When working remotely, you'll likely notice some unique challenges arise that aren't necessarily roadblocks you'd experience in a shared office.
Additionally, as a career-minded professional, you might also have fears related to being isolated or unseen. For example, you might ask yourself, "Am I missing something important?", "Do people actually think I'm working?", or "Is it even possible to move up the ladder in a remote position?"
If you're worried about your visibility, you're not alone. A lack of visibility is a common hurdle that those in the remote workforce worry about. In fact, a 2018 survey from Indeed found that 37% of employees at companies that allow remote work believe that this work style hinders visibility.
At HubSpot, we're pretty familiar with remote work culture: its benefits and pain points — we have a fleet of more than 200 full-time remote HubSpotters who vary from entry-level to established leadership roles.
And while our company hosts a number of virtual events, annual in-person gatherings, and regular meetings to ensure remote employees can make themselves known, not all companies have remote work policies like these.
Regardless of whether your company has always had remote work policies in place or those details are in the midst of being ironed out, visibility is still crucial to your success.
So, how do you get yourself seen by stakeholders when you're always behind a computer? To help you become more visible at your company, we talked to some of HubSpot's established remote employees to get their most valuable tips.
How to Gain Visibility as a Remote Employee
1. Participate in interesting groups or projects outside of your daily role.
While helping with a project or joining a group that doesn't directly impact your job might seem stressful at first, it can actually be fun and help you bond with colleagues you wouldn't know otherwise.
"Making an effort to know someone, finding opportunities to participate, and being available to others has helped increase my visibility at HubSpot," says Tina Aita, a senior customer support specialist.
Aita adds, "Volunteering as an editor and contributor for the User blog, creating internal company posts, and working with our technical writers to improve our knowledge base articles has allowed me to connect with other departments and have some one-on-one time with those in other roles such as product experts and managers."
2. Schedule one-on-one video calls with colleagues.
When remote, you can't get to know colleagues who sit next to you like you can in an office. This is why many of the remote employees I spoke to encourage setting up a one-on-one video call or a virtual lunch to get to connect with their coworkers.
"During my first few weeks at HubSpot as a net-new remote employee, I invited most team members to virtual lunch," says Kate Reed, a senior customer success manager from New Orleans.
"I took an hour to have a one-on-one lunch and chat about nearly anything but work with each colleague," Reed shares. "Those are the people I feel most comfortable approaching — and some of us have even set up regular chats."
Even as an established employee, it still helps to schedule meetings like these regularly to keep up with or build a stronger working relationship with your colleagues.
"I schedule at least three video calls with different teammates each week that I used as times for informal relationship building," says Meghan Castillo, a learning experience designer based in Virginia. "This allows me to catch up on happenings in their lives and the office, as well as build stronger connections and familiarity to gain access to information faster."
Scheduling regular check-ins is also a strategy of the HubSpot Blog's Managing Editor, Meg Prater. On top of booking monthly one-on-ones with colleagues she doesn't often see in daily meetings, Prater says. "I also grab virtual coffees and lunches with colleagues."
"I’m an introvert by nature, so none of this comes easily to me, but I also try to join in on groups and cross-team projects when they come my way," Prater explains. "All of these small actions make me more visible to my colleagues and a better resource for them as well."
3. Publish, share, and discuss insights from your role.
If your company has a blog or Wiki that's specifically for employees to post on, use it to write about your ongoing projects, insights, or achievements. Alternatively, consider writing a blog post on your own site and then sharing posts with your colleagues.
Writing about what you've learned in your role will allow colleagues to learn more about you, your role, and what you've accomplished. Fellow employees might also be interested in reaching out to you for questions about your insights or to work with you on a project.
At HubSpot, we haven an internal Wiki where employees can post insights and lessons. One remote employee who's utilized it throughout his time at HubSpot is Blake Reichenbach, a customer support specialist based in Kentucky.
"As soon as I was comfortable in my role, I made it a priority to start building my visibility within the company. I approached it by being attentive to problems that I noticed and then applying my strengths to finding solutions to those problems," says Reichenbach. "As a writer, that took the form of writing posts for our Wiki, contributing to the Marketing and User blogs, and using my own website to test and apply inbound best practices."
"By the time I made my first trip to the office, several colleagues remarked about being glad to put a face to my name since they recognized me from Slack, the blogs, and/or the Wiki," says Reichenbach.
When it comes to writing a good Wiki or internal blog, Reichenbach gave a few tips.
"A good Wiki is going to address common pain points -- such as certain issues you run into as a customer support rep," Reichenbach says. "It provides actionable insights that are personable and easy to digest."
While you can use Wikis to highlight accomplishments, Reichenbach explains that these posts aren't just about "shining light on your own successes." Instead, "They should provide value for your colleagues, answer questions, solve problems, and demonstrate expertise in an engaging way."
Like Reichenbach, Alex Birkett, a senior marketing manager based in Texas, also says you should "get used to" writing as a remote employee.
"Almost all of your ‘personal brand’ within the company will be built on words. Write internal company Wiki posts, market your ideas on your own blog, and maintain an active Twitter." Birkett advises.
4. Communicate with colleagues using the company's direct messenger app.
Aside from publishing content about your thoughts, accomplishments, and insights, Birkett also suggests participating in discussions within your company's direct messaging system, such as Slack or Skype.
"Both formal work channels and informal or recreational channels can help you gain visibility," Birkett adds.
Chloe Christiansen, an Inbound success coach, also says she embraces HubSpot's messaging system.
"I stay connected to teammates by engaging in our team's channels," Christiansen says, adding that she discusses formal work topics as well as more recreational topics in these group discussions. "I end photos of my home-base in Oregon, my dog Cabela, and I contribute to the conversations everyone is having throughout the day."
