As the return-to-office debate drags on, some executives are sending the message that long-term flexible work will come at a price, namely losing out on opportunities to get ahead.
Leaders have the most power to stop proximity bias by being conscious of it and changing up processes, like by letting remote participants speak first during hybrid meetings. But some will still default to thinking in-person work gives the best results, so you’ll need to speak up about keeping your remote flexibility while also “showing up” in a way they’ll understand.
Advocating for yourself as a remote worker can feel daunting, but it’s not too different from working in an office and being encouraged to socialize or “walk the floor,” says therapist, author and podcast host Esther Perel. You’ll just have to be more upfront about it and change up how you get face-time with your manager or their boss.
Be strategic about making your presence felt virtually and to the right people — say the leader who has a clear preference for in-person work, or the department head who makes decisions around assignments and promotions.
If you’re new to the team, or you want to connect with a higher-up you don’t work with directly, Perel suggests sending a message saying something like: “We haven’t really had a chance to meet. I wanted to have an opportunity to tell you more about what I’ve been doing and what I’m focusing on.”
It’s worth being upfront about your main concern: “I think sometimes when we work remotely, those things become more invisible. And I thought it would be nice for us to have an opportunity for me to show you who I am and what I contribute here.”
Making the effort shows your initiative first and foremost. The average CEO is in their 50s, and older generations “have been raised by having to show up,” Perel says. Some people may need extra reassurance that you can do good work even if you’re not there in-person. “That may not be something they automatically understand,” she adds.
Eventually, the person might look out for your contributions over time. Or it could make things less awkward if you reach out to them again in the future. At the very least, you’ll have shown prior initiative if your name comes up again for an assignment or promotion decision down the road.
You can also raise your concern and your plan of action with your direct manager, who can advocate for you with senior leadership when you’re not in the room — whether physically or virtually.
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