of Globant, an AI development company “This year, we launched Open Career, in which each ‘Glober’ can define his or her own career path, without depending on a leader. Globers can migrate to the project they want and will only have to wait three weeks to get a response. It is a more autonomous, bold, and agile career marketplace where every Glober can have the power to apply for any project — any client and any industry — at any time.”

In addition, “through an internal platform, every Glober can view all open positions in Globant’s 3,000-plus active projects, and choose their next career move in a completely autonomous way,” said Pomies. “This process is in effect already, and all permission requests and barriers are gone. Having this in mind, with these tools, it doesn’t even depend on being a remote or on-site worker, it depends on your autonomy and decisions to shape your career.”

For companies with more traditional hierarchies, remote workers who want to advance at the same pace as on-site employees “might need to chart a different path to get there,” advises Tracey Power, chief people officer at Vaco, a talent solutions provider. “Remote workers may need to allocate more time to network with colleagues, become involved in initiatives that benefit but are not core to the person’s function, contribute ideas and serve as a thought leader, scheduling regular yet purposeful visits — perhaps monthly — to the office to meet with key leaders about strategic ideas and plans, and training, mentoring or professional development opportunities.”

The bottom line is that criteria be equally applied to all employees, regardless of location. This call for new approaches to leadership focused on opportunities for remote and hybrid employees. “In-person leadership strategies won’t always translate with the same effectiveness in the remote and hybrid worlds,” said Manian. “Leaders should consider their management strategies to better address these equity concerns. For example, they can introduce regular one-on-ones that connect senior leaders with more junior employees. In remote and hybrid workforces, leaders must think critically about the infrastructure in place to ensure all employees have a level playing field, no matter where they work. Think critically about how to involve all employees, and put policies in place to avoid preferential treatment for folks who work in the office.”

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