With the world being a hit by global pandemic, many things have simply come to a halt. Business plans are paused, vacations are delayed, pro sports are in limbo. If you’re like me, even the gas gauge on your car has been mostly stuck in place, without the customary daily commute to the office.

One thing that doesn’t need to slow down right now is your career development. Employees who are being thrust into WFH mode may fear that’ll happen, and research shows it’s a valid concern. Let’s explore some ways to avoid it.

Career Development and Telecommuting

Several years back, Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom led a work-from-home study in China, focused on a 16,000-employee travel agency called Ctip. The study found that WFH workers saw a 13% increase in performance, but were roughly 50% less likely to receive a performance-based promotion.


Now, times have changed since that 2013 experiment, with distributed teams becoming far more prevalent and conventional in the intervening years. Managers in general have become more adept at tracking performance and fairly evaluating a remote employee’s impact on the business. But, like many things in our rapidly evolving world, this remains a work in progress.

If you find yourself working from home (maybe for the first time), there are actions you can take to ensure that all the quality work you’re doing – while perhaps out of sight – is never out of mind for your boss.

How to Get a Promotion While Working from Home

The most important thing, of course, is to work hard and be good at your job. Here are a few tips for making sure it gets recognized and rewarded.

Show Your Work

There are plenty of remote work productivity statistics suggesting that employees can get just as much done – if not more – when working from home as opposed to the office. It’s just not as easy for your manager to see it getting done, when they can’t walk past your desk and see you heads-down, or routinely check in personally.

Because of this, it’s important to focus on documenting and sharing evidence of your productivity. Sure, this can mean logging all your hours and staying active in your team’s chat app, but it’s more about showing the results of your work.

Consider putting together dashboards that illustrate your impact via simple data visualizations. Use metrics and trends to point out successes and opportunities.

“I don’t think you have to be physically present for people to understand the impact you’re making in a business,” said Claire Bissot, managing director of HR services for CBIZ, in an article at SHRM. “[High] performance will rule out any negative thoughts about telecommuting. [But] if they can’t see your progress or you’re not taking the opportunity to communicate it, then people may assume that lack of presence equals lack of skill or performance.”

Be Proactive

It’s likely that many of your colleagues, and higher-ups, have their hands full during these extraordinary times. Many are adapting to new operational dynamics, while most are dealing with some level of day-to-day business disruption. The check-ins and updates we might’ve taken for granted in the past can easily fall by the wayside, so it’s valuable to be proactive with your actions and communications.

The above recommendation – creating dashboards to track and show your work – is one example. But in general, making a habit of proactivity with communications is advisable. Ask your manager if they’re open to daily or weekly virtual standups, and put it on the calendar. Address issues or barriers that are sprouting up before they become widely noticeable problems.

And if you’re angling for a promotion, don’t be shy about making it known. This is always a bit of a delicate conversation of course, but if you’re waiting for your boss to broach the subject, it might never happen. This shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as a slight; again, everyone’s got a ton on their plates right now.

“Since you’re remote, you may have to be twice as proactive in initiating the discussion,” writes Erica Breuer at the The Muse, in explaining How to Prove You Deserve a Promotion When Working from Home. “Be sure to ask your manager to set a time to talk—over video if at all possible. (You do not want to ask for a promotion over email.)”

She adds: “Besides setting aside a dedicated time to chat, make sure you know exactly what you’re asking for. If it’s a raise, what’s the dollar amount? If it’s a promotion, what are the specific duties you’re ready to tackle?”

The section in this post on the LinkedIn Learning Blog titled “How to Ask Your Boss for a Promotion” features some good tips on an effective approach.

Strengthen Your Professional Network

Career advancement doesn’t always mean getting promoted within your current company. Even if you love where you work, it’s always smart to mind your marketability in the open field. Check in with your LinkedIn connections, drop a line to an old coworker, join groups and communities of like-minded professionals online.

Publicly sharing examples of the great work you’re producing (in a way that’s useful or interesting to others and not blatantly self-serving) can be doubly beneficial: It shows your current company that you’re evangelizing for them, and shows others in your network that you’re kicking butt.

If you want someone else to promote you, you’ve first got to promote yourself a little.

Take the Lead on Innovating Remote Work

If your team is experiencing challenges or friction with transitioning to a distributed setting, one of the most helpful things you can do is play an active role in improving the situation. Yes, it’s true that managers can take steps to address remote employee engagement, but they can’t do it alone. It needs to be an all-hands-on-deck effort, and if you’re taking the lead, others will likely take notice.

A few actions you might consider on this front:

  • Research and suggest solutions that address specific remote work hurdles your team is encountering.
  • Start up virtual happy hours to improve team bonding.
  • Create a Slack channel dedicated to WFH tips, where you share the practices and equipment that are helping you and others can do the same. (This post with expert guidance on setting up an ideal WFH workspace might be a good one to share there.)

During this transformative time, one of the biggest opportunities for the current and rising generation of business leaders is to rethink the way we work, and optimize it in accordance with the new normal. Stepping up and spearheading this initiative can make a big impression on your superiors, demonstrating that you’re a forward-thinker built to lead in the emerging era of flexible work and technology-driven collaboration.

One idea you might consider bringing to the table is the adoption of a virtual office platform like Sococo, a tool custom-built for this new era. Check out this video to see how it works, and how it helps your team work.

The world is moving forward and changing fast. Helping your company evolve and manage that change, in a proactive and visible way, will help you move up.