How remote and hybrid work are changing career paths

Are virtual organizations jettisoning the traditional paths of career advancement? In a way – some say remote work requires special attention, others say it actually helps increase opportunities.

There is data that suggests companies are now grappling with the issues that are hampering access to career opportunities. A recent survey of 500 executives conducted by Robin Powered, Inc. found. When asked if visibility in the office is an important factor in conducting employee performance reviews, 61% of employers say, “This has not taken their decisions into account and has no impact on the overall performance review.” Yet 62% say it is office time was either a “fairly” or “very important” factor in an employee’s promotion or raise.

A study by Alliance Virtual Offices finds that remote workers are 38% less likely to receive bonuses than their in-office counterparts, work almost 50% more overtime, receive poorer performance reviews, and tend to live in areas with higher-than-average costs of living.

“The jury is still out on this question,” said Darryl Rice, PhD, an assistant professor of management at Miami University. “That depends on what kind of career development we’re talking about. For example, when we talk about career development that can be completed via online modules, there is no difference between virtual organizations and face-to-face workplaces. However, when we talk about career advancement, sponsorship becomes very important and key decision makers tend to have a higher level of trust in employees they have worked with personally and closely.”

The predominant risk in remote and hybrid career progression is the “unintentional injustice” that occurs when proper infrastructure is not put in place, says Dan Manian, CEO and co-founder of Donut, a collaborative platform provider. “It can be easier to form organic relationships in an office environment with many touchpoints for casual conversations. Employees who work from home don’t have the same amount of Facetime, especially for non-work-related conversations that lead to close personal connections.”

Still others believe that remote and hybrid work can 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, director of human resources at Eco, a personal finance platform. “Opportunities for bias that are personal – dress, weight, height – just don’t exist in a remote environment. With everyone working in different cities at different times—including our leadership team—work cliques are virtually non-existent. And no one benefits from facetime or proximity bias. Most importantly, since we don’t know when people work, we don’t reward effort or overtime. We reward performance and results.”

There are proactive ways companies are tackling career advancement issues. At Globant, a focused effort to embed advancement opportunities into the corporate culture helps create more equal access to advancement opportunities. “We allow all of our teams to be autonomous, and employees can choose how they want to shape their careers within the company,” says Patricia Pomies, chief operating officer of Globant, an AI development company. Every “glober” can have theirs define your own career path without being dependent on a manager. Globers can migrate to the project they want and only have to wait three weeks to get a response. It is a more autonomous, daring and agile career market where every glober has the opportunity to apply for every project – every client and every industry – at any time.”

In addition, “every Glober can view all vacancies in Globant’s more than 3,000 active projects via an internal platform and choose their next career step completely autonomously,” says Pomies. “This process is already in place and all permit requests and barriers are gone. With that in mind, these tools don’t even matter if you’re a remote or on-site worker, but rather your autonomy and choices to shape your career.”

The bottom line is that the criteria apply equally to all employees, regardless of location. This call for new leadership approaches focused on opportunities for remote and hybrid workers. “Personal leadership strategies don’t always execute with the same effectiveness in remote and hybrid worlds,” says Manian. “Leaders should consider their management strategies to better address these equality concerns. For example, they can introduce regular one-on-one meetings that bring senior leaders together with younger employees. In remote and hybrid workforces, leaders need to 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 include all employees and put in place policies to avoid preferential treatment of employees in the office.”

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