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Remote work is changing how climbing the career ladder works.

The New York Times, Daily Business Briefing, March 4, 2022

Remote work is often favored by established employees who know their manager, are comfortable in their role and want to balance work with family responsibilities or other personal obligations. For those just starting their careers, working in isolation can make fitting into an organization — and eventually progressing up its ranks — more difficult.

Companies have become more open to remote work during the pandemic. Now, as they plan for what work will look like going forward, they’re paying more attention to what it means to build a career without the traditional opportunities for networking, mentorship and visibility that come with a full-time physical office, Corinne Purtill reports for The New York Times.

Prithwiraj Choudhury, an associate professor at Harvard Business School who focuses on the changing geography of work, said he had seen three common practices at companies that managed remote work successfully. These companies:

  • Took the time to compile information and practices in handbooks or guides that employees can consult from anywhere.
  • Paired remote workers with mentors outside their department so that they could speak frankly without endangering team relationships.
  • And created what he called the “virtual water cooler.”

In one study, Mr. Choudhury and his colleagues randomly assigned some interns at a global bank to take part in one-on-one video meetings with senior executives. Others met virtually with fellow interns, and some were assigned no extra meetings at all. Those assigned to meet with the senior employees had better performance reviews at the end of the summer and were more likely to receive job offers.

Managed effectively, remote work can lead to more in-depth conversations, Mr. Choudhury said.

Among the employees most likely to prefer remote work are women and people of color, who even before the pandemic often reported feeling underrepresented and isolated in the workplace. Going remote without proper support can create a vicious cycle that exacerbates that sense of alienation while also decreasing the chance that those workers will be pulled in for career- and morale-boosting projects.