Path 3 Created with Sketch.
Banner Default Image

Insight

Back to all insights

REMOTE WORKING AND CAREER PROGRESSION: CAN IT EVER BE FAIR?

Author: Richard Snarey

Published date: 2020/09

Pexels Bongkarn Thanyakij 3759072

While the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rise in remote working, several challenges regarding its broader adoption remain. 

Fears have been expressed that it could lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, with employers putting measures in place to combat this, ranging from regular check-ins to additional wellbeing initiatives. 

However, one concern that isn’t demanding column inches is that of career progression or lack thereof. In lieu of the physical access to managers and peers that traditional co-location offers, will remote workers miss out on the crucial mentorship and evaluation that can lead to a promotion?

Such worries are not unfounded. A work-from-home experiment carried out by Nicholas Bloom at Stanford University found that remote workers were approximately 50 per cent less likely to get a performance-based promotion than their office-based counterparts. To make matters worse, the same experiment found that home workers experienced a 13 per cent increase in performance, suggesting that although they are more productive, they are not as well rewarded. 

Another study published in the MIT Sloan Management Review found that both managers and colleagues are influenced by what they refer to as “passive face time”, which means seeing someone on a regular basis. 

So, is it really a case of out of sight out of mind? If you’re not slaving away at a desk, are you kissing any form of career progression goodbye? Unsurprisingly, responsibility for the outcome lies with the employer. 

Without traditional value signalling, which could include getting to work early and leaving late, presenting positive results, or even attending after-work events with a management team, employers need to explore new ways they will consider an employee for promotion. 

As difficult as it can be to leave these old value systems and strategies behind, it’s imperative if employers want to grow and nurture in-house talent. Depending on the role, employees in the run-up to promotion are judged in several areas: 

  • Quality of work 

  • Leadership skills 

  • Positive attitude 

  • Ability to communicate and collaborate. 

The key to measuring these aspects remotely is to judge workers on results rather than the hours spent at their desk. The most effective way to do this is the implementation of outcome-based performance evaluations for everyone in the team, whether they’re working remotely or not. 

Not only will this approach level the playing field for remote workers, but it will also help employers tackle any internalised bias that favours people for the wrong reasons. Of course, this approach will take time and effort, potentially involving the implementation of better digital tools that enable simple and straightforward collaboration and communication, but the results, for everyone involved, will be favourable. 

Help is at hand 

PRS is serialising our Great Expectations 2021: What questions will you be asked? series, to offer advice on how you can bolster your employer brand and be ready to face some tough questions about how you treated your workers during the pandemic.