Working remotely – how to avoid the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ trap

Q: Since the pandemic, a lot of people in our company are still working remotely. I’m one of them. I now live 140 miles from head office, having moved here early in lockdown. I’m the furthest one away and consequently spend the least amount of time in head office. The others tend to spend a day each week there, whereas I pay a visit perhaps once every four weeks. There is no hard-and-fast rule, but I find it makes sense for me to go there about once a month to meet some people. A promotion opportunity is coming up and I fear I may suffer from the ‘out of sight out of mind’ phenomenon. How can I avoid this? (DJ, email).

A: The ‘out of sight, out of mind’ phenomenon you talk about was of major concern for people before the pandemic when working remotely was nowhere near as prevalent as it now is. There may well be a tendency in some organisations to display a bias – probably unconscious – towards those who are nearest at hand. Inevitably, relationships develop over coffee breaks, nights out and other sundry engagements.

Your task in seeking this promotion is to display how effective you have been while working remotely. Put the emphasis on things that can be measured and lead the management to prioritise those as well.

Look closely at your job and find the things you can measure: growth in sales, speedier responses to customer queries, smoother production schedules or anything else that is cut and dried. Can you also transmit an improvement in your personal effectiveness compared to your pre-pandemic, office-based situation? Persuade management – most likely in the form of an interview panel – that you have never been more efficient.

Be proactive in your approach

The other thing you need to consider is the A-Z of the job you are now chasing. What exactly does it involve? If it’s managing people, what’s your plan for managing them remotely? Have you read any good articles, come across any helpful team management or productivity tools, or seen outstanding examples of how remote teams have been managed to good effect?

Could you do a short course on remote team management? If the company has never appointed a remote manager at your level, you’ve got to not alone sell them on the desirability of you getting the job, but first, on the practicality of having a remote manager. If you ease their concerns on that front, you increase your chances of becoming the successful candidate.

Many companies are conservative. ‘What we have we hold’ appears to be their motto. Taking risks is not always rewarded in the company – so remove the risk from this decision for them. You know it can work and, unless they’ve been living on a cut-off island, they know that times are changing and that the old certainties have all been washed away.

I could spend a full day here writing about ‘who’d have thought’ scenarios that somehow came into being in the workplace during COVID-19. What once appeared fantastical became commonplace overnight.

Let them see there’s nothing crazy about appointing a remote manager to this position – and then, having achieved that, focus on showing them you’re the person best placed to do the job.


Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.


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