6 Ways to Advocate for Yourself While Working from Home, According to HR Experts
Over the past few years, working from home has become the norm in many industries. Innovation, technology, and, yes, COVID-19 pushed companies to allow their employees to work remotely. A recent study conducted by Owl Labs found that almost 70 percent of full-time workers in the U.S. are working from home during the pandemic. And, moving forward, many workers are likely to adopt a hybrid schedule of working on site a few days a week and from home the rest of the time.
As remote work becomes more common, how do people hoping to build their careers adjust to this new normal? Sure, it may feel more convenient to work from home since it reduces commute times, allows for flexibility, and potentially decreases childcare costs. But what about opportunities to network in person to become the lead on a new project or nab an account you’ve wanted for a long time? Employees may also have questions on how to land promotions, secure raises, and handle other issues that may come up regarding employment.
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Employees need strategies to advocate for themselves — even while working at home. HR professionals share six ways remote employees can advocate for themselves while working remotely.
Focus on your communication skills.
Since you’re not in the office, it’s important to be proactive and carve out time to show off your communication skills. “As a remote team member, it can quickly feel as if you are being overlooked and unheard. Taking the initiative and asking for a check-in with your boss is a great first step to open the conversation,” human resources manager Mary Alice Pizana tells Apartment Therapy.
It is crucial, though, prior to a meeting with your boss, to “determine what you want out of the conversation and why you deserve a particular request,” says Pizana. To effectively advocate, offer data and other examples to justify your position. Manage your emotions as you engage in the conversation.
“If the employer feels you do not deserve what you have requested, be persistent and see if there are any options to change their mind or if it is possible to try your request as a trial period. If they still disagree, keep doing exceptional work, and bring up the subject again after a few months,” Pizana says.
Know your worth.
The best way to advocate for yourself is to understand your worth. This may mean taking time to reflect on your strongest skills. “A key part in self-advocacy is understanding where your strengths are and how they are being applied to the company,” says human resources specialist Diane Cook.
She recommends employees use presentation tools like PowerPoint to outline certifications and skill sets that could help in contributing to a particular project. Focus on “results that are specifically delivered which amounted to X dollars in savings or revenue,” Cook says.
Every few months it might be good to update your manager or boss on any courses, reading, or certifications you’ve pursued in order to become a valuable asset to your company.
Build trusting, stable relationships.
It’s important to connect with others in the company even if you’re working from home. That might mean attending company rallies or other group calls that are not necessarily required but could give you the opportunity to meet new company members. “In corporate America, it’s an equal blend of ‘who’ you know, ‘what’ you know, and then the combination of ‘who knows what you know’ (my favorite),” says Cook.
Your network and connections can become particularly handy when making requests. “When it comes time to ask for that raise, promotion, or next step, your network will be more inclined to advocate on your behalf versus you having to spend time convincing them of your worth,” Cook says.
Ask more questions.
Employees at home don’t have countless opportunities to network — so they must make the most of moments on Zoom or other channels in their corporation. “In the corporate world, most people love talking about what they’re doing. Whether you have a watercooler channel on Slack or someone you have teamed up with for your project, try striking up a conversation with your peers, ask them how it’s going, and show genuine interest by being inquisitive,” says Anjela Mangrum, president of Mangrum Career Solutions.
“Some of these individuals are bound to ask you about your own work at some point, and there you have your chance to advocate for yourself,” adds Mangrum.
Memorize a small — and somewhat unique — introduction for yourself.
You will likely be meeting several people from different departments, whether it’s someone in development or IT.
“When you’re working remotely at a busy company, it’s common to have brief conversations without the other person actually getting to know you, such as when an IT employee troubleshoots any issues you’re facing,” says Mangrum.
“To make yourself more known, practice a casual one-or-two-sentence line about what you do and who you are. Besides hurried conversations, you can reserve a more unique introduction for occasions such as welcoming a new hire on the company’s chat portal. An interesting tidbit about yourself can help people remember you better, even if it’s something as random as being a dog parent of six breeds of puppies,” Mangrum says.
Leverage one-on-one interactions.
If you have the opportunity to meet with people individually, make it count. This might “feel intimidating, but it’s not that big of a deal once you get into the habit,” says Mangrum.
“General one-on-one meetings with your peers or other senior staff members let people know how well you’re doing workwise, besides being an excellent networking strategy,” says Mangrum.
Sometimes there are opportunities to connect in person too. “You could have one-on-ones on Zoom, but if you’re not living that far away from the physical office, ask a team member to meet for lunch when working on a project, or visit the company on site if your boss seems interested in discussing something,” says Mangrum.