100% remote working was both necessitated and accelerated by the pandemic.  The tech sector is rapidly becoming more geographically distributed, and even as we emerge from the mandated work from home guidelines, entirely office-based teams seem a thing of the past.

According to some studies, there has been a 149% rise in the number of ‘remote working’ technology jobs posted since March 2020, while remote roles have become highly desired by the tech workers of the UK.

Perhaps we’d have always got to this point, but it’s undeniable that the route would have been more scenic.

The benefits of remote working have pretty much gone undebated. A better work/life balance…no commute and so on. However, less discussed are the not so favourable outcomes of remote working.

We have read about recognising burnout in remote workers, and how best to ensure remote workers can be immersed in company culture. But what about the long-term effects of remote work?

This blog discusses how remote work may impact the careers of tech professionals and how this structure may negatively affect progression, especially among junior and mid-level and minority colleagues.

Remote working and career progression.

It appears that remote tech workers do have concerns about how working from home could negatively affect their career prospects. However, the numbers suggest that the level of concern is dependent on rank and seniority.

For example, a recent study revealed that 39% of tech professionals believed that remote working does limit career development, with women being the group who have most keenly felt the effects of Covid 19 enforced home working. Indeed, most of this cohort felt that their career prospects have been diminished by away from office working.

In contrast, it was Director level tech professionals who were least likely to think that their careers would be affected by remote work. By this stage, this group has done most of their career development and already enjoy strong professional networks.

At the other end of the scale are graduates, for whom remote working is a concern. More than ½ of the graduates asked were worried about the effect on their careers.

What can employers do to help?

Employers must recognise that remote working is a unique environment and that it needs to be actively managed. Indeed, well-respected institutions such as MIT have researched the area. It found that effectively managed remote working can improve worker confidence, especially among early-career employees – the very group that was concerned about their prospects.

Successful remote work strategies included

  • Enabling a connection between geographically distant colleagues
  • Rotating leaders across different departments to help those in junior roles learn on the job and share their knowledge and expertise.

Some industry thinkers believe that this unprecedented lift in remote work needs a new seat at the C suite table. One that needs to be filled by a Chief Remote Work Officer. This role would be directly responsible for all things remote and look after the unique challenges that remote working brings to organisations.

Where do remote workers miss out?

A geographically remote workforce is at a disadvantage when it comes to mentorship and training. Regular contact with senior colleagues is essential for junior-level workers.  Remote work does not allow for learning by osmosis, as is the case when junior staff work alongside senior colleagues.

Employers must recognise these gaps in opportunity and actively address the imbalance to support the continued development of early-career professionals.  This could be through development programs, offering a learning day every week, secondments to other departments, or buddy schemes, for example.

Is online learning the answer?

Career progression among remote workers is a complex issue and one that is made more so by the obvious benefits associated with a remote role.  There is no black and white when it comes to the issue of remote work.

However, employers are turning to tech for the answer.  Online learning initiatives have risen in popularity. Companies have created a range of opportunities for their teams, allowing them to take advantage of all the learning techniques tech has to offer.

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Here are some ways employers can support the learning and development of remote workers.

Tech forward learning tools.

VR or V learning creates virtual learning environments. Immersive delivery of training programmes have been proven to be highly effective. A PWC study on the use of VR in soft skills training found that learners were 275% more confident after training. This was a 40% improvement over classroom based training and 35% improvement over e-learning methods.

Personalise learning platforms.

To give all the team an even chance of success, employers should tailor their learning initiatives to the individual. It’s important to recognise that everyone learns in different ways. Financial services giant, Mastercard is a company that has personalised its learning platform to great success. Over the pandemic, its Degreed platform has gone from strength to strength, achieving 96% staff engagement.

Upskill everyone, not just the tech team.

Remote work requires some level of digital competence. It’s likely that tech teams sailed into remote working easily. It’s important to remember that there are some employees who struggle with tech and for whom it’s a significant barrier to job performance and career progression.

It’s important for employers to acknowledge these skills gaps and enable their non-tech workers as well as those that struggle with tech. Organisations have a duty to empower their workforce in a digitised world.

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Career development and remote teams.

As we move increasingly toward hybrid and remote working as the norm, it falls to organisations to recognise that the changes to working models will impact on the careers of remote workers. Women and early career professionals that work remotely are most at risk of being overlooked.

Employers can offset the challenges by ensuring that there are still opportunities for growth, learning, and development despite being geographically distributed.

A well-managed remote working strategy that acknowledges the possible career implications for remote teams is a great place to start.

About the author: As Client Relationship Director, I am responsible for helping grow the new and existing client base of Ignite Digital. I work as a “trusted connection” with my clients and candidates aiming to deliver the best service I can to connect talent to opportunity.

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