"This ensures I am supporting my teammates and that I also have a presence in-office, even though I am not physically there," Christiansen explains.
At HubSpot, internal messaging and remote work is so prominent that some teams even hold daily meetings via direct messaging.
"We do a 'yesterday/today' standup each day where everyone can talk about their daily priorities in a couple of sentences," says Christina Kokoros, a senior help-desk technician.
"The digital standup helps me to feel more connected to what everyone is doing and helps my team know what I'm up to," Kokoros explains. "One of the hardest hurdles to get over when going from in-office to remote was the feeling of having to prove that I'm not just home hanging out. So, stand-ups definitely help with that."
Similarly to Birkett, Kokoros says she also participates in discussion channels that are informal, recreational, or note directly related to work.
"We have a spot to interact with each other as humans, share stories and jokes and all that," she says.
Even when your colleagues know what your day-to-day role is like, having informal chats with them, like Kokoros, can help you develop a stronger bond or relationship with them.
5. Communicate wins and failures to your team.
Aside from writing about your role experiences in Wikis, as noted in step three, you'll still want to make sure your manager, team, and colleagues know what you've been up to.
When you aren't visible at a company, both big and small accomplishments might appear less obvious, or even unseen. Additionally, your manager might not realize how much you're actually learning from failures you run into.
To make sure you, your team, and your manager are all on the same page, regularly fill them in on your progress and what you've been up to.
"Since my manager and your team aren't sitting beside me, it's important that I communicate both wins and failures. This helps us build a relationship while making sure my work isn't flying under the radar, " says Reed.
"For example, I forward wins to my manager and mentor when they come in from customers. It makes their day too," Reed adds. "Conversely, I share the failures too by bringing them to my one-on-ones so I can show my manager where I need to grow."
6. Visit the office if and when possible.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit your company's headquarters, remote HubSpotters suggest that you take advantage of it. This visit will give you a chance to develop a literal in-person connection with your colleagues.
"My manager enabled me to revisit the Cambridge office around the 10-month mark of my employment, and I used that trip to get coffee and have some face time with folks on the marketing team, blog teams, Academy team, as well as support leadership," Reichenbach explains.
"I used these conversations as an opportunity to introduce myself, get to know more about the work that these teams were doing that may not have been very visible from the vantage point of the customer support org, and outline my own interests and goals," Reichenbach adds. "By extension, I was able to expand my 'employee brand' into teams that I didn't directly work with on a daily basis."
"There are several times per year that I come to the office for events or major meetings. When I’m there, I always make it a point to spend as little time on my laptop as possible and as much time getting coffee, lunch, and drinks with people as I can," Birkett similarly adds.
Allie Decker, a content manager for the HubSpot Blog, says she visits the Cambridge headquarters quarterly. While she uses most of the time to schedule meetings with colleagues, she also blocks time for bonding away from the office.
"I do my best to spend time outside of work with coworkers — like at happy hours and lunches," Decker explains. "I also make it a point to never miss any big, company-wide meetings, events, or celebrations."
7. Start or take over a company-wide program.
Aside from regularly visiting the HubSpot offices in Cambridge, Decker has also taken over a company-wide internal event that requires months of planning and working with multiple company stakeholders.
"The program I manage is a quarterly, company-wide event that requires me to work with almost every department in the company. It also gets my name and face in front of everyone who attends," Decker explains.
"I would encourage every remote worker to seek out opportunities, even if they don’t perfectly match up with their day-to-day job," Decker advises. "Running the program is intimidating and definitely much different than my typical remote projects, but it’s a good challenge and helps me become known and trusted."
While Decker took over a major company program within HubSpot, Reed also suggests volunteering or working on highly-visible projects.
"Find a hole in a process? Raise a flag and offer to figure out a way to fill it," says Reed. "This is also a great way to make an impact on your team, even when you are new to a role or new to working remote."
8. Participate in discussions during team video calls.
Aside from making extra efforts like participating in groups, scheduling one-on-ones, and writing Wikis, don't forget to leverage the team meetings you already have scheduled as a way to gain visibility.
Emily Tong, a revenue operations specialist based in Indiana, says, "I try to make at least one connection or ask one question during any given meeting."
"If people don’t introduce themselves during the meeting and everyone else is sitting in a meeting room, I may ask them who is speaking or ask them to adjust the camera — this calls attention to remote accessibility and generally makes it easier for me to communicate," Tong adds.
If you're able to host or present something at a team meeting, Aita and Castillo have some additional tips on how to gain valuable visibility as a leader.
"I aim to engage colleagues in my weekly team meetings by hosting a topic of discussion or providing my own insight into the conversation," says Aita. "This gives me the confidence I need to push myself out of my comfort zone, share my ideas, and converse with others."
When running team meetings, Castillo similarly adds, "I try to set the tone by beginning with a comment from each person related to something fun happening in their lives outside of work."
Navigating Remote Work
Gaining visibility can be challenging, but — as the HubSpotters featured in this post have learned — it can also be incredibly beneficial to your success.
"I think losing visibility, and therefore career growth opportunities, is probably one of the biggest fears of those going remote," says Birkett. "However, you can gain visibility when remote, too. It just takes more planning, a conscious effort, and probably a company that truly embraces remote culture."
If you're a remote employee, take a note from Birkett and the HubSpot workforce by connecting with colleagues whenever possible. To learn more about how to be a successful remote employee, check out this piece with more tips from remote HubSpotters.
Originally published Apr 15, 2020 2:30:00 PM, updated May 20 2020