Being Seen Through the “Keyhole” – How to Manage Your Visibility and Career Growth in Remote Work

   In the era of remote work, many of us face unique challenges that were not as evident in a traditional office environment. One of the most significant issues is that we are being seen through a “keyhole.” This metaphor describes a situation where others only see a fragment of our work and personality, which can have serious consequences for our career development.

What is the “Keyhole”?

   The “keyhole” concept highlights that in remote work, our interactions and visibility are limited to a narrow slice of our activity. In the office, we could be observed in various contexts: during meetings, in daily conversations, and while working at our desks. In remote work, most of these natural interactions have disappeared. Instead, we are judged based on a few specific points of contact.

Types of “Keyholes”

1. Chat Status

   Your chat status indicates whether you are working (or not) – it’s the remote equivalent of being seen at your desk. Therefore, it’s crucial to communicate your status. If you are busy, inform others that you will respond in a certain amount of time. If you are unavailable, specify why and for how long.

   People have built in “time anxiety”, I’m discussing that more broad in my training about remote communication. To cut story short, people have different time expectations. Some of them expect that you will reply in 5 minutes or less if your status is “green”. If you don’t fulfil those expectations they may see you as less engaged or working slower than others and they may judge you by this keyhole. If you are busy and you can’t reply, make sure your status reflects that. It helps to soothes down such expectations.

2. Meetings

   In meetings, we are visible to others, but in a limited context.

To perform better in meetings:

  • Turn on your camera and smile. This helps to build relationships and also allows others to read non verbal signals.
  • Prepare in advance.
  • Be present and active during discussions. Don’t multitask, focus on being there. Not being there is one of the communication blockers I mentioned in the past.
  • Check who will be at the meeting to learn if there are key people for your career development. Make sure that they get their keyholes set up to the scratch of information you want them to see 😉

3. Shared Chats

   This is an arena where others assess your proactivity and engagement.

  • Monitor shared channels, involve experts in discussions, and signal that you have read messages, even with a short “OK” or “Got it.”

4. Emails

   Emails you send also shape your image.

  • Remember to consider emotions – don’t respond in anger. If you are not sure about clarity of your intention, (and you’re sure you are not sharing any sensitive data) ask other work colleague to read your email, and give you feedback, before you send it.
  • Try to adopt the perspective of the recipient, and always assume good intentions in others.
  • Adjust your response style to the recipient. If you write to someone “non technical” avoid using abbreviations and jargon. Make sure the reply is clear to the recipient, not to you.

How the “Keyhole” Can Impede Career Development

   Limited visibility can mean that your efforts go unnoticed, and your achievements are not recognized. People busy with their own tasks may not see how hard you work. They might judge you based on single interactions that do not reflect the full scope of your work and dedication.

How to Manage Your Visibility and Career Growth in Remote Work

  1. Communicate Your Achievements: Regularly update your supervisors and team on your progress, successes and failures ;). Document your achievements, document all lessons learned and share them.
  2. Build Relationships: Actively connect with colleagues, even remotely. Introduce yourself, ask about their work, learn how can you be useful to them, and don’t hesitate to seek their help. Building relationships will facilitate future collaboration.
  3. Engage in Company Initiatives: Join cross-departmental projects, working groups, and company events. This helps you become more visible and demonstrates your engagement.
  4. Find a Mentor: Mentorship can be crucial in a remote environment. A mentor can help you understand the company culture and build important connections.

   Remote work changes how we are perceived in an organization. Being seen through the “keyhole,” we need to be more aware and proactive in managing our visibility.

Communicate your achievements, build relationships, engage in initiatives, and find a mentor to avoid the pitfalls of limited visibility. This will help you advance your career even in a remote work setting.