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Out of Sight: Is Remote Working Hampering Your Chance of Promotion?

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‘As you climb the career ladder your opportunities for promotion are less if you’re less visible in the office, interacting and networking with senior management’.

 

That’s the view of Shay Dalton, M.D. of Lincoln Recruitment Group, who argues the impact on long-term company culture, workflow, and career advancement mean remote working may not be a model that works for everyone.

The Daily Slog, and many others, are vocal champions of remote and flexible working options, and the potential benefits those options afford to work-life balance.

Here Shay outlines the opposite side of the argument.

 

Don’t get too comfortable in your home office.

Allowing remote working is a decision that can deeply impact everything about an organisation. From office culture to workflow and team makeup to relationships, it’s one that more and more employees (and employers) are being faced with.

Its also a global phenomenon which is growing. A forecast of employment trends by the World Economic Forum called flexible work, including virtual teams, “one of the biggest drivers of transformation” in the workplace, while a Gallup poll found that 37% of respondents now work remotely in some capacity.

Whilst in the current environment there is a trend towards a more mobile and remote workforce, with more and more companies adopting work-from-home policies, employees have grown to expect a measure of control over when and where they work — and they appear to be getting it. That said, there is also a strong case to be made for companies setting a preference for employees to work from the office most of the time.

 

Companies such as IBM, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard  have all made moves over the last number of years to pull back on the reins and bring back their workforce in-house.

An erosion of corporate culture?

There is the risk when you spread your workers out too far and wide, you start to get an erosion of corporate culture.

While there is a certain degree of autonomy in working remotely which can be attractive to an employee, considering the effect that such a remote working situation would have on the business and the company culture should be of primary concern.

Companies such as IBM, Honeywell, Yahoo, Best Buy, Hewlett-Packard and Bank of America have all made moves over the last number of years to pull back on the reins and bring back their workforce in-house. They cited the need to improve teamwork, idea-sharing, innovation, speed, agility and especially corporate culture, as the primary reasons for this move.

 

Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings –Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer

 

A strong workplace culture is an organisation’s primary competitive advantage in a competitive market because you need enthusiastic, excited employees to build great products, manage and train your workforce and delight your clients. When a high percentage of your employees work remotely, you lose the ability to build that culture.

Famously, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer restricted the practice of working remotely and was criticised heavily for it. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that she did it to boost morale and innovation. For Yahoo to reemerge as a leader, she believed that employees had to come together in a central location, and “…some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.” she stated.

 

Collaboration—the missing piece

There are many good reasons why having your employees working in the office is more advantageous and preferable than it would be to maintain a remote workforce.

When considering the pros and cons of having an employee work from home, you have to take account of what role the employee plays within the overall team and how their absence from the office might affect the performance of the company.

You should also bear in mind changes to a particular role and industry. As an example, the marketing function has largely shifted to digital marketing and one in which the need to work in an agile way becomes more apparent.

Marketing is no longer a ‘waterfall’ type work process, where work is handed from one person to another. Modern marketing requires that people on a team be able to iterate programmes in real-time based on live feedback. This requires a higher level of collaboration between teams and one where when all workers are on site and ready to work, it is much easier to correlate work between employees and maximise output.

Whilst solutions like Slack and Trello make remote working and online collaboration much easier, it’s difficult when you scale up and have remote teams surpassing 1,000 plus members.

 

As you climb the career ladder your opportunities for promotion are less if you’re less visible in the office, interacting and networking with senior management.

 

Is the road to the top paved with being there?

For employees, there are also some drawbacks to working from home from a longer term, career growth perspective. Less face-time with management could potentially be a liability. If you’re out of sight, you’re potentially also out of mind.

As you climb the career ladder your opportunities for promotion are less if you’re less visible in the office, interacting and networking with senior management.

Organisations rarely promote people into leadership roles who haven’t been consistently seen and measured. This largely comes down to familiarity and trust.

There is a huge amount of value to passing people randomly in the hallway, by “the watercooler,” or at a social event. These kinds of relationships are critical and are just not replicable via remote work structures. The road to the top, to a certain extent,  is paved with being there, being present and accountable.

 

A one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to remote working is unlikely to succeed.

 

Something to keep in mind…

When making the decision to enable a remote working team, leaders need to take into consideration some of the real problems that remote work presents. A one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to remote working is unlikely to succeed.

Remote working is fine for some of the people some of the time, but for many, it has its flaws and while I may not go so far as to say its the most backward progressive policy that has ever been invented, it certainly brings with it a number of long-term challenges from both sides which should be taken into consideration.

 

About the Author

Shay Dalton

Shay Dalton is the Managing Director of Lincoln Recruitment Group. Shay is a qualified ACCA Accountant with over 20 years’ experience specialising in the placement of senior positions across a broad spectrum of Accountancy and Finance positions within the industrial and financial services sectors. Having been involved in the establishment of some of the most respected financial recruitment brands in the Irish market, Shay subsequently set up Lincoln Recruitment Specialists in 2008.

www.lincoln.ie

 

To read up on the other side of this argument, check out these articles:

Why Trust Is Key To Flexible Working

Flexible Working Shouldn’t Just Be For Returning Mothers

Flexible Working in Ireland: Why We Need To Embrace It

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