Last month I rage clicked on the article by Suzy Welch, Why working from home can be terrible for your career. I’m so glad I did because I’ve been meaning to write about why remote work is so good for your career.
For media companies looking to stand out in the attention economy, getting a well-known Leadership & Management Expert to write on today’s hottest topic, remote work, is a smart move. Brand name + trendy career topics = clicks. And getting that expert to write that remote work is “terrible for your career” is sure to bring in a few rage clicks.
Telling people that remote work will kill their leadership opportunities feels like a desperate attempt by out of touch leaders to stop a generational shift. Flexible work hours, which includes remote work, are the most sought after perk in the workplace. Millennials are leading the charge for more flexible work policies.
But they aren’t the only ones. Spend any time in a Facebook group for moms, travelers, and anyone other community who’s population is still required to show up for a 9-5, and you’ll see post after post of people asking how to get a remote job. Drop into the #digitalnomad or #remotework hashtag on Insta and you’ll see the cat’s already out of the bag. Remote work is fucking great for your career and those of us doing it know it.
Traditional career advice just doesn’t work for remote work
The problem with the article is that it’s bad career advice that’s stuck in that old school mindset that work, trust, and relationships can only be built in person.
Worse, it assumes that the only thing “good” for your career is the path to leadership. But our careers don’t just exist to propel us into leadership, forever chasing up that career ladder (side note: the career ladder is dead). Instead, our careers can be about finding a work style that fits your needs. It can be ensuring that the work you do keeps you financially stable. Your career can be about finding impact, if that’s your thing, and being part of something that you enjoy. There are all kinds of ways to shape a career. Leadership doesn’t have to be the be all, end all goal.
But even if leadership is your thing, remote work won’t kill your leadership opportunities. With the increase in software that lets us work anywhere and the workforce asking for/demanding flexible work policies, you’ll be a hero leader for implementing flexibility and/or remote work opportunities in your workplace. You don’t even have to be the top leader. You can just be the manager who trusts your workers to WFH two days a week. That’s enough for most people.
This is why remote work is good for your career
Remote work isn’t for everyone. But it can be damn good for many.
I’m on my third remote job. I work for an AI startup as a conversation designer. I’ve also been remote career coach and did remote sales and business development for a London-based startup. I’m doing fucking great in my career.
Autonomy: Having a flexible work schedule with the ability to dip in and out of the day and the freedom to manage your calendar with full trust of management is glorious. It’s also less stressful than trying to fit your life around the arbitrary hours of 8-5.
No commute: I walk to my coworking space. It takes 25 minutes. My coworking space fee goes towards a locally-owned coworking space that supports entrepreneurs in my community. I love this feeling as much as I love not sitting in traffic. No traffic means less stress which means I appreciate my work more.
Access to interesting companies: Not everyone lives in a place with access to interesting companies (and not everyone can afford to do this). Remote work opens up opportunities for people to work on different projects and teams. There’s a shortage of AI companies to work for in Portland. I work remotely for a leading AI company. I’m learning tons and leveling up in my career by working on cutting edge technology.
Skills, skills, skills! You build new skills as a remote worker. Specifically you learn new collaboration tools, how to communicate better, and how to lead in a virtual environment. All of those skills are in demand in a modern workplace. As a remote worker, I have to work harder to communicate with my team. I have to check in frequently, communicate what I’m working on, and ask curious questions to ensure I’m getting the information I need regularly. I don’t hesitate to ask when I need help and I make an effort to communicate with people from different teams so I have relationships with people on other teams.
Go get a remote job and excel in your career
If you want to work remotely, join a company that has an all remote workforce so you can learn good distributed team management and leadership skills. Pay attention to what does and doesn’t work in remote teams. Commit to improving your communication skills and practice building relationships from afar. Trying out remote work will better prepare you for future leadership (if that’s your path) in a forward-thinking organization that actually embraces flexible work styles to retain talented employees
Don’t listen to career experts who tell you remote work isn’t good for your career
I have no doubt Suzy is a career expert. But I’m willing to bet Suzy has spent too much time with old-school leaders who are resistant to change and technology. Maybe we shouldn’t take career advice about remote work from a Leadership & Management Expert because leadership is the problem right now.
You know these leaders. They’re the ones at your organization who insist you have to show face from the hours of 8-5 despite the fact you literally only interact with your computer. If you ask to WFH they think you’re up to something.
#notallleaders of course. There are managers and founders at remote-first companies that are literally writing the rules on managing and leading distributed teams. Learn how to stand out in the remote job search and get a job at one of those companies.
Remote work is fucking fabulous for your career. So get experience working remotely and level up in your career.
Want updated career advice? Join the virtual release party for my new book for career changers in October.