Visibility has always mattered in the workplace. Yes, before the pandemic, but especially now in the age of remote work. There are many people who assume that their work is their ticket to visibility because of something called the Tiara or Crown Prince Syndrome. This syndrome insinuates that someone will come and crown you if you just work hard enough. But in reality, that never happens.
There is good work, and then there is good work made visible by virtue of you making yourself and your work visible. No one sends promotions, resources, or invests in invisible people. So let me put it simply and sharply, visibility equals opportunity.
Now more than ever, we’re experiencing a divide in the workplace between those in the room and those online, and let’s face it, those online are at a disadvantage.
Here are some common challenges you’re likely to face while working remotely as well as a few solutions to help you overcome them:
In the real world, we say, out of sight is out of mind. The remote world, however, is a little more challenging. Although the person on the other side of the screen has a direct view of you, there’s a good chance that they are highly distracted or distractable.
They may have construction going on, kids in the next room, or a partner recovering from COVID. Their attention span is already low, so commanding their attention through a tiny screen will be more challenging than in person.
Now that the world is opening up and hybrid work is becoming popular, some people will be working in person while you’re still working from home. How do you compete with the bonding of the people meeting in real life?
As a client sitting in locked down Singapore while Hong Kong was open, I was struggling to be heard from that monitor in the room full of people chatting. There can be such a contrast from person to person, and our experiences are so individualized. How do you find common ground when you’re stuck online or trying to connect with someone who is not online or worse has forgotten you are online?
There’s no water cooler in the remote world, which means that there is less opportunity to share space with others and make organic conversation. No running into friends in the hallway, leisurely lunch outing with colleagues, or small talk after meetings.
People click out of a meeting, and within seconds they’re onto the next. So, where do you find a space to share a joke or get to know each other better. As I often say communication without establishing connection will always be devoid of trust and psychological safety which in turn means people are less likely to speak their mind and be authentic in the absence of the feeling of connectedness.
With these new challenges appearing in remote working culture, how are we supposed to move forward and make ourselves visible? It may seem that the odds are against you, but there are simple solutions that you can implement into your workdays that’ll help.
Here are 3 solutions for staying visible in your remote (or semi-remote) workplace:
In a reduced cue environment, the lighting, the camera angle, and the background contribute to your personal brand and how people perceive you. Sometimes there’s a backlight, and I can barely see who I’m talking to, or even worse, I can see up their nose or just their forehead. It’s true—I’ve seen it all! Check yourself before going online. Add a little personal detail to the background if you can – it can be a great conversation starter. Plants and family photos convey a deeper picture of who you are and make up for that sense of lost connectedness that was felt when colleagues dropped by your desk or cubicle.
And for heaven’s sake if you are doing a virtual background invest in a green screen so you don’t look like you are a flickering flame merging into some imagined landscape. A simple green sheet runs less than $15 and if you truly want to stand out in the professional world a retractable green screen is totally worth the investment.
Even how you dress matters:
At the start of the pandemic in my long commute from the bedroom to my home office area, my family would stop me and ask – how come you are so dressed. Where are you going ? The irony of that question ! But there was a point to it. You don’t want to be lost in a sea of grey and beige because you blend in with the walls, try adding a touch of color that visually makes you stand out or look smarter. And let’s face it, no one has bothered to dress up for a long time because of the pandemic, but this will make a difference ! Here is what a lot of people don’t realise, dressing well is not so much for the other person but also brings an air of confidence to you.
And your voice can make a big difference too:
If the pitch of your voice is monotone while you present your PowerPoint, your audience is already lost. I once heard someone say, “Your voice is your choice, so use it powerfully.” And please, for the sake of your career, invest in a good camera and microphone! The difference in how you are heard and seen will be dramatic.
There is a certain cadence to meetings and an energetic rhythm. Speaking early enough allows you to tap into the freshness of the room. Don’t sit there second-guessing yourself. And if the virtual room is so chatty that you can’t get a word in, try to see if you can leverage the chat function to request attention or direct message the organizer.
If you have a good relationship with the boss, discuss what you feel like you could do with some airtime given the hybrid scenario. That also raises the awareness of the offline crowd to how they may be inadvertently be leaving you out.
Everyone is wanting more connectedness. Why don’t you take the lead and be more visible by being the one who brings the group together. One of my clients launched a ‘Gin and Tonic Friday’ virtual social club, which had many takers.
Here are some ideas to consider: Feel free to check in on people and ask for a casual virtual coffee, or if your world is open, see them in a safe setting so that the offline bond translates into an online familiarity. Creating bonds with other departments will also allow you to build trust with others who will find it easy to invite you or flag you when opportunities and situations arise. Another idea is to create a group of others with a situation similar to yours, so you don’t feel isolated and can create strategies to help others like yourself. Or how about starting a friendly track the steps competition within the team that creates a feeling of bonding and banter by putting a wager on who will win.
In caring for others, we stand out and become more visible. This is true in offline, online, and hybrid work environments.
Your audience may be more distracted, and it may seem as though there are fewer opportunities for shared experiences and making connections, but through adversity comes strength. Using the solutions that I’ve shared with you will only make you a better leader and allow others to recognize your contribution.
Don’t forget that visibility equals opportunity. The hybrid world is here to stay, and becoming comfortable with forging connections online and offline will be a key factor in your memorability. The challenges we face in remote work will not disappear, but your ability to overcome them can.
Find out by answering these 20 Questions!