12 Oct Career Growth in the new Future of Work where Work has become Remote?
Everyone expects some form of remote work and work from home to stay, even post covid19. Growing your career in this future of work while working from home or engaging in remote/hybrid work, will depend crucially on
- Self-management and self-organization – knowing how to manage your time, energy and focus so that you continue to deliver results and increase productivity
- Building and investing in networks and thoughtfully cultivating relationships
- Learning about yourself – your skills, strengths, interests and how these can come together in new ways to solve problems and create things
Our career growth coaching experts recommend some strategies for you to ensure that you grow in your career in this new normal. These strategies are organized into two sets – the first for individual contributors who have to deliver output and results on their own and the second for people leaders and managers who need to enable others to deliver results.
Career Growth by Managing your Time, Energy and Focus – Strategies for Individual Contributors
1. Managing your Time: Create and stick to a routine where you allocate time for work and non-work activities. When it comes to managing time while working from home, your workspace is a powerful tool. It’s the physical and the mental boundary that you create between work and your personal life. As far as possible, you want to keep work in your workspace and you, which is everything but work, in your you space.
Two very important things which can leave you feeling more in charge of your time are, creating transition times between home and office work and building in some buffer time to deal with unexpected events and clashes of schedule.
Transition times help you switch between activities related to work and home stuff – for instance your transition may be spending ten minutes in your balcony/garden with a cup of coffee, watering your plants. Such transitions declutter your mind and make you more energized to tackle the rest of your day.
The importance of buffer time can’t be ignored. Especially when working from home, some thing unexpected may come up, like unscheduled calls, a home appliance fix that you need to do etc. If you have some slack time, you will not feel overwhelmed when something like this happens and you can shift your other planned activities into your slack time to adjust.
Understanding oneself is at the heart of managing energy and focus
2. Managing your Energy & Focus: Your energy and focus are your most vital work assets and you need to know how to manage them, if you have to grow in your career in the new normal. A few things which go into this include, setting boundaries (physical, mental), remembering to get physical activity and active rest (when you are engaging in something not related to work, but not in a passive way like watching Netflix) and knowing how to beat the monster of multi-tasking when required.
Career growth in the new normal, where often there is no physical presence of a supervisor or manager, means we have to learn to stay focused on what is expected of us and even exceed it. Otherwise it is all too easy to slip into a state where we just do the minimum required and that doesn’t spell great things for our career.
If you can’t get away from multitasking completely, then at least carve out 1-2 hours a day where you sit down with big chunks of work where you focus. During this time, avoid checking email, social media and other distractions even of work. This is called the Bimodal approach and referred to in Cal Newport’s book Deep Work – Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.
As lifespans increase, careers will have to approached from the lens of sustainability and growing your career sustainably becomes more critical. And we can expect the trend towards working from home, hybrid and remote work to only intensify. To grow your career, engage in work which is challenging and of interest to develop mental energy. Practice self-care through exercise, meditation and pursuing hobbies to replenish physical and emotional energy. Widen and deepen your relationships, because that is where emotional energy will also come from.
Read more: 8 Ways to Grow your Career Sustainably
Career Growth by Enabling People to Deliver Better – Strategies for People Leaders & managers
1. Understanding what leading remotely looks like and what to prioritize: According to Kevin Eikenberry, when we’re leading remotely, we have to remember 2 O’s – outcomes and other people.
The first O of course is the outcomes we’re expecting our people to work towards. Clarity in defining outcomes and consistent communication are what you have to keep coming back to ensure work produces results. When leading remotely, it is especially important to differentiate between end goals and process goals. End goals are the what and process goals are the how. For instance, you have an end goal of getting your team to complete a project and deliver to the client. That’s the end goal. The process goals might be the number of team interactions which are happening every week. Keep tracking and communicating with your team around the process goals.
The second O is making other people the priority. As a leader/manager, your career success depends to a great extent, on getting people motivated to do their best. This can only happen when you make other people your priority. Be a coach to your people, set high expectations but assume positive intent and effort and keep your exchanges with your people around this principle. Schedule time to check in with each team member periodically, it compensates for the loss of physical connection at the workplace.
Your career growth depends on your leading from the head and the heart.
Empower others for your own career growth and success
2. Building trust at a distance and empowering your people to deliver their best: If you as a people manager have a team which trusts you and which feels empowered to do more, your chances of getting results which in turn fuel your career growth are much higher.
How do you build this trust? Trust has three parts to it, common purpose, competence and communicating authentically. When we don’t see each other it may be harder for us to create that common purpose, which is why it’s essential to not just focus on the daily essential tasks, but frequently talk about where everyone is headed to as a whole. This could be a mix of a formal-informal chat say every fortnight where you and your people celebrate what’s going well, remind yourselves of why you are doing what you are doing and just bond with each other. On the second trust building factors, increasing frequency of small check-ins to share feedback with each team member can reassure them about their competence and what they need to improve on.
And underlying all these exchanges is authentic communication. In fact, remote work and work from home requires leaders to become chief repetition officers, finding new and engaging ways to keep communicating with people on what matters to them.
Growing your career in the future of work can be exciting and challenging as you learn new ways to do things. Above all, be open to learning about yourself and others – yours and others skills, strengths, interests and how these can come together in new ways to solve problems and deliver results.
Kavita, an alumna of IIM Ahmedabad, brings 18 years of experience in Experiential Learning, Coaching, Personal Growth & Change. She teaches Career & Self Development courses at leading IIMs and IITs. Her forte is Career Transition Coaching for mid-senior individuals, helping them find success and fulfilment at work.